Leo Tolstoy – Image by Mikhail Nesterov
Leo Tolstoy ( Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy in Russian) is considered one of the Greatest Authors of all time. Leo Tolstoy was born in Russia in 1828. Amongst his other short stories, War & Peace and Anna Karenina are considered to be his seminal work
How much Land does a man need is a short story written by Leo Tolstoy in 1886 about a man and his lust for land. ( Sounds somewhat familiar?)
The story revolves around a farmer named Pakhom, who overhears his wife and sister-in-law arguing over the pros and cons of the Farmer life. He thinks to himself about owning more land. Owning more land will make him earless, he reckons. Unknown to Pakhom, Satan is lurking nearby – he abruptly accepts his challenge and tells Pakhom that he will first give more land to him and then snatch it suddenly.
A short while after, a very rich landlady in the village decides to sell her land. Pakhom buys some of it and by working on it is able to repay his debts and starts leading a comfortable life.
Pakhom gradually becomes very possessive of his land and greedy also. This causes some altercations within his neighbours. Meanwhile, an opportunity presents itself- there is more land to be farmed in a Commune.[A commune is basically a socialist model and is based on Karl Marx’s principles. Heavy Duty Stuff, requires more reading :)] In the Commune, Pakhom is able to grow more crops, but the rent is also more – which annoys him. Naturally, it is not enough to satisfy his greed.
In his pursuit of buying and selling land, he is gradually introduced to the Bashkirs,who own much land and are very simple. [ Bashkirs are Turkic People, living somewhere in the Ural Mountains]
The Bashkirs offer him an innocuous deal – for a sum of 1000 Rubles,[Currency of Russia] he can walk around any area he wants,starting from daybreak. He will use a spade for marking his route and be back before sunset. All the land he marks by the spade will be his. There is one catch – If he is not able to return to the starting point, he will not get anything.
Pakhom is delighted at the prospect of owning such a huge amount of land and cannot believe his luck to get such a bargain. That night, he has a dream – he sees himself dead at the Devil’s feet, with Devil laughing.
The following morning – Pashkom tries to reach as far as possible. As the Day ends, he realises that he is very far from the starting point. He runs towards the starting point as fast as possible and finally, just before sunset – he reaches the starting point. The Bashkirs, cheer him on, but Pashkom drops dead- exhausted from the run. Ironically, he is buried in a grave, just six feet long, answering the question at the beginning of the story.
The story brings about an important discussion at the forefront – Need Vs. Greed. In today’s context, it is all the more relevant. We all crave for that latest smart-phone, that latest car, that latest watch – when there are cheaper alternates available.
The reviewer remembers that this was also shown as a story in an old Doordarshan Serial called ” Katha Saagar”. Unfortunately, the link to this video is not to be found anywhere.
Getting to the business end of this review,
Writing Style : 4.9/5
Style:4/5 (Russian Translated to English)
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