Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Drafts for the end of Hadji Murat. c.1896-1904
Autograph manuscript, drafts for the novel Hadji Murat, n.p., n.d. [1896-1904].

In Russian. Two pages, 210 x 128mm, a draft with frequent cancellations and emendations. Provenance: Christie's, 29 Nov 2007, lot 269.

Drafts for the dramatic conclusion of Tolstoy's late novel, the 'best story in the world' (Harold Bloom). The drafts relate to three passages in the final chapter, describing the death of Hadji Murat among the trilling nightingales.

... his soul became serious. He spread out his burqa and performed his ablutions, and scarcely had he finished before a sound was heard approaching their shelter. It was the sound of many horses’ feet plashing through the bog. / 'Well, then, we shall fight like Hamzád', thought Hadji Murat.


Kargánov and Hadji Aga and Akhmet Khan and all the militiamen gathered together⁠ – like sportsmen round a slaughtered animal⁠ – near the bodies of Hadji Murat and his men (Khanéfi, Khan Mahomá, and Gamzálo were bound), and amid the powder-smoke which hung over the bushes, they triumphed in their victory. / The nightingales, that had hushed their songs while the firing lasted, now started their trills once more: first one quite close, then others in the distance.


Hadji Murat glanced at him. His beautiful ram’s eyes gazed intently and seriously at Hadji Murat. His mouth, the upper lip pouting like a child’s, twitched without opening. Hadji Murat drew his leg away from under him and continued firing.
(tr. by Aylmer Maude).

Hadji Murat, written between 1896 and 1904 but only published posthumously in 1912, fictionalises the story of a legendary Avar separatist who fought against, and later with, Russia, during the annexation of Chechnya in the late 1840s: Hadji Murat is an emblematic figure, caught between his own legendary past and his diminished, powerless present. The present drafts come from the very end of the novel, in which the protagonist is surrounded with his men and hunted down in a marsh: the second of the three passages is (barring a single sentence) the conclusion of the novel. The critic Harold Bloom described the novel as 'my personal touchstone for the sublime of prose fiction, to me the best story in the world, or at least the best I have ever read'.

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