Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Letter to a Hindu" by Leo Tolstoy

Source: (part 1 | 2 | 3 )
Length: 39 minutes
Reader: Michael Scott

The story: This open letter, also known as "A Letter to a Hindoo" was written by Tolstoy to Tarak Nath Das for publication in Tarak's newspaper Free Hindustan. Tolstoy was writing in support of India's independance from British rule and advocate nonviolent means of gaining independance. The letter so impressed a young Mohandas Ghandi that he wrote Tolstoy to gain permission to translate and republish it in his own journal.

Tolstoy uses quotations from Hindu relgious texts with remarkable similarity to the Bible, to posit that all true religion is based on love. Both religion and science, he argues, have been perverted by those in power to manufacture rationalization for the rule of the few over the many. The solution to this injustice is for the people of India to no longer recognize the political power of the British and resist their rule by nonviolent disobeyal. This strategy, enlarged and acted upon by Ghandi and others, eventually led to the overthrow of British rule in India, while in Tolstoy's Russia, ironically, violent revolution led to the overthrow of the monarchy, only to be replaced by the dictatorship and further bloodshed of Stalin.

Rating: 7 / 10

The reader: Michael Scott has a classic "voice of God" narration style. If you're used to a more natural or dramatic reading, his style may seem a bit stilted, but it works very well for a non-fiction piece like this one. He has a deep, sonorous voice with a slow, measured rhythm to his speech. The recording is professionally produced and free of background noise.


mel u said...

Thanks very much for sharing it-I will for sure listen to this-I listened to the Borges story you posted on and love the reading-I will post on it next month when I listen to it a second time-I always look forward to your posts-

have you ever listened to some of the old Mercury Theater radio shows from the 1930s and 40s-they are on Internet Archives-they have dramatizations of some great old stories-today I heard one based on a John Galsworthy story

mel u said...

I just listened to this-it is a brilliant essay-very well read-it is very meaningful to me-I have just begun a long term project-The South Asian Short Story-and this is very relevant-thanks again for sharing this

Listener said...

Glad you enjoyed it. I think the connection between Ghandi and Tolstoy is interesting. I think of Tolstoy as living in olden times, while Ghandi was someone of the modern age. The fact that they wrote letters to each other is mind-blowing to me.

mel u said...

I am listening right now to "Quotations from Gandi" now-very powerful-he talks about Tolstoy

I think this is a very good follow up to the Tolstoy letter