Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Review: The Cossacks

An Artists view of Olenin proposing to Maryanka (Source:
Dmitry Olenin is young, single, rich and bored of his civilian life in Moscow. He is in the search of purpose of his life and wonders if he will ever be able to love any one in his life. In the conquest to find fulfilment he joins the Russian army, gets posted to the picturesque Caucasian hills where a community named Cossacks live.

Olenin begins to like the place, becomes close to an elderly Cossacks person Eroshka joining him on hunting expeditions. He falls in love with a village girl Maryanka whose marriage is proposed with another Cossack Lukashka who lives in the same village. Olenin is jealous of Lukashka but yet makes friendship with him, gifts him a horse generously. Despite knowing Maryanka’s marriage is already proposed, Olenin expresses his love to her and requests her to marry him. Maryanka puts off the decision. Meanwhile in a fight with Chechens, Lukashka gets killed and after this incident Maryanka rejects Olenin firmly. Dejected Olenin leaves the place but Eroshka and Maryanka do not seem to bother.

This short novel of Leo Tolstoy was published in 1863. This was one of his earlier works published well before his popular novel War and Peace. While the plot of the novel looks simple, the flow of the story, characterization, examining human nature reveals Tolstoy in the making. The emotional experience a reader goes through reading Tolstoy’s novel cannot be captured through a book review and is best experienced through first hand reading.