By Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy
Read How You Want, (2008)
EasyRead Large Print Edition
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - March 29, 2010
Stepan Kasatsky was a prideful, handsome and intelligent man who wanted to excel in whatever he undertook. He was very persistent and always successful. When, while in the army, he decided to rise high in rank, he succeeded. When he wanted to enter the top levels of society by marrying a princess, she accepted him. But then she told him that she had been the mistress of the emperor and his pride forced him abandon her and the military and leave to become a priest and assume the name Father Sergius.
Tolstoy tells the tale of his priesthood, how he rose to higher and higher positions, but while he had pride and was driven by it, he had no faith and was constantly bothered by sexual temptations. Once, when a young woman tried to seduce him, he avoided the temptation by a horrible disfiguring act of "piety" that saved him and caused the girl to enter a nunnery. Soon, as could be expected with all his successes, he became a famous hermit known for the healing powers of his prayers.
But, although he excelled in pride and in rank, Father Sergius was a failure, as Tolstoy reveals in his novel's ending when Sergius meets a woman who the world considered a failure. Thus, this short novel is another example where Tolstoy shows the nobility of the Russian peasants.
Readers may want to ponder this last point. Elizabeth Kolbert has an excellent article in the March 22, 2010 The New Yorker, pages 72-74, in which she reports many scientific studies showing that acquiring success, such as winning a lottery or securing a higher paid job, does not increase happiness. In fact, these people are less happy than those who do not win or are not promoted.Father Sergius is available from Read How You Want, an on-demand publisher that makes books available in a variety of formats including Braille, DAISY, and five different large print formats. This range of formats makes this, and other books, available not only to visually impaired individuals, but also anyone with a reading or physical disability that makes reading standard print books difficult.
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.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.