A Confession by Leo Tolstoy: Review, Summary & Analysis

Dive into Leo Tolstoy's 'A Confession' with our in-depth review, summary, and analysis. Uncover the profound insights of this timeless work.

"A Confession by Leo Tolstoy" - the book that hides the secrets of human life suddenly appears!

"A Confessions" is the spiritual autobiography of the Russian writer Tolstoy. It tells the story of a life problem that he spent 50 years thinking about clearly, and thoroughly interprets the "meaning of life" that humans have not noticed.

In 1879, the 50-year-old Tolstoy was alone in a dark study. The manuscript papers on the desk were messy, and the desk was covered with traces scratched by the metal pen tip: 

  • "Why, why should I live?", 
  • "The ultimate in life?" What is the meaning?", 
  • "What is the total result of my life?", 
  • "How to transcend limited life and obtain eternal meaning?" 

These serious questions kept circling in Tolstoy's mind, and he was thinking hard. , gradually recalling the past.

Looking back on the past, Tolstoy was once a bad person. He regretted his early lying, killing, vanity, greed for money, dissipation, arrogance, and irritability... These actually occupied all of his memory. 

He can no longer ignore the days and nights that lead him to death. What is the meaning of life after all? What truth is life hiding from us? What is the ultimate truth of life?

In an unforgettable confession, an answer that shocked the world gradually emerged on the manuscript paper.

137 years later, this work that interprets the ultimate secret of human life has come to light again.

  • ·How to understand your own life thoroughly?
  • ·How to find the meaning of life?
  • ·How to experience the joyful life you have never had before?

All this will be perfectly answered in reading "Confessions".

Book: A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

Confession, or My Confession, is a short work on the subject of melancholia, philosophy, and religion by the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. It was written from 1879 to 1880 when Tolstoy was in his early fifties. ---- Wikipedia

    • Originally published: 1882
    • Author: Leo Tolstoy
    • Language: Russian
    • Original title: Исповѣдь

A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

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About the Author: Leo Tolstoy

"Great value bonus" A brief biography of Tolstoy

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[Russian] Leo Tolstoy лев толстого (1828.09-1910.11)

Born in a noble family in 1828, he unfortunately lost his father and mother in childhood.

He was admitted to Kazan University in 1844, then dropped out and returned to his hometown to devote himself to the reform of serfdom.

He served in the Caucasian army from 1851 to 1854 and published his "Childhood".

In November 1855, he entered the Petersburg literary circle and was warmly welcomed by writers.

He wrote the novel "War and Peace" from 1863 to 1869. Since its publication, it has been recognized as one of the greatest novels in the world.

From 1873 to 1877, after 12 revisions, "Anna Karenina" was completed, and the novel skills were perfect.

In 1879, because he could not bear the long-term divergence between ideals and reality, he suffered a sudden mental crisis. He wrote an article to record his spiritual exploration process, named 

"Confessions". From then on, he stayed away from the aristocratic life, lived in simple food and clothing, and engaged in physical labor himself.

From 1889 to 1899, he completed the novel "Resurrection", which was a profound, comprehensive, and powerful criticism of Russian society.

In 1910, he ran away from home in search of spiritual freedom. He later died of illness at a small station at the age of 82.

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Original Excerpt: A Confession

Now, my life is at a standstill. I can breathe, eat, drink, and sleep; at the same time, I can't breathe, eat, get along, or sleep, and I'm like a walking zombie. I am already irrational in satisfying my desires because no matter what I want, I know from the moment I think about it: "No matter whether I can satisfy this desire, the final result is still false."

The truth is - life is complete nothingness.

I lived a mediocre life, and after walking through a long road in life, I inadvertently came to the edge of an abyss, and clearly saw that except death, there was nothing in front of life! I couldn't stop, couldn't go back, and couldn't close my eyes and not see the inevitable. Except for the illusion of a happy life, except for real suffering and death, there is nothing ahead.

I cannot say that I "wanted" to commit suicide, because the force that tempted me to surrender to the constraints of life was stronger than my mere "want". This kind of power is similar to the previous desire for survival but in the opposite direction. 

All its power was dragging me away from life, making suicidal thoughts appear naturally in my mind. This thought appealed to me as strongly as the idea of improving my life. But in order to prevent it from being rudely called a display, I had to use some clever tricks to delay it. 

The reason why I haven't decided to end my life is because I have tried every possible means to clear my head and get rid of the shackles of the meaning of life. I told myself at that time that if I couldn't figure it out, I would never have time to commit suicide.

I myself don’t know what I want. I am afraid of life, but I desperately want to escape from it. At the same time, I have some hope for it.

For me, the inner world presents a different picture: I am alive because someone played a false and vicious joke on me.

What's the hard work for? Busy for what? How could people not realize this? How can we continue to live? This is the most incredible! Only by being intoxicated with secular life can we survive. 

Wherever there is wine, we will get drunk, but when we wake up from the dream, we will realize that all this is deception, stupid deception! It's no longer funny or funny, just cruel and stupid. 

----- Quoted from Chapter 4 Speculations on the Meaning of Life

Book Summary: A Confession

A small book that I read twice in two days. Here is a handsome photo of Toon.

