joi, 2 martie 2023

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, one of the most important masterpieces created by man - 10 out of 10


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, one of the most important masterpieces created by man

10 out of 10



With the war launched by Putin, to wipe out Ukraine from the map and add it to his would be empire, there have been calls to boycott not just oligarchs, Russian oil and gas (which alas, is still needed) but also some of the greatest luminaries, creators that the world has and happen to be Russian, like Leo Tolstoy, with reference to some of the less savory texts written by the count, or some of the other luminaries form the same outré country…he talks about ‘the Russification of Poland’ in this novel, though not arguing in favor of it, in the context of war, who has the right to launch it (the government) there is a wider argument over what happens when the people disagree with that action…


Indeed, at over eight hundred pages of magnum opus, we have the chance to read opinions, suggestions, points of view on almost anything under the sun, and when various characters talk, they touch on religion, politics, differences between the rich and the poor, with emphasis on love (obviously, this is about the dramatic entanglement between Anna Karenina and count Alexei Vronsky) this reader had been cautious in entering this phenomenal universe in part because of the aforementioned war (I was also curious to see what the effect would be, will I reject Tolstoy and hence others, because they are compatriots of the Putin Monster) and also I hate to know what happens.

And everybody is aware of the tragic destiny of the heroine (if not, well, spoiler alerts need to be included) who decides upon a gruesome ending…we have been most fortunate to have a magnificent, glorious professor of Literature, Anton Chevorchian, in high school, and among the many things, tales he told us, he referred to ‘naturalism’ and the manner in which artists of that trend would approach the death of Anna Karenina, insisting on what happens after the blow from the train, details that they would give, and that example has stayed with me for more than forty years, to this day actually


There was another argument against taking on this massive work (the more than eight hundred pages are indeed another cautionary signal) and that will refer to the personality, the character of Leo Tolstoy, exposed in the marvelous Intellectuals by brilliant Paul Johnson who has looked at Henrik Ibsen, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the latter has abandoned his children at the door of an orphanage, at a time when nine out of ten would die in that circumstance) and Tolstoy himself, concluding that these titanic writers would have a very dark, repugnant side, which for some could make sense…

Maybe the most fantastic thinker, and somehow also comedian, that we have is Andrei Plesu one that has the sagesse to talk to people about almost anything under the sun – sometimes making mistakes, like in the case of Greta Thunberg, the young woman that he dismisses as being too vocal about humanity getting suffocated, when she does not yet know what she is about, much if anything about the world…this is not just condescending, it is plain wrong – and he sometimes takes on the…’Russian Questions


Russian questions for Andrei Plesu would be the fundamental ones that regard the paramount mysteries and issues, such as the Meaning of Life – incidentally, Martin Seligman, the co-founder of positive psychology, has written in his Flourish a formula of happiness, PERMA, in which the M stands for having Meaning,

And the rest for positive emotions, engagement, Relationships, and achievement – and we are invited in Anna Karenina to look at birth, death, religion…it is intriguing and inspiring to watch Konstantin Levin navigate between his skepticism and the faith shown by most people, including his wife Kitty

Kitty is first infatuated with the dashing Vronsky, and if we are to be maximizers – something that is explained in the quintessential The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz - then we could find fault with the girl, and say that perhaps it is not love she would eventually feel for Levin, since she had rejected him once…


One of the most intriguing, maybe difficult questions would be to understand what really happens to Anna Karenina and Vronsky, why does their love ‘die’, is it even possible – Thomas Mann has a character in one of his short stories that is aghast at the way people keep saying ‘I love you so much, there are no words to express this’, and the personage protests, stating that ‘love., Friends’ are extant only in art, literature, because the meaning of these words is so vast and comprehensive, love is eternal, but when we test ‘that love which is beyond words’ we see that it is limited, fails the not so difficult tests, when we need the real support of some ‘friend’, he does not have the time, inclination, the friendship to be there… there is such a thing as Hedonic Adaptation, demonstrated by psychology tests, which show that we adapt to almost all situations (expect for very loud noises, do not move near an airport, thinking you will get used with the terrible noise, the loss of someone dear, unemployment, these are more difficult to adapt to) and what seems like eternal bliss becomes something we do not see anymore…there is The Honeymoon Effect: after about two years, partners in couples or marriages tend to look for novelty and may start an affair (not all, evidently) and then finally, The Coolidge Effect and that light anecdote, to end what is a chef d’oeuvre, with such a cataclysmic climax…the American president was visiting a farm, where a rooster was very active and the first lady asked how many times per day the animal jumped on hens and the answer was a very big number (I could not remember, but as with anything, you could google and get the approximation) which the first lady asked to be mentioned to the president, who in his turns asked if it is always the same hen, and the reply was that it is always a different one…in other words, had Vronsky been afflicted by this effect…yes, it is lowering the level of a magnum opus to a silly question, but hey, it is one of the many enigmas, issues of this gigantic masterpiece

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