Countess Tolstoy’s ‘Whose Fault’

Leo Tolstoy’s 1889 novella The Kreutzer Sonata was banned by the Russian censors. The story of a man who murders his adulterous wife, it lead the U.S. Attorney General Theodore Roosevelt to label the author a “sexual moral pervert.” The U.S. Post Office Department banned the mailing of newspapers containing serialized excerpts from the novella. The Count’s wife Sonya was also displeased.

Image‘Tolstoy had included incidents and details from their family life in The Kreutzer Sonata, and this had offended Sonya almost more than the moral he had drawn. She was certain that the world now thought of her as the ‘lustful, evil’ wife in the novel. As spring approached, she sat down to write a story in her defense, which would negate Tolstoy’s conclusions by telling the story from the woman’s point of view. She showed the finished story to Anna Dostoyevsky, Seryozha and Lyuova, and read it aloud when her friends gathered in the salon for tea and Tolstoy was safely in his study. Although ‘Whose Fault’ met with positive reactions, Sonya finally and reluctantly decided not to publish it. Once again her respect for her husband’s genius and her desire to publish all his work had won out. And it would have been impossible to include The Kreutzer Sonata in the new edition after the publication of ‘Whose Fault'”

Sonya, the Life of Countess Tolstoy, Anne Edwards, Simon and Schuster, 1981.