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The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 7, 1986

4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Language Notes

Text: English, Russian (translation)

About the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, and educated privately. He studied Oriental languages and law at the University of Kazan, then led a life of pleasure until 1851 when he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus. He took part in the Crimean War and after the defence of Sebastopol he wrote The Sebastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his reputation. After a period in St Petersburg and abroad, where he studied educational methods for use in his school for peasant children in Yasnaya Polyana, he married Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862. The next fifteen years was a period of great happiness; they had thirteen children, and Tolstoy managed his vast estates in the Volga Steppes, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). A Confession (1879-82) marked a spiritual crisis in his life; he became an extreme moralist and in a series of pamphlets after 1880 expressed his rejection of state and church, indictment of the weaknesses of the flesh and denunciation of private property. His teaching earned him numerous followers at home and abroad, but also much opposition, and in 1901 he was excommuincated by the Russian Holy Synod. He died in 1910, in the course of a dramamtic flight from home, at the small railway station of Astapovo. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 7, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,112,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) wrote two of the great novels of the nineteenth century, War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Leo Tolstoy presents radical views on sex and marriage in this magnificent tale, views that raise questions and evoke thought.

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.
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Format: Paperback
The stories contained in this volume (`The Kreutzer Sonata', `The Devil', `The Forged Coupon' and `After the Ball') are from Tolstoy's late period and are markedly different in tone from the great works of his early period, `The Cossacks' and `War and Peace'. Those early works are characterised by Tolstoy's enormous compassion and lust for life, while even the more troubled `Anna Karenina' is infused with the author's magnanimous wisdom, despite the grave self-doubts that were plaguing him at the time of writing. `The Kreutzer Sonata' marks a sea-change in mood for this greatest of all novelists. All of the stories here are stained with the cynicism that overtook Tolstoy in his advancing years, and the almost overwhelming sense of guilt at what he saw as the dissolute and wasted life he had led, and the hollowness of relations between men and women. The sheer joie de vivre of Natasha Rostov in `War and Peace' contrasts severely with the nihilism of Pozdnyshev in `The Kreutzer Sonata', while the misfortunes of almost every character in `The Forged Coupon' do not point to a happy or optimistic author. These are interesting stories however, which at times equal Tolstoy at his most illuminating - though even Tolstoy some way off his best is more than a match for most. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
"The Kreutzer Sonata" is one of Leo Tolstoy's greatest short stories and thus one of the greatest ever. It is well worth buying by itself, but the fact that it is included in so many collections makes justifying a standalone very difficult. Everyone should read this, though not necessarily here.

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.
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Ibsen once described Tostoy as a supremely great writer, when he wasn't being mad. On the evidence of "The Kreutzer Sonata", Tolstoy was a supremely great writer EVEN when he was mad.
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The Kreutzer Sonata is a fascinating study of an abusive marriage--Russian nobility style. I found it interesting if only for that, in addition to which it's only about 100 pages long, so for Tolstoy this is a quick read.
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.
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