Saturday, May 1, 2010

Master and The Man

The first meeting of the newly established Lake County Tolstoy Reading Group met for the first time. Eight readers met at a private home and discussed Tolstoy's late short story, The Master and the Man, in the Penguin Classics edition. Two readers were Ukrainians who shared a few tales of communist-era life. For example, they lived inter-generationally and share a stove top with at least one other family. When that family was out of the flat, they sometimes dared to use all four burners, but not usually. They also remembered that, contrary to popular belief, it was dangerous to arrive at work late. "It wasn't like in the days of the gulag but it could could get you into trouble."

As for Master and the Man, the group liked the story. Whether flattering or not, comparisons to Jack London's short stories were made. The discussion focused on Tolstoy's admirable command of language, foreshadowing and suspense, characterization, and biblical imagery. There was some debate about whether or not the master in the story was portrayed realistically. Wasn't his character a bit too one-dimensional? Wasn't Tolstoy relying on an old cliche about peasant virtues to deride bourgeois ones? Overall, the group didn't seem to mind the liberties Tolstoy had taken with the bourgois master. Moreover, they liked the peasant man's earthiness, folk wisdom, religiosity, and common sense. And they embraced the master's conversion to Christianity.

No comments:

Post a Comment