Why writing matters (In the context of the life of Tolstoy)

Tolstoy was profoundly self obsessed, and it is this self obsession which made him a writer. But the truth could equally be told the other way around. It could be said that it was only through the artifice of literature that he was able to comprehend or impose a shape on the inchoate business of existence. The vast majority of the human race drifts without record from conception to extinction. Their lives go unrecorded, and it is only theology which might make us suppose that these individual lives have any previous or future existence, or indeed, during their palpable existence on earth, that they have any identifiable significance. For most, it is a tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing; but, most significant of all, it is a tale which is not told. It is only by telling the tale that we create the illusion that there is a tale to tell. The rise of the novel in literature, which came with a great resurrection in the art of biography, a passion for journals, letter writing, personal confessions and memoirs, all of which happened shortly before or during the lifetime of Rousseau, gave to articulate beings the means of creating shape, of holding on to words and moments which would otherwise be forgotten, of creating a barricade against death.

A.N. Wilson, Tolstoy (New York: Norton, 1988), 88-89.



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