Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tolstoy's Resurrection

When preparing to read the book, Resurrection, I read some of the reader comments on Amazon. 
I think one reader said that the book helped him to understand the Russian Revolution. I think what he meant was that Tolstoy's depiction of a woman caught up in the courts (and later the prison system), helped him to understand just how bloated, corrupt, and alienating the Russian bureaucracy could be in the late 19th or early 20th century.   At any rate, Tolstoy's Resurrection is also a nice synthesis between the first and second phases of Tolstoy's writing career.  Although the book is overtly Christian, and has a clear didactic purpose, its treatment of the protagonist is nuanced, humane, empathetic, and complex.  Like all of the characters in Tolstoy's best novels, Resurrection's protagonist is filled with complicated, many-layered emotional and intellectual responses to every major decision he confronts.  Didactic or not, Resurrection allows us to understand how even the simplest moral choices turn out to be Matryoshka dolls, filled with other, increasingly intricate moral dilemmas.  More than anything, Tolstoy's Resurrection reminds that his turn toward Christian writing should not be regarded as a descent from the stylistic heights of War and Peace and Anna Karenina.  Like any of his other earlier books, Resurrection is powerfully written, the product of sustained and serious thinking. 

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