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Leo Tolstoy - the greatest ever novelist?

6th January 2010

Russian author Leo Tolstoy should be considered one of the best writers of all time, according to some of today's novelists.

In a discussion chaired by the Guardian, The Northern Clemency writer Philip Hensher said that he did not appreciate the full talent of Tolstoy until he was older, but now regards him as the 'greatest novelist who ever lived'.

Hensher suggested that the War and Peace author's strength is allowing characters to grow up and change throughout a novel, while still remaining recognisable as the same people.

A.S. Byatt added that she is continually impressed by Tolstoy's imagination and claimed his description of dramatic events such as battles or mundane happenings like meals perfectly balance detail with idiosyncrasy.

'He gives us more than enough information and still leaves space for the reader's imagination,' she explained.

Ian Rankin also said that he approached Tolstoy's novels relatively late in life, but quickly realised that he will return to the books as he grows older and 'take more from them'.

Writing in the Guardian, novelist Jay Parini said there is more to Tolstoy than War and Peace and Anna Karenina, advising people to read The Death of Ivan Ilych and his short stories.

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