October 7th, 2004

mepublicenemy

Tolstoy

We're reading a couple of short Tolstoy works in the monthly book club I belong to.

Well, it has been a while since I really made an effort with Tolstoy.  The last time was probably more than 30 years ago when I was trying to plow through Anna Karenina for a college course in The Russian Novel.  I got hundreds of pages in but I was being driven insane by the man's style.  So I skipped to the last chapter, read that, and wrote a paper on the book.  I have a younger brother who just loves Anna, but for me it was dreadful.

Rand famously described Anna as the most evil book in serious lit.  She read it as an attack on a woman's right to seek sexual/romantic happiness.  Perhaps it was.  I'm not sure.  I suppose I should read it all the way through before I offer my opinion.

Anyhow, I started The Death of Ivan Ilytch.  As the story starts out, the man is dead already.  As his "friends" hear the news, Tolstoy says:

"..the mere fact of the death of a near acquaintance aroused, as usual, in all who heard of it the complacent feeling that, "it is he who is dead and not I.'"

Cheery guy, this Tolstory.  I don't think he quite has it right either.  I think it's true that we might feel glad that we're still alive when someone dies, but often the feeling is anything but complacent.  And the idea that this is the main feeling people feel is simply... weird.  Weird enough it makes me wonder if that's what Tolstoy typically felt himself and then overgeneralized.

Rhyme of the Day:

Tolstoy,
Brings no joy
To me.

But I'll try again.  Maybe after 30 years I'll like him better.  Or maybe he at least won't bug me so much.  I'll give him this - he got a strong response from me.

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