Saturday, 4 June 2016

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy 2010

A very short book, given how much of life it covers.
“He found he had forgotten nothing but what he wanted to forget.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 12).

“it was impossible because she could not get out of the habit of regarding him as her husband and loving him.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 13).

“It would seem that nothing could be simpler tan for him, a man of good family, rich rather than poor, and thirty-two years of age to propose to the Princess Sherbatskaya. In all likelihood he would have been considered quite a suitable match. But Levin was in love, and therefore Kitty seemed to him so perfect in every respect, so transcending everything earthly, and he seemed to himself so very earthly and insignificant a creature that the possibility of his being considered worthy of her by others or by herself was to him unimaginable.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 30).

 “Oblonsky smiled. He understood that feeling of Levin’s so well, knew that for Levin all the girls in the world were divided into two classes: one class included all the girls in the world except her, and they had all the usual human failings and were ordinary girls; while the other class – herself alone – had no weaknesses and was superior to all humanity.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 51).

“Anna read and understood, but it was unpleasant to read, that is to say, to follow the reflection of other people’s lives. She was eager to live herself.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 138).

“But it is really funny; her aim is to do good, she is a Christian and yet she is always angry and always has enemies – all on account of Christianity and philantrophy!” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 150).

“Karenin was being confronted with life – with the possibility of his wife’s loving somebody else, and this seemed stupid and incomprehensible to him, because it was life itself. He had lived and worked all his days in official spheres, which deal with reflections of life, and every time he had knocked up against life itself he had stepped out of its way.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 196).

“Levin frowned. The insult of the refusal he had had to face burned in his heart like a fresh, newly-received wound. But he was at home and the walls of home are helpful.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 237).

“As a child that has been hurt skips about making his muscles move in order to dull its pain so Karenin needed mental activity to smother those thoughts about his wife which in her presence and in the presence of Vronsky, and amid the continual mention of his name, forced themselves upon him. And as it is natural for the child to skip about, so it was natural for him to speak cleverly and well.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 287).

“To Constantine the country was the place where one lives – that is to say, where one rejoiced, suffered and laboured; but to Koznyshev the country was, on the one hand, a place of rest from work, and on the other hand, a useful antidote to depravity, an antidote to which he resorted with pleasure and with a consciousness of its utility.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 327).

“Had Constantine been asked whether he liked the peasants, he would not have known what to answer. He both liked and disliked them, just as he liked and disliked all human beings.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 328).

“Oblonsky had gone to Petersburg to fulfil a very necessary duty – which to officials seems most natural and familiar, though to laymen it is incomprehensible – that of reminding the Ministry of his existence, without the performance of which rite continuance in Government service is impossible.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 357).

“Though the children did not know Levin well and did not remember when they had last seen him, they did not feel toward him any of that strange shyness and antagonism so often felt by children toward grown-up people who ‘pretend’, which causes them to suffer so painfully.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 368).

“All had been drowned in the sea of their joyful common toil. God had given them the day and the strength, and both the day and the strength had been devoted to labour which had brought its own reward. For whom they had laboured and what the fruits of their labour would be was an extraneous and unimportant affair.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 380).

“death would come and end everything, so that it was useless to begin anything, and that there was no help for it. Yes it was terrible, but true.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 481).

“He dressed in haste, and as if he were carrying a cup brimful of wrath and were afraid of spilling any and of losing with his anger the energy he needed for an explanation with his wife, he went to her room as soon as he knew that she was up.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 500).

“’What is the use arguing? No one ever convinces another.’” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 545).

“his pity for her, remorse at having wished for her death, and above all the joy of forgiving, in itself gave him not only relief from suffering but inward peace such as he had never before experienced.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 545).

“But quite on the contrary, it is precisely of this loss of freedom that I am glad.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 608).

“One impulse, an habitual one, drew him to shift the blame from himself and lay it upon her, but another, and more powerful one, drew him to smooth over the breach as quickly as quickly as possible and not allow it to widen. To remain under so unjust an accusation was painful, but to justify himself and hurt her would be still worse.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 661).

“They made it up. Having realised that she was in the wrong, though she did not acknowledge it, she became more tender to him, they enjoyed a new and doubled happiness in their love.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 661).

