Sevastopol Sketches (Sebastopol Sketches)

Leo Tolstoy (Author) Isabel F. Hapgood (Translator)


In the Sevastopol Sketches, Leo Tolstoy evocatively recollects his experiences at the Siege of Sevastopol in 1854-1855, over the course of three short stories.
Although the trio of tales which comprise the Sevastopol Sketches are ostensibly fictional and written in the second person, they accurately recall Tolstoy's experiences as a young man witnessing the Crimean War. All three possess philosophical overtones, with the overarching theme being a vilification of war as a wasteful, senseless and foolish expenditure of human life.
The stories are as follows:
The first opens in December 1854. Tolstoy arrives at the city of Sevastopol, which by that time had already hosted much conflict. The results of the fighting are portrayed in Tolstoy's vivid descriptions of the makeshift field hospital. Horrendous wounds, amputations and misery pervade the air, as many of the soldiers must make do without beds to rest upon.
In the second story, set in May 1855, further damage and horror has been inflicted upon Sevastopol. Alluding to the continuing destruction, Tolstoy discusses the psychological aspects of war, and the spirit which drives acts of heroism. He criticizes truces as a false show of humanity; for conflicts inevitably arise anew between the parties.
The final story takes us to August 1855. Here Tolstoy discusses the conclusion of the siege, wherein Russia's defeated and exhausted forces undertake a tactical retreat from the city grounds. The characters of Mikael and Vladamir Kozeltsov are explored; the pair are brothers who fight (and ultimately perish) for the Russian cause.
The Sevastopol Sketches establish Tolstoy as a pacifist who considered war to be one of the most depraved and lamentable events characterizing mankind. Years after publishing these sketches, Tolstoy would draw upon the Siege of Sevastopol as a critical supplement to the narrative of his epic novel - War and Peace.

Product Details

Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publish Date
December 02, 2016
6.0 X 0.28 X 9.0 inches | 0.41 pounds

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About the Author

The novel is set 60 years before Tolstoy's day, but he had spoken with people who lived through the 1812 French invasion of Russia. He read all the standard histories available in Russian and French about the Napoleonic Wars and had read letters, journals, autobiographies and biographies of Napoleon and other key players of that era. There are approximately 160 real persons named or referred to in War and Peace. He worked from primary source materials (interviews and other documents), as well as from history books, philosophy texts and other historical novels. Tolstoy also used a great deal of his own experience in the Crimean War to bring vivid detail and first-hand accounts of how the Russian army was structured. Tolstoy was critical of standard history, especially military history, in War and Peace. He explains at the start of the novel's third volume his own views on how history ought to be written. His aim was to blur the line between fiction and history, to get closer to the truth, as he states in Volume ii.
Isabel Florence Hapgood (November 21, 1851 - June 26, 1928) was an American ecumenist, writer and translator, especially of Russian and French texts. Hapgood became a major translator of French and Russian literature, as well as a key figure in the dialogue between Western Christianity and Orthodoxy. She helped Harvard professor Francis James Child with his Book of Ballads which began publication in 1882. In 1885 Hapgood published her own Epic Songs of Russia, for which Child supplied a preface and which received several good reviews. The next year Hapgood published translations of Leo Tolstoy's Childhood, Boyhood, Youth and Nikolay Gogol's Taras Bulba and Dead Souls. In 1887 her translations of the major works of Victor Hugo began publication, introducing that major French author to American audiences.