In 1851, at the age of twenty-two, Tolstoy joined the Russian army and travelled to the Caucasus as a soldier. The four years that followed were among the most significant in his life, and deeply influenced the stories collected here. Begun in 1852 but unfinished for a decade, The Cossacks describes the experiences of Olenin, a young cultured Russian who comes to despise civilization after spending time with the wild Cossack people. Sevastopol Sketches, based on Tolstoy's own experiences of the siege of Sevastopol in 1854-55, is a compelling consideration of the nature of war, while Hadji Murat, written towards the end of his life, returns to the Caucasus of Tolstoy's youth to explore the life of a great leader torn apart by a conflict of loyalties. Written at the end of the nineteenth century, it is amongst the last and greatest of Tolstoy's shorter works.
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828 - 1910) was a Russian novelist, social reformer, pacifist, and moral thinker. Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all novelists, particularly noted for his masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina; in Paul Foote was, until his retirement, a University Lecturer in Russian and Fellow of the Queen's College, Oxford. David McDuff was educated at the University of Edinburgh and has translated a number of works for Penguin Classics, including Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.