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Thread: Tolstoy

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Tolstoy

    A thread for all things Tolstoy—quotes, responses, thematic and critical concerns, images, etc.

    To begin:

    From Anna Karenina

    Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky is a care-free military officer who revels in the courtly life of Moscow and St. Petersburg around 1860, during the time when Emperor Alexander II was passing sweeping liberal reforms throughout the country. Vronksy dances with Anna Karenina, a married woman, at a ball and follows her to St. Petersburg from Moscow, where Anna was repairing the relationship between her brother and Vronsky's friend, Stepan, and Stepan's wife, Dolly, after Stepan cheated on her, and Vronsky was, intitially, courting Dolly's sister—Kitty. The affair between Vronsky and Kitty ended, however, with Kitty observing the obvious romantic attraction Vronsky and Anna showed toward eachother, which left her broken hearted.

    When Vronksy arrives in St. Peterburg, he suprises Anna during a brief, unexpected meeting right when she disembarks from her train. She returns to her husband emotionally confused, and Vronsky returns to his apartment. There, he briefly entertains a French Baroness and a military comrade who'd been looking over the place in Vronksy's absence. At this point, Vronksy reflects on the changing cultural landscape, thus justifying his pursuit of Anna:

    "In his Petersburg world, all people were divided into two completely opposite sorts. One was the inferior sort: the banal, stupid and, above all, ridiculous people who believed that one husband should live with one wife, whom he has married in church, that a girl should be innocent, a woman modest, a man manly, temperate and firm, that one should raise children, earn one's bread, pay one's debts, and other such stupidities. This was the old fashioned ridiculous sort of people. But there was another sort of people, the real ones, to which they all belonged, and for whom one had, above all, to be elegant, handsome, magnanimous, bold, gay, to give oneself to every passion without blushing and laugh at everything else"

    This passage is one of the least subtle critiques Tolstoy offers that I've yet read (I just finished part 1). His bias seems to be toward the way of life Vronsky opposes and Vronsky's mindset casts him, I think, in a bad light. But the passage clearly illustrates the dichotomy Tolstoy has put into conflict, which is relevant still and gives the novel a timelessness. So far, I'm a big fan.

    Again, feel free to contribute your knowledge or opinions related this post, or any others, or about anything by Tolstoy you've read or havn't read. It's all good.



    Vronsky (Study of a Young Man by John Singer Sargent)
    Last edited by Makers!*; 07-10-2015 at 01:50 PM. Reason: I changed the photo

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    The movie sucked. Keira Knightley? Jude effing Law? That casting was as horrible as for the Godfather III.

    Also, the whole fairy cake visual aesthetic was ridiculous.

    Re: Tolstoy: The Kreutzer Sonata is by far the most boring, trite and downright stupid novella I've ever read. Not recommended. Unless you hate music, that is – like Tolstoy did.


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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho View Post
    The movie sucked. Keira Knightley? Jude effing Law? That casting was as horrible as for the Godfather III.
    I figured someone would come in with a statement like this, because I've only heard bad things about the movie. I've not seen it, nor do I ever intend to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Makers!* View Post
    I figured someone would come in with a statement like this, because I've only heard bad things about the movie. I've not seen it, nor do I ever intend to.
    It would just spoil the book, anyway.

    I enjoyed War and Peace a lot better than Anna Karenina, but that might be a personal choice.

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho View Post
    I enjoyed War and Peace a lot better than Anna Karenina, but that might be a personal choice.
    I listened to the BBC broadcast version of War and Peace, which doesn't really count. It was abridged..by a lot. But I think they still did a good job on it. The only other Tolstoy works I've read to this point are: some of his essays, quite a few short works, and Hadji Murat, which is definitely my favorite novella, and it ranks high up there in my favorite anything. I'd love to put together a High School course on it, because, like Anna Karenina, I think the themes are still very relevant, as they relate to imperialism and the conflict between eastern and western culture, and tribalism and statism, all of which can still be seen in our engagements in the Middle East. Plus, it's just a fantastic story.