Sort out the chapters and logic of the whole book as follows: Weng had a mental crisis in his middle age and did not know what he was living for and what purpose he was living for. Because everything will eventually turn into dust. 

If so, why live? And living requires enduring pains such as disease, old age, and death. Toon came to the conclusion that life is meaningless, the purpose of living is death, and the best way to end a meaningless life is to die or commit suicide. Toon divides people who treat this "meaninglessness of life" into four types: 

  1. People who are ignorant and do not know that life is meaningless. Such people do not need to consider the issue of the meaning of life. 
  2. People who know that life is meaningless and choose to enjoy the present, and be drunk today. But when they grow old and face life, old age, illness, and death, they still have to face this ultimate proposition. 
  3. People who know that life is meaningless and choose to commit suicide to end the meaninglessness. There are many such celebrities, especially artists, philosophers, thinkers, etc. 
  4. People who know that life is meaningless but still endure torture every day and survive. Then suddenly, Toon realized that the meaninglessness of life is only suitable for a type of people like them who live a decadent life, such as nobles, such as poets, and writers. 

So he felt that the meaning of life for losers was meaninglessness. The conclusion that life is meaningless can only be suitable for people like them and cannot represent all mankind. Especially the working people. 

He found that working people live well and have their own answers to their understanding of life because the majority of working people have faith. Faith gives a meaningless life a reason to live. 

Toon began to consciously break away from religion (Orthodox Christianity) when he was young because he felt that religious beliefs or doctrines needed to be integrated into daily life. 

However, he saw many people who believed in religion (worshiped, and participated in Holy Communion) but did not follow the doctrines on weekdays. 

Action, especially among the nobility, and intellectual circles. He had abandoned his faith before, but now he envied the working people and hoped to regain his faith. 

The infiniteness of faith explains the limitation of the meaning of life. Then he found out. There is one ultimate answer to faith, which is God. 

However, the answers to the meaning of life come in various forms from different social classes. Working people's understanding of the teachings of life cannot be separated from some superstitious and irrational things. Without this, they cannot live. 

But for people like Toon, who knows some of the unreasonable (superstitious) aspects, he cannot believe in faith like the working people do. He has regained faith but cannot devote himself to it wholeheartedly, which is what Toon himself said... 

Moreover, Toon discovered that different Christian religions, such as Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, denigrate each other. 

Toon felt that there should be some basic consensus on doctrines and great love that can transcend each other's religions, but this is not the case in real life. Then the book comes to an end, and Toon has a strange dream. This book is over. 

In the end, I still can't understand whether Toon has found Inner Peace? I hope someone can give me some advice. Now let me talk about my thoughts on this book, This book is poisonous, especially for those who hope to find the meaning of life by reading this book. 

After reading this book for the first time, my sister and my brother-in-law took me to dinner. As before, I didn’t say anything and felt depressed because I felt that Toon had raised an ultimate question for us, and he himself did not give a positive answer. The answer, or rather the answer, is so negative. 

The reader is left puzzled here. And with my wisdom, I cannot give a clear answer. So this book is poisonous. 

However, for those who just want to understand the changes in Towen's thoughts in his middle and later years, this autobiographical book is good material for reference. 

Finally, my thoughts on the meaning of my life and The conclusion is that self-improvement and life are to realize one's own desires (goals), rather than just asking questions. 

For example, Toon himself said, to find a homeless man on the road to give him good food and drink, and then ask him to help shake the water pump in the manor to irrigate and beautify the manor. 

The homeless man will not hesitate to shake the water machine out of gratitude, and then After seeing how running water irrigates the manor, he will consciously invest in the construction of the manor and be very happy. 

Instead of sitting there asking stupid questions: why do I want to shake this water machine, what is the point of shaking this water machine. 

Therefore, I personally believe that the purpose of life is to live well, start from now, do small things well, achieve goals one by one, and overcome difficulties one by one. This is what life is about. (Excluding later years) I think anyone would come back to this problem in their later years, but now, it's really inappropriate.

Book Reviews of 'A Confession'


       Toon is a very sincere man, as can be seen from his long-winded arguments (although many of them are circular) and the fact that he overturns and rebuilds his own beliefs again and again. His self-analysis and reflection are almost endless. I summarized them in the first few chapters:

       1. The perfection of morality (the basis of self-improvement) is replaced by the perfection of secular life.

       2. Being a good person is difficult and being a bad person is supported by thousands of people (similar to the "weakness of people among 'people'" that I discussed in my diary)

I once sincerely wanted to be a good person, but at that time I was too young, frivolous, and alone. Whenever I look for ways to do good, I stand alone. Every time I expressed my deepest desire to be a virtuous person, I was treated with contempt and ridicule. 

But whenever I indulged in abhorrent lust, there was applause and cheers along the way. In the past, I was vain, striving for power, greedy for money, arrogant, violent, and retaliatory...all of these behaviors were praised by people. Driven by this desire, I became like a sophisticated adult and felt their approval of me.

