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This article is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

Tolstoy's Head (translated by Christopher Middleton) Gert Hofmann
translated by Christopher Middleton

Not many people know that after the Russian Revolution Leon Leovitch Tolstoy, son of the writer Leo Nikolaievitch Tolstoy, went to America to portray for American audiences, in circus acts and films, his father, whom he detested, and to whom he bore an outward resemblance so striking that it often made things difficult, because his head was much smaller than his father's had been.

It was the fate of any refugee: Tolstoy Junior was making his getaway, doing so, as he himself put it, to avoid being 'hanged by my own serfs from one of the birch trees the old man had planted in Yasnaya Polyana, those very serfs he'd always been chattering about.' Leo Leovitch has opted for the 'radical solution', and, while crossing the Atlantic on board the steamer Democracy he meets up with the impresario J.W. Katz from Lublin. And it is Katz, a plump young Pole, who, during a stroll on the deck, after observing Tolstoy at length and from every angle, has the idea of persuading him to make public appearances in America, impersonating his own father, for money.

At first Leo Leovitch doesn't understand him. Like his father when young, he feels he's an artist, but he's boring as a writer, as a sculptor he's bad, and, as can be imagined, he's very envious of his world-famous progenitor, impersonating whom is one of the few things he hasn't yet had a shot at. Day after ...


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