Song Without Words
The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy
By Leah Bendavid-Val
(National Geographic, Hardcover, 9781426201738, 240pp.)
Publication Date: September 18, 2007
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Through never-before-seen photographs and intriguing personal diaries, this beautiful book provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of Countess Sophia Tolstoy and her husband, Leo Tolstoyone of the greatest authors of all timeset against the grand and terrifying backdrop of aristocratic Russia on the brink of its demise.
Between 1885 and 1910, Countess Tolstoy made more than a thousand photographs representing her entire worldfrom artists to aristocrats to peasants to family, from the Crimea to Moscow to the family estate 100 kilometers to the south. She also kept detailed diaries, which sweep us into fashionable balls and local gossip...magical scenes of winter in Russia...and devastating famine in the countryside. Sophia's works deepen our understanding of the era as well as of this amazing woman, who had thirteen children, battled a troubled marriage, and, though blessed with a creative life of her own, was so devoted to her husband's career that she hand-copied his great works Anna Karenina and War and Peace many times over.
Song Without Words showcases the photographs by theme, with Sophia's writings providing emotional context for many of the images. Commentary by author Leah Bendavid-Val weaves through the book, linking diaries with pictures and placing each in its historical and literary setting.
Autobiographical in nature, yet global in its true scope, Song Without Words brings to light the gifts of a major figure whose previously unknown works enrich our knowledge of literature, photography, and history.
Leah Bendavid-Val, Director of Photography Publishing for National Geographic Books, is the author of Propaganda & Dreams: Photographing the 1930s in the USSR and the US; Changing Reality: Recent Soviet Photography; National Geographic: The Photographs; and Stories on Paper & Glass. She has curated photography exhibitions for museums worldwide.