Before I had time to see my surroundings clearly, I began to view the writer's life from the perspective of the writer's circle, completely erasing the efforts I had made in the past to improve myself. The views of these writers provided justification for my luxurious and decadent life.

       3. Shortcut; no proof required, only conclusion

However, in order not to let themselves be stumped by some common questions...

This kind of belief in the meaning of poetry and the development of life is a kind of "writer's belief"

The strange thing is that although I have clearly recognized that the writer's faith is deception and abandoned it, I have not abandoned some of the titles people have given me as a result: poet, artist, teacher. 

I naively thought that I was a poet, an artist, and a mentor. Although I don’t know what I can teach you, I just do it.

       Disregard logic and avoid derivation. Although the book "The Crowd" itself has serious argumentation flaws, I still agree with the part about "The Magic of Assertion". Naturally, it is a great evil.


       After reflecting on the secular world, Toon devoted himself to teaching, family, literary creation, and helping serfs, which allowed him to divert his attention from the unsolved problem (the meaning of life).


       However, as "Anna Karenina" comes to an end, Toon's spiritual world is shaken by the emptiness of life again.

How could people not realize this? How can we continue to live?

You can only survive by being addicted to worldly life, but when you wake up from the dream, you will realize that all this is a stupid deception.

       The manifestations of Toon's mental crisis at fifty were exactly the same as mine at sixteen. "Because no matter what I want to get, I know from the moment I think about it: no matter whether this wish can be fulfilled or not, the final result is still false." 

After all descriptions, arguments, and persuasion, add "So what?" "But For what?" Sentences such as "Does this really have anything to do with me?" can defeat most of the seemingly logical phenomena fabricated by the desire to survive; nothing is certain, only this suffix is ​​certain; And as long as a person truly looks directly at the nothingness behind him, no happy and complete situation he is in can save him from "looking back at the abyss."

If I only knew that life was meaningless, I would endure it with peace of mind, knowing that this was my fate.

       The bad thing is that we believe that life should have meaning and cannot accept life in the context of eternal absence.

       It’s not that I want to die, it’s that I can’t tell why I live. Live, so what?

       Since then, I have sorted out the content of the book and reviewed several major mental changes. Let’s talk about some limitations, which is what I really want to say in writing this book review.

       Toon asked good questions and even described it well, but he still didn't give good answers (even if he convinced himself of it). 

When faced with the answer, Tuo easily denied natural science and philosophy, and easily separated complex relationships with his own understanding; he jumped out of the trap of "himself" and "the people around him", and fell into the narrow trap of "working people", the final discussion is still not about universal "people"; he reflects that the answer of "0=0" at the beginning is not exact, but he "subjectively wants to express it like this". However, it is difficult to see that the final conclusion is not also Such subjective results.

       In order to prove that life is meaningful, there is even a derivation of "because if life is sinful and meaningless, life must be destroyed, and no one will deny life."

       In Chapter 10, Labor, Toon describes the qualities that belong to farmers and the qualities that belong to believers. These praises confused me. 

I would venture to guess that Tuowen still saw too little, so he roughly divided non-believers and believers, or farmers and rich people, and the "believers" here do not represent true beliefs. 

It’s just an attribute that is almost certainly bound to “peasants”. Intellectual experience limited Tuo's thinking. 

He could not have thought that peasants were only formed by poverty, and nobles were only achieved by life experience. There was no huge difference between the two. A peasant could change his destiny and become the rich man he despised. 

Ignorance of this problem eliminates the need for a philosophical system and guidelines that are common to everyone and all the time and also prevents him from thinking about the way out for all mankind.

       And what is my answer? I said to the professor in literature class the other day. I've asked myself a thousand times why I continue to live. Every day. By now the only answer I can convince myself is “not to die before you've got the answer ”. 

Very much like a joke. The professor also smiled when I was talking, but I knew from that smile that he understood what I meant. 

Just like the people who supported Toon from committing suicide at the beginning, or who held him back from dying, there was just the possibility of "What if I haven't figured it out yet?"

       I'm not afraid of death, I'm just afraid of dying ignorantly. If so, it is meaningless, as meaningless as the life I gave up.

Short Comment

Tolstoy's ideological confessions record his ideological transformation process as a nobleman who sympathized with the people at the bottom and was determined to live like the people at the bottom. 

His ultimate question is: "What is life?" 

After he concluded that "life is complete nothingness" from philosophy and religion, he made a wonderful metaphor, saying that a man fell into a dry well with a beast on his head. 

There was a giant dragon inside. He had to hold on to a bush branch beside the well. He could neither climb up nor fall down. He had to hold on for dear life. 

However, a mouse was gnawing on the bush branch and was about to bite it off. The man discovered that There was honey on the leaves. 

Each of us is like this person, but the difference is that in the face of the nothingness of life, there are four strategies: 

one is ignorance, seeing no beasts, dragons, and mice at all, only honey; 

the other is enjoyment, seeing the beast, dragons, and mice, but they are still only obsessed with honey; 

the third is self-destruction, no longer clinging to the bush branches, and simply eaten by the wild beasts and dragons; 

the fourth is lingering, suffering from the beasts, dragons, and mice, but unable to get solace from honey and can’t bear to let go.

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