"Tolstoy's lavish and always graphic use of detail," wrote John Bayley, "together of course with its romance and exotic setting . . . has made "The Cossacks" the most popular of all his works." This vibrant new translation of Tolstoy's 1862 novel, by PEN Translation Award winner Peter Constantine, is the author's semiautobiographical depiction of young Olenin, a wealthy, disaffected Muscovite, who joins the Russian army and travels to the untamed frontier of the Caucasus in search of a more authentic life. Quartered with his regiment in a Cossack village, Olenin revels in the glories of nature and the rough strength of the Cossacks and Chechens. Smitten by his unrequited love for a local girl, Maryanka, Olenin has a profound but ultimately short-lived spiritual awakening. Try as he might to assimilate, he remains an awkward outsider and his long search for a more enlightened and purposeful existence comes to naught.
With the philosophical insight that would characterize Tolstoy's later masterpieces, this long overdue major new translation is a revelation.