Friday, March 13, 2020
This past week I plunged into several Tolstoy books. I re-read Tolstoy's infamous Kreutzer Sonata, and read his What is Art? and The Cossacks for the first time. The Kreutzer Sonata starts slowly, with the characters making relatively lazy--and sometimes philosophical--observations about women, but Tolstoy's talent emerges as he describes his protagonist's murderous jealousy. Reading the book, one almost wishes Tolstoy had written his own Crime and Punishment to set along side Dostoevsky's version. Tolstoy's What is Art? demonstrates Tolstoy's ability to produce great work in multiple genres. For this nonfiction investigation into aesthetics is very well researched and reasoned, and demonstrates the author's versatility as a thinker. In the book, Tolstoy draws upon his knowledge of German and French, to produce a survey of the field of aesthetics. He also proves that he has a firm grasp on the history of the Church and European history in general. In The Cossacks, Tolstoy seems to foreshadow some of the magic of War and Peace, since his ostensible adventure tale is filled with powerful insights into every day life, and wonderful "small" and "slow" moments and conversations between ordinary people.