Books, Reviews

God Sees the Truth, But Waits

Somehow I am guessing I missed a week! I see Jay posted #6 earlier this week, and I am at 5. Well, I can catch up this week hopefully. For now, week five of the Deal Me In Reading Challenge: Tolstoy’s short story for this time – God Sees the Truth, But Waits

Deal Me In Reading Challenge

God Sees the Truth, But Waits by Leo Tolstoy

About the Selection and its Author

Tolstoy is definitely not an unknown for those who read. But as I read some more about him for this post, I discovered a few interesting facts that I had to share:

  • He never won the Nobel Prize (though he was nominated for the Literature prize every year from 1902 to 1906, and for the Peace Prize three times).
  • He studied the German version of the Tirukurral (which is a classic Tamil language text consisting of 1,330 couplets or Kurals.)The Tirukirral is considered as one of the greatest works on ethics and morality, while having a universal and secular nature. My first knowledge of this came from my grandfather, and it continues through his younger brother even today. The Tirukurral is one of my learning goals.
  • His thoughts and views played a critical role in Mahatma Gandhi’s path to non-violence (including the letter Tolstoy wrote to Tarak Nath Das in 1908, which was titled A Letter to a Hindu.)

This short story reminded me of many other stories read and TV shows as well as movies watched. Shawshank Redemption was definitely on the top of that list. The movie was based upon Stephen King’s short story titled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. When I did a quick search, I found that Stephen King’s story was indeed loosely based on this story by Tolstoy.

My Thoughts and Summary

This was a sad read for me, while at the same time inspiring in its messages of forgiveness and that truth prevails in the end (though too late in this case).

When we first see our protagonist Aksenov, he is a carefree young man with a slightly wild past. He is on his way to the market in a nearby town when his wife requests him not to make the trip (she had a dream with a premonition). He laughs it off and heads out. But surely enough, he soon lands in trouble. That ends with him in the prison in Siberia, though he is innocent of any wrongdoing, except maybe naivety.

We catch up with him a little more than a quarter of a century later at the prison. Both prisoners and prison staff respect him, and call him The Saint. At that time, he meets a new prisoner named Makar. What he learns about Makar and what happens next is the central theme of this story.

For me, this story was all about those two themes of forgiveness, and that truth prevails. I also enjoyed Tolstoy’s writing style in this story, where the two halves of the story develop very similarly. Each half mirrors the other with a sequence of events, only set apart by time.


A read that will make you pause, and ponder.

I also read and enjoyed Tolstoy’s The Three Questions a while ago.

And the end of this post (of course)

Dear Reader: Have you read this short story? Or any others by Tolstoy? Any favorites you want to recommend? Do let me know..

2 thoughts on “God Sees the Truth, But Waits

  1. Hi Lady in Read!
    Wow I really enjoyed reading this post. I am quite intrigued about the Tirukurral and am going to have to look into that work. I also didn’t know that the provenance of Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption led back to a Tolstoy story! That is awesome.

    “he is innocent of any wrongdoing, except for maybe naivete” – this is a component of a lot of sad stories, isn’t it?

    Yes, I have read this story, but it was many years ago and I don’t remember details. I’ve read other Tolstoy over the years as part of the Deal Me In challenge. One of my favorite Tolstoy stories is “The Three Hermits”, which I’ve read several times. I also have read Anna Karenina, but NOT War and Peace, which I hope to read this year. There’s something about many of these Russian authors that I’ve always found fascinating. One year for Deal Me In, I devoted a whole suit of cards to Russian writers.

    1. thank you Jay! Glad you enjoyed this.. Learning about how this story led to one of my favorite movies (through a now-loved short story) was indeed cool!
      And yes, so often (in fiction and IRL too), it is naivete that leads to unfortunate events. I need to look for The Three Hermits now.. (and maybe I will do that next year – devote a whole suit to writers from one country each)

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