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    Bringer of Jollity MoneyJungle's Avatar
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    People like to go on about Jefferson's copypasta Bible when Tolstoy's Gospel in brief is the real gold standard in de-supernaturalizing the life of Christ. I've never gotten over a hundred pages or so in Anna Karenina without surrendering to boredom.

    Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    "He looked at people as if they were things. A nervous young man across from him, who served on the circuit court, came to hate him for that look. The young man lit a cigarette from his, tried talking to him, and even jostled him, to let him feel that he was not a thing but a human being, but Vronsky went on looking at him as at a lamppost, and the young man grimaced, feeling that he was losing his self-possession under the pressure of this non-recognition of himself as a human being and was unable to fall asleep because of it."

    "Levin had often noticed in arguments between even the most intelligent people that after enormous efforts, an enormous number of logical subtleties and words, the arguers would finally come to the awareness that what they had spent so long struggling to prove to each other had been known to them long, long before, from the beginning of the argument, but that they loved different things and therefore did not want to name what they loved, so as not to be challenged. He had often felt that sometimes during an argument you would understand what your opponent loves, and suddenly come to love the same thing yourself, and agree all at once, and then all reasonings would fall away as superfluous; and sometimes it was the other way round: you would finally say what you yourself love, for the sake of which you are inventing your reasonings, and if you happened to say it well and sincerely, the opponent would suddenly agree and stop arguing. That was the very thing he wanted to say."

    "He soon felt that the realization of his desire had given him only a grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires."

    "After some hesitation over what kind of painting he would choose-- religious, historical, genre or realistic-- he started to paint. He understood all kinds and could be inspired by one or another; but he could not imagine that one could be utterly ignorant of all the kinds of painting and be inspired directly by what was in one's soul, unconcerned whether what one painted belonged to any particular kind. Since he did not know that, and was inspired not directly by life but indirectly by life already embodied in art, he became inspired very quickly and easily, and arrived as quickly and easily at making what he painted look very much like the kind of art he wanted to imitate."

    "He understood not only that she was close to him, but that he no longer knew where she ended and he began. He understood it in the painful feeling of being split which he experienced at that moment. He was offended at first, but in that same instant he felt that he could not be offended by her, that she was him. In the first moment he felt like a man who, having suddenly received a violent blow from behind, turns with vexation and a desire for revenge to find out who did it, and realizes that he has accidentally struck himself, that there is no one to be angry with and he must endure and ease the pain."

    (from Anna Karenina)
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    The movie isn't Anna Karenina the novel. For what it apparently set out to achieve, I think it did a brilliant, very entertaining job. The main thing that I got from the movie was the tension between the characters' drives for authenticity and artifice, and how this tension enlivens while simultaneously destroying them (the whole movie is set on a stage, with props and highly stylized acting) - that's way different from the main impressions I got from the book. They're completely different things, incomparable.

    Idk, I really liked it. It's among my favorite book adaptations.



    (kind of a disturbing scene but it shows the kind of stuff that the movie does effectively.)
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    I can't edit because the site is going through one of its weird phases where I can only erratically and partially access it through proxies.
    Anyway, I wanted to add that I love the attention to visual details in the movie. The eeriness of the foreshadowing with the white fan - how she snaps it before the horse falls. It's like every action that Anna and Vronsky take, no matter how small, travels through some sort of supernatural/spiritual grapevine and takes a dangerous life of its own - her anxiety and snapping of the fan foreshadows his demise, his shooting of the horse foreshadows her demise.)
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    The movie is about glitter and sparkles and decadence and poshlost: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poshlost

    Poshlost' is the Russian version of banality, with a characteristic national flavoring of metaphysics and high morality, and a peculiar conjunction of the sexual and the spiritual. This one word encompasses triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, and a lack of spirituality. The war against poshlost' was a cultural obsession of the Russian and Soviet intelligentsia from the 1860s to 1960s. - Svetlana Boym

    Corny trash, vulgar clichés, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic and dishonest pseudo-literature—these are obvious examples. Now, if we want to pin down poshlost in contemporary writing we must look for it in Freudian symbolism, moth-eaten mythologies, social comment, humanistic messages, political allegories, overconcern with class or race, and the journalistic generalities we all know. - Nabokov
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

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