Masja is the final novel in the powerful triptych about the family Tolstoy that Carola Hansson began with, writing the August Prize nominated novel Andrej (1994). Andrej 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 shortlisted for the August Prize in the literary class and also for the Swedish Radio Great Novel Prize.