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Tolstoy, Alexei

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1883-1945) Russian author, sometimes mistakenly thought to have been a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910); he was not in fact a blood relative of the famous Tolstoy, though his mother's second husband was related, and gave Tolstoy his surname. Tolstoy is best known for two books whose first versions appeared in the experimental 1920s and both of which were revised in the decade of terror which followed. Aelita (first version #6 1922-#1-2 1923 Krasnaya Nov' as "Aelita (Zakat Marsa)"; rev 1939) [for details of trans see Checklist below] – the magazine version of the tale being filmed as Aelita (1924) – was set on Mars, where a Red Army officer foments a rebellion of the native Martians (who are in fact long-ago emigrants from Atlantis) against a corrupt oligarchy. After the rebellion is crushed, the protagonists flee back to Earth, losing three years in the process due to time dilation (see Relativity). Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (1926; trans B G Guerney as The Death Box 1936; rev 1937; trans George Hanna as The Garin Death Ray 1955; Hanna trans cut vt Engineer Garin and His Death Ray 1987) feverishly describes an attempt on the part of the eponymous inventor – who is treated with some affection as a kind of force of Nature – to use his Death Ray Invention to conquer the world. He manages to rule a decadently capitalist America for a short period. The tale was filmed for Russian release as Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (1965). At least in their original versions, both books showed a narrative gusto typical of their precarious period, in attractive contrast to Tolstoy's later, less ebullient, conspicuously obedient work. His 1932 Apes as Human libretto with Alexander Osipovich Starchakov for Orango, a Satirical opera left unfinished by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), also risked transgressing Soviet orthodoxy, which had begun to harden; Shostakovich did complete the prologue, which has been rediscovered and was first performed in 2011. Zolotoĭ kliuchik, ili, Prikliučenija Buratino (1936; trans Eric Hartley as The Golden Key; Or, the Adventures of Buratino 1947), a story for children, is the tale of an animate puppet based loosely on Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio (1883).

Alexei Tolstoy should not be confused with Alexei Constantinovich Tolstoy (1817-1875), who was part of the wide-flung Tolstoy family, and whose supernatural fiction has been translated as Vampires: Stories of the Supernatural (coll trans Fedor Nikanov 1969). [JC]

see also: Russia; Weapons.

Alexei Nikolayevich Tolstoy

born Nikolaevsk [now Pugachyov], Russia: 10 January 1883 [29 December 1882 old style]

died Barvikha, USSR: 23 February 1945


  • "Aelita (Zakat Marsa)" (in #6 1922-#1-2 1923 Krasnaya Nov') [mag/]
    • Aelita (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1950) [trans by Lucy Flaxman of the above: hb/A Vasin]
    • Aelita; Or, the Decline of Mars (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis, 1985) [new trans by Leland Fetzer of the above: pb/uncredited]
    • Aelita (Moscow: Izd-vo detskoiĭ lit-ry, 1939) [rev of the above for younger readers: binding unknown/]
      • Aelita (New York: Macmillan, 1981) [trans by Antonina W Bouis of the above: introduction by Theodore Sturgeon: hb/Richard Powers]
  • Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatelʹstvo, 1927) [part one first appeared 1925 Ugol'nye Piramidki as "Ugol'nye Piramidki": part two first appeared 1926 Krasnaya Nov' as "Olivinovyj Poyas": binding unknown/]
    • Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (Leningrad, USSR: no publisher listed, 1934) [cut version of the above: possibly part of an omni including Aelita above: binding unknown/]
    • The Death Box (London: Methuen and Company, 1936) [trans by Bernard Guilbert Guerney of the above: hb/Yevgeny Rakusin]
    • Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (no place or publisher found: 1937) [rev of the above: binding unknown/]
  • Zolotoĭ kliuchik, ili, Prikliučenija Buratino (Leningrad, USSR: VKLKSM izdatel'stvo detskoj liteartury, 1936) [binding unknown/]
  • Russian Tales for Children (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1944) [coll: trans by Evgenia Schimanskaya of unidentified 1940 original: illus/hb/K Kousnetzov]


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