Leo Tolstoy's Hadji Murat
Information and Questions for Reading
Hadji Murat is one of Tolstoy's late works, written in 1904 (but not published in uncensored form until after Tolstoy's death). I feel (and Dr. Lewis Bagby agrees) that this work rewrites "Ammalat-Bek" in much the same way that "A Prisoner in the Caucasus" rewrites Pushkin's narrative poem - but it is also based on historical events, which you can learn about in the notes to the story (on pages 475-481; there is also a handy glossary of Caucasian words on pp. 482-483, in case that's helpful). The relevant section of the introduction of the collection (which I've asked you to buy in the bookstore), pp. xxiii-xxv, does a nice job of placing the narrative (this one is too long to be a story, рассказ, and too short to be a novel, роман, but an exemplary повесть) in the context of Tolstoy's career and other concerns. It's our job to place it in the context of our course.
QUESTIONS FOR READING HADJI MURAT:
1. Why do you think this novella couldn't be published in Russia until several years after Tolstoy's death in 1910?
2. How are the Russian characters presented? How are the non-Russian characters presented?
3. What elements here remind you of the earlier works we have read, and which seem distinct? (Do you find any significant differences from what we just read in "A Prisoner in the Caucasus?")
4. Whose thoughts are we privy to in this narrative, and whose thoughts are we NOT privy to? Is there any significance to his choice of which characters get to be the centers of consciousness in various parts of the narrative?
5. Does Tolstoy's representation of class differences complicate the narrative in a way that you notice?
6. Hadji Murat was most likely forty years old in 1851-52. Does the physical description match a 40-year-old, to the extent that you can judge?
7. The abbreviated version of how this story is read by scholars of Russian literature is that Hadji Murat comes off as much more positive than any of the Russian characters. Do you agree with that reading, or is the abbreviated version too simplistic?
8. Which elements of the story seem to be in dialogue with Bestuzhev-Marlinsky? Why would Tolstoy choose to rewrite this story, or a story by this author?
9. Tolstoy's main preoccupations by this time were moral, and in particular concerned with non-violence. Where do you see the story conveying a message of non-violence, and does this concern change anything in the depiction of Russian relations with the inhabitants of the Caucasus?