Page:Rolland Life of Tolstoy.djvu/9

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PREFACE

To those of my own generation, the light that has but lately failed was the purest that illumined their youth. In the gloomy twilight of the later nineteenth century it shone as a star of consolation, whose radiance attracted and appeased our awakening spirits. As one of the many—for there are many in France—to whom Tolstoy was very much more than an admired artist: for whom he was a friend, the best of friends, the one true friend in the whole of European art—I wish to lay before this sacred memory my tribute of gratitude and of love.

The days when I learned to know him are days that I shall never forget. It was in 1886. After some years of silent germination the marvellous flowers of Russian art began to blossom on the soil of France. Translations of Tolstoy and of Dostoyevsky were being issued in feverish haste by all the publishing houses of Paris. Between the years ’85 and ’87 came War and Peace, Anna Karenin, Childhood and Youth, Polikushka, The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, the novels of the Caucasus, and the Tales for the People. In the space of a few months, almost of a few weeks, there was