Literature at the London School for Slavonic Studies, that Alexei and Leo Tolstoy are in no way related. He adds that this is confirmed in Mirsky 's History of Russian Literature. And I must protest against the suggestion made recently in TIE TABLET by Sir Paul Dukes that Alexei Tolstoi 's name is associated in Russia with that of his great namesake.
Alexei Nikolaevich Tolstoy is, without doubt, one of the most gifted Russian writers of the 20th century. In my opinion he is superior to Gorky. He is gifted in a peculiar and elemental Russian way—' 'out of his belly' —as the Russian phrase has it. Shalyapin had the same kind of genius. His earlier novels, the charming history of his childhood (Nikita's Childhood), his wonderful essays and short fairy tales are literary masterpieces. He has an uncanny command of the language and his latest work, Peter I, is justly considered the greatest literary achievement so far produced in post-revolutionary Russia.
But—and this is the point—this man, endowed with so many extraordinary gifts and sharing the heritage of the great age of Russian literature, lacks one quality which distinguished all of the great Russian poets and writers : a sense of moral and social responsibility. His essence is that of a cynic and opportunist. After about five years' exile in Berlin, during which he professed to be a monarchist, he returned to Russia. His subsequent change over from monarchism to communism was too quick and effortless to be sincere. He surpassed his less able colleagues in the art of glorifying Stalin by drawing subtle analogies between the latter and Peter the Great. He made a rapid career, became one of the leaders of the officially sponsored Association of Authors, and was recently awarded the highest academic distinction in Russia, the Stalin Prize.
I think this is sufficient to show that Alexei has not got a grain of that grandeur which made his namesake the undisputed moral authority in Russia, of whom even the most obscurantist Tsarist Ministers were afraid. No one in Russia, not even Alexei 's most ardent admirers (and there are many), would dream of putting him into the same category as that great, sincere and fiery old heretic, Leo Tolstoy. There is, therefore, nothing remarkable in the fact that this brilliant and faithful bard of Stalin was called upon to extol Pan-Slavism, if that is what his master wanted.
Yours faithfully, 40 Northwick Road, V. S. FRANK. Evesham, Worcs.