Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy--better known as Leo Tolstoy--was a Russian writer best known for his novels such as War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. However, he was also a noted playwright, and his works, such as The Power of Darkness, caught the attention of Constantin Stanislavksy, founder of the Moscow Art Theatre and the concept of Method Acting.
Born to an aristocratic family in 1828, Tolstoy was orphaned by nine years old. He and his four siblings were raised by relatives. He studied law at Kazan University, but did not finish and traveled to Moscow, where he had a leisurely aristocratic life. During this time he began to write.
After accumulating gambling debts, however, Tolstoy joined the army in 1851, and fought in the Crimean War. This experience in war influenced Tolstoy's writings; many of his works show critiques and skepticism towards government and government systems.
Tolstoy had good literary company. During an 1860s European trip, he met writer Victor Hugo. Tolstoy praised Les Miserables, and there are noted philosophical similarities between Hugo's famous novel and Tolstoy's War and Peace.
In 1901, Tolstoy was honored with the first Nobel Prize in Literature, but turned down the recognition. He died in 1908.
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