By Leo Tolstoy
Read How You Want, (2006)
EasyRead Large Print Bold Edition
Genre: Fiction, Classics
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - January 1, 2010
Hadji Murad, by one of the world's greatest writers, is based on true tragic history of 1851 and 1852. It depicts the ineptitude and cruelty of the fat Russian emperor who was determined to conquer Chechnya, and the intrigue, inefficiency, ignorance and drunkenness of Russian government officials and its army. It denounces war and power in a ferocious unforgiving manner, a ferocity that burns more because of the calmness of Tolstoy's narration. It skillfully foretells not only the current situation between Chechnya and Russia. It gives insights into the current war between Islamic terrorists against the rest of the world. Tolstoy considered this tale one of his best. It expressed the futility of life that he felt and the heroism of some who live it.
The novel begins and ends with a description of a plant, a wild red thistle, which was trampled by a carriage, but still rose back up, cut, bowed, but up. The thistle is emblematic of Hadji Murad, the protagonist of this tale, who was beaten and crushed by the despotism of the wild Muslim religious leader Shamil, who attempted to unite his people against Russia, and Nicholas I, the Russian despot, who was more interested in his own affairs than in what was good for his people. "What vitality!" Tolstoy wrote of the plant. "Man has conquered everything and destroyed millions of plants, yet this one won't submit."
We read of Hadji Murad's birth and how his mother saved his life by refusing to abandon him to serve as a wet nurse for the wife of the Khan. Now Shamil has captured his mother and is holding her to assure that Hadji Murad will not join forces with the Russians against him. Hadji Murad needs to rescue her, his two wives and his children.
Hadji Murad had served as second in command, under Shamil, but deserted to the Russian. He begged them to ransom his family, but they do nothing, nothing but drink vodka, play cards and lie to their superior officers about imagined encounters with Shamil's forces.
Shamil, like the fanatical Muslims today, declared to the Muslims: "It is better to die in enmity with the Russians than to live with the Unbelievers. Endure for a little while and I will come with the Koran and the sword and will lead you against the enemy. But now I strictly command you not only to entertain no intention, but not even a thought, of submitting to the Russians!"
These same words are shouted by Muslim extremists today.
The tragedy for Shamil's country and for Hadji Murad and for the future of the area for Russia and for the United States is that the fanatics destroy both their enemies and their own people with their hatred. One may rise like the plant, but though risen, one is still crushed.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.israelbooks.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes weekly samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.