I. Contemplating the unpredictable trajectory of Tolstoy's life puts one in mind of those quizzical Max Beerbohm caricatures, wherein an old writer confronts--with perplexity, if not with contempt--his young self. So here is Tolstoy at seventy-two, dressed like a muzhik in belted peasant tunic and rough peasant boots, with the long hoary priestly beard of a vagabond pilgrim, traveling third class on a wooden bench in a fetid train carriage crowded with the ragged poor.
The glitz and fanfare surrounding Vladimir Putin's May 7 inauguration led many to compare the event to a czar's coronation. A better analogy would be a shotgun wedding: everyone knew the real reason for the event but was too polite to name it.