Episode 44 – Tolstoy with Andrew Kaufman

On today’s show, we talk about the novel “War & Peace.” Sean sits down with Andrew Kaufman, Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Virginia, and author of the book “Give War & Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times.” Andrew is incredibly knowledgeable about Tolstoy, and the life lessons we can draw from what many consider to be the greatest novel of all time. Don’t worry if you haven’t read War & Peace. Andrew does an amazing job talking about themes and characters without any major plot spoilers.

In this episode we talk about Tolstoy’s advice for how to deal with change, both in our individual lives and in society at large. We discuss Tolstoy’s view on suffering and how it relates to meaning. We talk about the role of family in a flourishing life. We also cover Tolstoy’s view on leadership. Stick around for the end when we get to Tolstoy’s advice on how to live the good life.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why War & Peace is an entirely new form of novel that had never existed before
  • How Tolstoy took on the “Great Man” theory of history and replaced it with a more realistic version of history that is based on the individual
  • How War & Peace can affect our relationship with change
  • How Tolstoy’s characters in the novel find meaning through suffering
  • Why our greatest insights come from the moments in our life when we experience our greatest suffering
  • Why Russian writers are uniquely positioned to teach lessons about life and survival
  • Why Tolstoy needed 1,500 pages to tell this story
  • How today’s tragedy is often the springboard to tomorrow’s triumph
  • Why Napoleon’s strategy during the invasion of Russia in 1812 failed, and why the Russian general Kutusov’s strategy succeeded
  • Why Tom Peters, the leadership guru, called “War & Peace” the greatest book on management ever written
  • Why Tolstoy tells us that life is change, movement and suffering
  • Why Tolstoy advises us not to confuse happiness with the gratification of our own desire
  • How Tolstoy’s lost his family’s ancestral home in a card game, and why that experience helped him write a better novel
  • The power of family to help us through life’s changes and challenges
  • How a simple action of human compassion and kindness can change everything
  • Why greatest joy is enjoying the experience of simply being alive, and enjoying the sheer beauty of the present
  • Why we shouldn’t trust the ‘gurus” when they offer us an easy answer to success or living the good life

Books & Resources

Contact Andrew Kaufman

Contact Sean Murray


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