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BOOK REVIEW | ‘The Tolstoy Family's Ark’ by Fumiko Davis




Very few people are not aware of Leo Tolstoy, the genius Russian writer.


His works are published in many foreign languages. Indeed, more than a century later, they are still published globally, and they are always a success.


But what do we know of the man — his time, the people he loved, his friendships, and how he wrought the stories in his books? Few people would be able to answer these questions.


There is a new book, though, that will help answer those questions as best as we can do more than 100 years after the passing of the writer.


Fumiko Davis studied in the Soviet Union, visited many different countries over the years of her work, and now lives in Singapore. In Russia, she fell in love with the Russian language and Russian culture. While there she decided to make good on her dream: to read the novels of Leo Tolstoy. (RELATED ARTICLE: What Today’s Youth Can Learn From the Great Russian Writer Leo Tolstoy)


She visited Yasnaya Polyana, the location of the Leo Tolstoy Museum, for the first time 50 years ago, and realized that she wanted to do more than just visit that ancient house. She wanted to understand the great man and how he lived.


While there, she came across correspondence between Tolstoy and many prominent people from numerous countries. From these papers she learned that Tolstoy had acquaintances in Japan, and that his daughter Alexandra gave a lecture about her father there at the invitation of the Japanese Society of Friends of Leo Tolstoy, which further piqued her interest. Pursuing information about the writer, Davis met descendants of the writer’s family and made friends with his great-great-granddaughter, the artist Natalia Tolstaya.


Why were so many people attracted to Tolstoy? Why was he interested in people? The book, The Tolstoy Family’s Ark by Fumiko Davis (English translation, Didier Millet, May 2019) answers those questions to a large extent.


Davis wrote the book while living in Russia from 1999 to 2002. First published in Japanese by Gunzo-sha in 2007, the book was subsequently translated into Russian and published in 2010 by Rus–Olimp Publishing House in Moscow.


Russia and Japan are two countries that are both very far and very close to each other. Extending over several centuries, the relationship between our countries has endured numerous events, both good and not so good. But there has always been a mutual interest of the people of our countries in each other.


Good neighbor relations, understanding, and the development of collaboration between Russia and Japan in different areas benefit us both by promoting peace and security in the Far East and throughout East Asia.


These views are also reflected in Davis’s book. Her tome reveals the importance of knowing history and reading books by foreign authors. And it points out the value of simply trying to understand people who have different perspectives but think about the same simple but great concepts: love, mercy, patience, and happiness — one’s own and that of all people.


We would like to thank Ms. Fumiko Davis for her tremendous effort, and now we witness the results. Also, we would like to thank everyone who helped her along the way, who can rightly be proud of their role in helping her to create this book.


I hope you will read The Tolstoy Family's Ark and learn new things. And I hope you will enjoy this book as much as we in Russia enjoy our friendship with Ms. Fumiko Davis, who is known and appreciated for her love and commitment to Russian literature, arts, and culture.



Author: Mikhail M. Bely, former Russian ambassador to Japan  

Mikhail Bely was born in 1945 in the Urals of the Soviet Union. He graduated from the Moscow Institute of International Relations in 1968. Later, he studied at the Nanyang University in Singapore. He has worked in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1970, holding different positions in the Soviet embassies in Singapore and China, the Soviet Mission to the United Nations and as director of the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. He served at different periods as Russian ambassador to Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan. He retired from diplomatic service in 2012.



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