After finally finished Atlas Shrugged, I wanted something quick to read so I turned to a few short stories from Tolstoy (best known for War and Peace and Anna Karenina - two very long novels). This book contains three stories: "How Much Land Does a Man Need?," "The Death of Ivan Illych," and "The Kreutzer Sonata."
"How Much Land Does a Man Need" was a quick 14 page read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I normally try reading long novels rather short stories because I love becoming involved with the characters and seeing them grow and mature. However, I liked this story for the point that it made, which I'll leave at: "Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed" (The Kreutzer Sonata and other Short Stories Tolstoy 14).
"The Death of Ivan Illych" was a bit longer, ~50 pages and told the story of the end of a man's life. I found that this story seemed to drag just because I didn't really care about Ivan Illych. However, I can see Tolstoy's reason for writing this story as he was going through his own spiritual crisis and awakening at the time. Significant lines: "'It is as if I had been going downhill while I imagined I was going up. And that is really what it was. I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me. And now it is all done and there is only death'" (Tolstoy 56-7) and "'What if my whole life has really been wrong?'" (Tolstoy 60).
"The Kreutzer Sonata" was the longest story in this collection. It relates the story of a man on a train who tells a fellow passenger why he killed his wife. I know that this story was written to somehow mimic Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, but beyond that, I don't think it was anywhere near a remarkable story. I was often bored with the man's story except for the action at the end, but even that was only action without much insight to the man's choice. We are told why commits murder and how he felt, but there just wasn't the same depth that you can find in Tolstoy's longer novels such as Anna Karenina and War and Peace.
Overall, I once again confirmed that short stories are not my cup of tea. Within this collection by Tolstoy, I surprisingly enjoyed the shortest story the most, "How Much Land Does One Man Need?" I loved the point of that story and especially the last line. The other two stories were rather boring because I felt they lacked the depth that I can find in novels.
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars