This is a pretty seminal text I guess – like Camus’ ‘Myth of Sisyphus’ – except God is still around. It’s strong stuff – at least for the time: it got Tolstoy excommunicated.
It is strangely existentialist in its prioritising of “real existence” – i.e. that of the peasants on the land doing real work – as opposed to the hollow existence of writers, priest, intellectuals and the affluent classes. It is in the doing of real work, the living of real life; it’s in the weft and weave of a proper existence – another kind of knowledge – an irrational knowledge – far removed from the shallow reasoning of books – grounded in being alive as opposed to thinking about it – that one finds meaning. Meaning can’t be explained, only lived. And such, for Tolstoy, is faith in God. But for Camus such is the absurdity of existence.