By Leo Tolstoy
Hadji Murat, one of the most feared and venerated mountain chiefs in the Caucasian struggle against the Russians, defects from the Muslim rebels after feuding with his ruling imam, Shamil. Hoping to protect his family, he joins the Russians, who accept him but never put their trust in him – and so Murat must find another way to end the struggle.
Tolstoy knew as he was writing this, his last work of fiction, that it would not be published in his lifetime, and so gave an uncompromising portrayal of the Russians’ faults and the nature of the rebels’ struggle. In the process, he shows a mastery of style and an understanding of Chechnya that still carries great resonance today.
As I read Hadji Murat again, I thought: this is the man one should learn from. Here the electric charge went from the earth, through the hands, straight to the paper, with no insulation, quite mercilessly stripping off any and all outer shrouds with a sense of truth – a truth, furthermore, which was clothed in garments both transparent and beautiful.
My personal touchstone for the sublime of prose fiction, to me the best story in the world.
Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) is regarded by some as the greatest novelist of all time. With such masterpieces as Anna Karenina and War and Peace, he influenced generations of writers and changed the course of world literature.