Masja is the final novel in the powerful triptych about the family Tolstoy that Carola Hansson began with, writing the August Prize nominated novel Andrey (1994). Andrey is about the son of Lev Tolstoy, who was regarded as the family’s black sheep, while the next book, With a Name like Mine (2005), depicting the search for his grandson who emigrated to the US.
This novel sets daughter Masja in the center. She was the one of the children who stood the famous writer closest and therefore the one that might be most vulnerable to his patriarchal power. Also her mother wanted to control her life. The novel is about Masja’s search for her own identity, and the tense relationship between father and daughter is the book’s main theme. Masja provides a composite portrait of the complex person Lev Tolstoy.
Author Carola Hansson glimpses her own way into the novel with a fictional portrayal of Masja’s life during the 1800s last decades, until her death in 1906. It is a broad and vivid portrayal, not only of the people and life on the family estate Yasnaya Polyana, but also gives a great insight of the social conditions at the time. Through authentic excerpts from letters and diaries, we enter a world where people – while they engage in social life, fine arts and spiritual development – desperately are trying to respond to the increasingly urgent political tensions in the turn of the century that was a reality in Russia.
The story of Masja is a destiny of a woman that touches issues that are highly topical today. The story is carried out in a language that is clear and transparent, the sentences are long and winding, rhythmic and varied; To read this novel is a powerful experience. Carola Hansson’s story of Masja is a rich and magnificent novel.
Masja was nominated for the August Prize in the literary class and also for the Swedish Radio Great Novel Prize.
A selection of reviews
“A biographical skeleton exists, but it’s Carola Hansson’s pure magical empathy, yes, participation, which fills this novel with life and strong emotions. There are intersections she is looking for. “ Corren
“Russian family drama that is one of a kind. The result is a truly large and multilayered novel experience. It’s only when you encounter such that you are reminded of how rare it is.” Expressen
“Masja is a novel you want to stay in, you don’t want the novel to end. Not only because you realize that Masja’s final destiny will not be in line with her pursuit. But also because the intense presence that Carola Hansson builds up, the world outside the book is having difficulty competing with her story. Masja is an excellent overwhelming reading experience.” Uppsala Nya Tidning
“When I see Masja’s serious look on the book cover, I see the western woman, always Daddy’s daughter. Carola Hansson’s Masja is a very big piece; Her destiny holds us all. ” Ulrika Knutson, Swedish Radio
“A shimmering weave of facts and story.” Dagens Nyheter
“A real life visit to the Tolstoy family. With her peculiar ability to make the words come alive, she invites the reader a seat directly beside the Tolstoy family.” Sodermanlands Nyheter
“Carola Hansson knows the environment and the family members. The sections where she weaves in her own reflections has a special level. The carefully crafted style has become her hallmark, a dense weave of concrete observations that at best form a musically carrying prose … ” Sydsvenskan
“Life in the shadow of Russian feudalism. The most fascinating about Carola Hansson’s novel Masja is the kind of love she encompasses to the perhaps most beloved daughter of Leo Tolstoy.” Norrbottens-Kuriren
“Carola Hansson succeeds in making a repetitive event chain constantly exciting and anxious.” Arbetarbladet
”The eager Hansson infects her reader in her portrayal of Masja, pauses when the author herself steps into the scene. While Hansson then approaches the reader closer to reality, she also reminds us that it is just the fiction we are reading. It’s weird, but effective.” Svenska Dagbladet
“In two totally magical, independent novels, Carola Hansson has portrayed the Tolstoy family, people who lived near the great writer. The August Prize-nominated Andrej was about Leo Tolstoy’s son, the family’s black sheep. The grandson Ilja, adventurous and amazing, in the novel about him, With a name like mine. Now the tripych has come to Tolstoy’s daughter Masja, who has a complicated relationship with his father. She shares his ideal, but has difficulties with his strict, patriarchal way. He has a clear picture of who she should be, but who is she really? Does she even know that? In a language that shines and glows, Carola Hansson writes about the curse of the family bond, the power of love and the importance of language. ” Magazine Vi
“Hansson builds some kind of confidentiality with the reader through her own endeavors that breathes tenderness, warmth and respect to both Masja and us as readers. She has an intuitive ability for psychological insight that impresses. “
“With her serious intent, her interest in overall events and her empathy for the destiny of individual human beings, Hansson has written another best-selling “heavy “novel, which is also her best so far.” Skanska Dagbladet
“Carola Hansson has a language that raises over the sadness of everyday life, it’s accurate, shimmering and impossible to resist. In the novel Masja she observes and interprets the once-popular Yasnaja Poljana family while at the same time embracing the story, she also touches the geography and social development of our own time. She is present in the text without taking over the story or moralizing over the protagonist’s tough pursuit of a working life. ” NA
“I would like to recommend one of the books nominated for the August Prize, but which did not win, namely Masja by Carola Hansson. It is the third book in a triptych that takes place in the circuit of the author Lev Tolstoy. Tolstoj is usually described as complicated, ingenious and paradoxical, but a person who nobody seems to be able to resist. His closest lived in and through this grandiose tension field, which Carola Hansson embodies in a way that makes the language vibrate. Ostersunds-Posten
“There is always a solid research work that is the basis of Carola Hansson’s novels. It does not get so close between them, but they are well documented and, besides the high literary quality, they have a knowledge content that gives them importance as well as historical writing. ” Trelleborgs Allehanda
“I hope you, dear readers, find the book as captivating as me and may you be enchanted and blown in by Hansson’s windy long sentences. ” Karlstads-Tidningen