Tolstoy has his flaws, but I challenge anyone to find better, more precise, more careful delineations of human psychology and behaviour. His novels are masterworks, but he applies the same rigour and compassion to his stories. This might be halfway between the two, but in its focus and intensity, I’m claiming it for a story. I have never read anything by him and come away less than amazed – but reading this gave me a sense of profound and life-changing understanding that very few works of art or literature can manage.
First published in Russian, 1886. Widely available in translation, including as a Penguin Classic, 2006, and online, including here