‘What Men Live by’ by Leo Tolstoy|A review in parts|#1


The book is written by Tolstoy so what one can assume except sheer brilliance.

The book is a bunch of four short stories each having unforgettable lessons and deep meanings of life.

What Men live by
“I have learnt that all men live not by care for themselves but by love”.

Three Questions
“Remember then: there is only one time that is important- Now!”

The coffee-house of Surat
“The higher the man’s conception of God, the better he will know Him. And the better he knows God, the nearer will he draw to Him, imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man”.

How much land does a man need?
“Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed”.


Although a majority of the story is nothing profound but a simple recount of a stranger being found naked and starving by a poor shoemaker, Simon, who then takes the stranger home and cares for him. Simon had neither house nor land of his own, lives with his wife and children in a peasant’s hut and earns his living through his work.
Subsequently, the stranger then learns the shoemaker’s arts and crafts and becomes a renowned shoemaker in the local region, bringing prosperity to Simon and his wife. A rich man comes and orders a pair of boots but dies before he gets home and then later, a rich woman orders slippers for her adopted daughters who happen to be twins.
The whole conclusion is something to be read and reread, something to be contemplated, understood, applied and remembered.
Micheal, who, unbeknownst to the shoemaker and his wife, is a fallen angel and is sent to Earth as punishment for his disobedience. During the time he lived with the shoemaker, Michael learned the answers to these three crucial questions :

  • What is given to men?

All must leave room for love. Even it is not a central theme, no plot is complete without a love story.

  • What is not given to men?

The knowledge of their own needs.
The rich man died before he received his boots. He did not know he was going to die. What would he have done had he known? Would he have given his money to the poor rather than buying expensive boots? Would he be merciful? What do we need and what we don’t? That’s obvious enough that we don’t understand ourselves. We don’t know what we will need in present and future. But the need of others can be seen. If there is any kind of network out there where all could share their thoughts in a second, then we would be able to know each others needs. But without this unity, we have no explanation. We need each other. We need each other’s’ hands.

  • What do men live by ?

The love of others – to love and to be loved.
Some people would give credit to a landlord with love if he allowed them to have a roof over their heads. This is money. True. But there are few moments in our lives when most assuredly we would have lost ourselves if someone had not shown a sliver of compassion, a small bit of love. The only reason any of us live is by the love of our friends, our parents and strangers.

There is a simple balance – an enlightening justice – in this principle. When I help you live, in return, you help me “come alive.”


“I know now that people only seem to live when they care only for themselves, and that it is by love for others that they really live. He who has Love has God in him, and is in God – – because God is Love. ”

“All men love live not by what they may intend for their own well-being, but by the love that dwells in others.”

About the Author

Leo Tolstoy, Tolstoy also spelled Tolstoi, Russian in full Lev Nikolayevich, Graf (count) Tolstoy, (born August 28 [September 9, New Style], 1828, Yasnaya Polyana, Tula province, Russian Empire—died November 7 [November 20], 1910, Astapovo, Ryazan province), Russian author, a master of realistic fiction and one of the world’s greatest novelists.
Tolstoy is best known for his two longest works, War and Peace (1865–69) and Anna Karenina (1875–77), which are commonly regarded as among the finest novels ever written. War and Peace in particular seems virtually to define this forSynopsism for many readers and critics. Among Tolstoy’s shorter works, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) is usually classed among the best examples of the novella. Especially during his last three decades Tolstoy also achieved world renown as a moral and religious teacher. His doctrine of nonresistance to evil had an important influence on Gandhi. Although Tolstoy’s religious ideas no longer command the respect they once did, interest in his life and personality has, if anything, increased over the years.


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