Life Changing Books

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy


Unless one believes in a supernatural entity then the precedent must be that the journey of life is greater than dying or death. If the idea is bought that life is just a rehearsal or an examination then even then it could be surmised that the journey is of greater value. But whatever your spiritual position if you are able to face up to yourself and make a dramatic metamorphosis then you have truly lived. To live the same path from leaving one hole to being buried in another is just wasteful. Our parents may or not have enjoyed making us but once that bit is over we are their victims. Born into a jumble of rules, roles, status, morals, values, ideas, styles, language… we can either shout ‘stick’ from the birth canal or we can make our own identity. If your parents are royalists we can be republicans. If they are Tories we can be socialists. If they score drugs we can be clean. The list is endless…


Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov is a man who faces up to a huge error. Not taking responsibility for his actions. Maslova, his casualty, ends up being fired, in prostitution and then in prison, having been mistakenly found guilty for murder. Dimitri then dedicates his life to compensating for this sin and follows her to Siberia to be close as she serves her sentence. This preamble though tells us nothing of the change that Dimitri makes in his life. From wealthy aristocratic stock he awakens from his privileged ignorance to see life for what it is actually like for the rest. He gives his land to the peasantry and becomes assimilated into the Russia experienced by the mass population. This is a moral and existential struggle; some say an awakening from the lies and corruption of institutional religion and oligarchic control. A journey that is worth making just to enable his expiration to reflect an end that has some meaning.


Although lacking the aesthetics of his previous novels Resurrection makes up for it in its signification. Tolstoy himself went through a major life change towards the end of his life and this novel enables us to learn from this great author that it is never too late to stare our past in the eyes and refute and admonish it before dramatically changing direction. As well known as ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ are this is his coup de grace and is a must if your journey so far has been, for want of better terms, superficial and erroneous.

Douglas James