How Much Land Does A Man Need? by Leo Tolstoy, 1886
The magic trick:
An old-fashioned morality tale that ends with a thrilling action sequence
I love this story. It’s one that found its way to me just when I needed it. I was panicking about money and work and family and future. I picked up this story, and it laughed at me. The joke calmed me down. It was good.
It has an old-fashioned fable quality to it. The main character wants more than he has. OK, so he goes up a level in his ambitions. But his desire only doubles once those ambitions are met. And so on and so on, through several tiers.
Finally, we get the closing set piece, and it’s a doozie. Truly, the close of this story is as exciting an action sequence as you’ll find. It’s just really, really good stuff.
And that’s quite a trick on Tolstoy’s part.
“Look at that,” thought he, “the land is all being sold, and I shall get none of it.” So he spoke to his wife.
“Other people are buying,” said he, “and we must also buy twenty acres or so. Life is becoming impossible. That steward is simply crushing us with his fines.”
So they put their heads together and considered how they could manage to buy it. They had one hundred roubles laid by. They sold a colt, and one half of their bees; hired out one of their sons as a laborer, and took his wages in advance; borrowed the rest from a brother-in-law, and so scraped together half the purchase money.
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