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November 17 , 2007

How Much Land Does a Man Need


Calypso Editions presents a new translation of this frequently overlooked classic. In How Much Land Does a Man Need, originally published in 1886, Tolstoy departs from the realist mode of his great novels—War and Peace and Anna Karenina—and adopts the markedly oral narrative style of skaz, a language at once rich and easily accessible to the simple folk he now wished to address. While previous translators have smoothed out the idiosyncrasies of the form, Boris Dralyuk’s translation retains the color and voice so vital to the tale.

Unlike the elite that populate Tolstoy’s novels, here Tolstoy introduces readers to a peasant, Pakhom, who swore that with enough land, he wouldn’t fear the devil himself.

The devil sat behind the stove and heard everything. He was glad the peasant woman led her husband to boasting that if he had land, the devil couldn’t take him.

“All right,” he thought, “we’ll make a bet; I’ll give you lots of land. And it’s the land I’ll take you with.”

The story is as engrossing as Pakhom’s insatiable need for land. This new translation aims to reintroduce and reinvigorate this classic.

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