Who Killed Tolstoy?

If literature is the news that stays news, then it’s always a good time to revist Elif Batuman’s first book, The Possessed, about the people obsessed with Russia’s great authors. In this selection, Batuman gets a travel grant as a college student to investigate whether Leo Tolstoy was murdered. She examines his life for clues. She looks at his books and estate. She spends four days wearing sweatpants and flip-flops after her luggage got lost en route to the International Tolstoy Conference in Russia.

Source: Granta
Published: Apr 11, 2018
Length: 16 minutes (4,034 words)

Elif Batuman: Life After a Bestseller

“Things started out innocuously enough. ‘I’m a huge fan!’ I exclaimed. ‘Right back at you,’ Franzen replied, explaining that he had bought my book as a Christmas present for multiple people, though he hadn’t yet read it himself. ‘But I’ve read parts of it!’ I told him that I had loved Freedom, which is true and would have been a great ending point for our exchange. So it’s difficult to articulate what possessed me, at a later, boozier point in the dinner, to ask Franzen whether he had any weed.”

Source: The Guardian
Published: Apr 21, 2011
Length: 12 minutes (3,211 words)

Kafka’s Last Trial

During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work. After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod. “Dearest Max,” it began. “My last request: Everything I leave behind me . . . in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.”

Published: Sep 22, 2010
Length: 32 minutes (8,053 words)