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The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 7, 1986
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Tolstoy's protagonist is mired in a marriage that disintegrates. He kills his wife because of an intense jealousy. The jealousy, in his mind, is as frenzied as the first movement of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, the fast emotional presto. He has harsh unusual views about women and their relations with men. Some of his comments, that follow, taken from various places in the novel, reflect his bizarre thinking. But, we should ask: are his ideas entirely wrong?
He speaks about having sex with prostitutes. He admits that it is bad, but there is something, he says, that is far worse: having no relations with the person, wife, mistress or prostitute other than physical sex. "Dissoluteness does not lay in anything physical... debauchery lies precisely in freeing oneself from moral relations with a woman with whom you have physical intimacy."
A man who seeks only the physical gratification of sex, he says, "will never have those pure, simple, clear, brotherly relations with a woman."
So far, this seems rational, moral and proper. But he goes on.
Men, claims our murderer, are entranced and fooled by beauty. "A handsome woman talks nonsense, you listen and hear not nonsense but cleverness. She says and does horrid things, and you see only charm."
Men, he says, are so charmed by a woman's beauty, that they do not understand that love may be only an illusion: "love as we call it, depends not on moral qualities but on physical nearness and on the coiffure, and the color of the dress."
And he moves deeper, "You say that the women of our society have other interests than prostitutes have, but I say no.Read more ›
Though very different from the more famous "Death of Ivan Ilych," "The Kreutzer" is at least as good. Extraordinary in every respect, it is remarkable even for sheer daring; it is not only a stunningly detailed account of wife murder told by the murderer himself but openly condemns many of Western society's most sacred institutions. It was also unprecedentedly frank about sexuality in an era when, we must remember, statues were covered and it was not socially permissible to mention legs or ankles. No one would even publish it in Russia, and it was banned in America and denounced by Theodore Roosevelt. It would be but a historical curiosity if it did nothing more than arouse a prudish world's ire, but it is in fact still shocking. As so often in such cases, what should have shocked passed mostly unseen, but time has made its true points clearer. That they were not picked up on more is truly astounding, because Tolstoy seems to have anticipated the problem and compensated - some might say overcompensated - by greatly increasing didacticism. Indeed, highly influenced by fellow Russian great Fyodor Dostoevsky and in distinct opposition to prior works, he practically abandons dramatization in what is essentially a long monologue. He uses the device of a long train ride to make such a thing seem plausible, and the train stops every dozen pages or so to remind us that other things are going on, but the Dostoevskian character Pozdnyshev's tirade is the clear focus.Read more ›
I read something funny in Tolstoy's own comments about this work. He mentions he read the manuscript to his family before it was published, and that it was very well received by everybody. Then I read some years later that his wife was upset he had written it since it could have been construed as a commentary on their own marriage.
Anyway, I hope this wasn't an autobiographical work; otherwise, I can see why he turned religious in his later years.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think that the reviews here are a little bit off and essentially betray themselves by insulting the writer, and without reason praising his earlier works as a means of battering... Read morePublished on September 12, 2006 by B. Whitacre
The title story, " The Kreutzer Sonata" is Tolstoy at his preaching, hypocritical, immoral worst. By the time he writes this the great works so filled with love of life are behind... Read morePublished on October 29, 2005 by Shalom Freedman
This is one of Tolstoy's better works, unlike "The Death of Ivan Ilych", which I thought was absolutely boring and pointless--to read about someone's death with no story line but... Read morePublished on August 4, 2005 by Sammy
Let me caveat this review: I only have read the title story, and my review is based entirely on that.
This story was truly awful. Read more
It's unforgiveable that Penguin gives away the climax of "Kreutzer Sonata" on the back cover of the book. Read morePublished on April 1, 2001 by K.E. Culbertson
Although Tolstoy's grander and subsequently longer novles are what modern readers best charaterize him for, this collection of lively tales drawn from a exuberant writer's own life... Read morePublished on February 3, 2000 by Shirley Li