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Tolstoy: A Rebellious Giant a Hundred Years Later

“To paint The Appearance of Christ to the People is Art and to paint nude broads is also art. To write The Iliad is art and to write "Nana" is also art. To paint a holy icon is art and to treble your banjo is also art, and clowning is art, and riding your horse is art, and making chicken pates is art, and hair styling is art and wardrobe making is art! All is art.”

If you’re thinking this is the manifesto of some cutting edge social media site, you’re be wrong. This selection was written by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in 1896, and it's only one of the many ways this literary giant, who died in 1910, was ahead of his time.

To celebrate Tolstoy's centenary, Eugene Lang College/The New School is hosting a major symposium, Tolstoy in the 21st Century, from the 14th to the 17th of October, featuring talks by scholars from around the world. Organized by Tolstoy scholar and Eugene Lang faculty member Inessa Medzhibovskaya, the conference looks not only at the novelist’s great literary works, such as "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina", but at this transgressive aristocrat’s contribution to social reform, agriculture, and religious debate. In fact, there seems to be almost no major aspect of human life that Tolstoy didn’t engage; his pithy observations read like one man’s manual to right thinking, doing, and living.

“Everyone has their own Tolstoy,” notes Medzhibovskaya, and all of them will be with us this week. 

Bon Mots:

On change: Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

On the establishment: Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.

On life: If you want to be happy, be.