The most important thing in life, according to Leo Tolstoy

I stumbled upon this obscure book, a collection of articles from the 1960s, by a Polish journalist Krystyna Kolińska. In 1966 she went to Ley Puy, France, to rummage through a traveling trunk that belonged to one Victor Lebrun. In it she found correspondence between Lebrun and Leo Tolstoy! What an amazing account of a young boy’s fascination with the great author and the ensuing friendship (Lebrun became a close secretary to Tolstoy) that began with a letter a 17 year old Lebrun wrote:

“Worthy of my highest consideration, Leo Nikolayevich. By a strange coincidence, Volume XIII of your works has fallen into my hands shortly after the death of my father. […] I was struck and delighted with the simplicity of your thoughts, honesty and accuracy of your stunning works. […] What way [in life] to choose? You showed me the concept of good and evil, and I realized that I can not and do not have to do evil. But what can I personally do, I do not know.” Victor Lebrun, October 15, 1899.

Tolstoy’s reply:

“Unknown, young, dear friend. I received your letter when I lay sick in bed. […] The letter is sincere and pleased me very much. One thing confuses me: Your very young age. I do not think of it in the sense that youth stands in the way of understanding truth in life. […] But I’m afraid of your youth, because it had not yet experienced the lure of many of the world’s temptations. You did not have time to realize the futility of things, and they may yet seduce you and force you to give up the truth. [… ] The most important thing you can do is grow love around you. ” Your Leo Tolstoy.

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