“Nevertheless, her chief preoccupation was still herself – herself in so far as Vronsky held her dear and in so far as she could compensate him for all he had given up.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 879).

“’Then why do you go on with it (the estate and agriculture), if it is a clear loss?’
‘Well you see …  one goes on! What would you have? It’s a habit, and one knows that it’s necessary!
‘Yes, yes,’ said Levin, ‘that is quite so! I always feel that I am getting no real profit out of my estate and yet I go on … One feels a sort of duty toward the land.’” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 898).

“He only knew and felt that what was happening (birth) was similar to what had happened the year before in the hotel of the provincial town on the deathbed of his brother Nicholas. Only that was sorrow and this was joy. But that sorrow and this joy were equally beyond the usual conditions of life: they were like openings in that usual life through which something higher became visible. And, as in that case, what was now being accomplished came harshly, painfully; and while watching it, the soul soared, as then, to heights it had never known before, at which reason could not keep up with it.
‘Lord, pardon and help us!’” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 974).

“Kitty was alive, her sufferings were over; and he was full of unspeakable bliss. This he comprehended, and it rendered him entirely happy. But the child? Whence and why had he come? Who was he? … He could not at all accustom himself to the idea. It seemed something superfluous, something overflowing, and for a long time he was unable to get used to it.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 978).

“You see, he who sits down to play against me, wishes to leave me without a shirt, and I treat him the same! So we struggle, and therein lies the pleasure!” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1022).

“It was as impossible not to look after his brother’s and sister’s affairs, and those of all the peasants who came for advice and were accustomed to do so, as it is impossible to abandon a baby you are already holding in your arms.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1080).

“Thinking about it led him into doubts and prevented him from seeing what he should and should not do. But when he did not think, but just lived, he unceasingly felt in his soul the presence and infallible judge deciding which of two possible action was the better and which the worse; and as soon as he did what he should not have done, he immediately felt this.
In this way he lived, not knowing and seeing any possibility of knowing what he was or why he lived in the world.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1081).

“’To live not for one’s needs but for God! For what God? What could be more senseless than what he said? He said we must not live for our needs – that is, we must not live for what we understand and what attracts us, what we wish for, but must live for something incomprehensible, for God whom nobody can understand or define.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1086).

“Nobody is free from doubt about other things, but nobody ever doubts this one thing, everybody always agrees with it.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1086).

“’Theodore says that Kirilov, the innkeeper, lives for his belly. That is intelligible and reasonable. We all, as reasoning creatures, cannot live otherwise. And then that same Theodore says that it is wrong to live for one’s belly, and that we must live for Truth, for God and at the first hint I understand him!” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1087).

“this knowledge cannot be explained by reason: it is outside reason, has no cause, and can have no consequences.
‘If goodness has a cause, it is no longer goodness if it has a consequence – a reward, it is also not goodness. Therefore goodness is beyond the chain of cause and effect.
‘It is exactly this that I know and that we all know.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1087).

“Having then for the first time clearly understood that before every man, and before himself, there lay only suffering, death, and eternal oblivion, he had concluded that to live under such conditions was impossible: that one must either explain life to oneself so that it does not seem to be an evil mockery by some sort of devil or one must shoot oneself.
But he had done neither the one nor the other, yet he continued to live, think, and feel, had even at that very time got married, experienced many joys, and been happy whenever he was not thinking of the meaning of his life.
What did that show? It showed that he had lived well, but thought badly.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1089).

“’I looked for an answer to my question. But reason could not give me an answer – reason is incommensurable with the question. Life itself has given me the answer, in my knowledge of what is good and what is bad. And that knowledge I did not acquire in any way, it was given to me as to everybody, given because I could not take it from anywhere.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1089).

“Not reason! Reason has discovered the struggle for existence and the law that I must throttle all those who hinder the satisfaction of my desires. That is the deduction reason makes. But the law of loving others could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1090).

“’I shall still get angry with Ivan the coachman in the same way, shall dispute in the same way, shall inopportunely express my thoughts; there will still be a wall between my soul’s holy of bodies and other people; even my wife I shall still blame for my own fears and shall repent of it. My reason will still not understand why I pray, but I shall still pray, and my life, my whole life, independently of anything that may happen to me, is every moment of it no longer meaningless as it was before, but has an unquestionable meaning of goodness with which I have the power to invest it.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1116).

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