Tolstoy and Spirituality

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and Spiritualit y


and Spirituality


Boston 2018

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Cicovacki, Predrag, editor. | Grek, Heidi Nada, editor. Title: Tolstoy and spirituality / edited by Predrag Cicovacki and Heidi Nada Grek. Description: Boston : Academic Studies Press, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018034290 (print) | LCCN 2018053081 (ebook) | ISBN 9781618118837 (ebook) | ISBN 9781618118707 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910--Criticism and interpretation. | Spirituality in literature. | Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910--Philosophy. Classification: LCC PG3415.S65 (ebook) | LCC PG3415.S65 T65 2018 (print) | DDC 891.73/3--dc23 LC record available at Copyright © 2018 Academic Studies Press ISBN 978-1-61811-870-7 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-61811-883-7 (electronic)

Book design by Kryon Publishing Services (P) Ltd. Cover design by Ivan Grave. Published by Academic Studies Press in 2018. 28 Montfern Avenue Brighton, MA 02135, USA P: (617)782-6290 F: (857)241-3149 [email protected]

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Contributors Introduction

vii viii xii

Chapter 1: But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose? Mikhail Shishkin


Chapter 2: Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy Rosamund Bartlett


Chapter 3: What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be? Donna Tussing Orwin


Chapter 4: Tolstoy’s Unorthodox Catechesis: English Novels Liza Knapp


Chapter 5: Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects” Miran Bozovic


Chapter 6: Tolstoy’s Divine Madness: An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata93 Predrag Cicovacki Chapter 7: The Kreutzer Sonata, Sexual Morality, and Music Alexandra Smith


Chapter 8:  A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy Diana Dukhanova



Table of contents

Chapter 9:  The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Death and Authentic Life Božidar Kante


Chapter 10:  Tolstoy’s Spiritual Nonviolence   Robert L. Holmes


Chapter 11: Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction Inessa Medzhibovskaya


Chapter 12:  Tolstoy’s Philosophical Legacy An Interview with Abdusalam A. Guseynov






his collection of essays was inspired by an international and interdisciplinary conference, “Tolstoy and Spirituality,” held at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts on April 21 and 22, 2017. We would like to thank Philip Boroughs, S.J., President of the College, for his continuous support and the opening speech at the conference. Our gratitude also goes to Olga Partan, Professor of Russian in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, who was selflessly engaged in the preparation and organization of the conference, and to Svyatoslav Gorbunov, for his help with identifying numerous Tolstoy references. The conference was sponsored and hosted by the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture, and special thanks are due to Thomas M. Landy, Director of the Center, for the support of the conference and of the publication of this volume, as well as to Danielle Kane, Associate Director for Communications, and Patricia Hinchliffe, Administrative Assistant of the Center.


Rosamund Bartlett completed her doctorate at Oxford and spent fifteen years pursuing an academic career, latterly as head of the Russian Department at the University of Durham, before becoming a full-time writer and translator. She is the author and editor of several books, including Wagner and Russia (1995) and Shostakovich in Context (2000), as well as two biographies: Chekhov: Scenes from a Life (2004) and Tolstoy: A Russian Life (2010). Her translations for Oxford World Classics include the Chekhov anthology About Love and Other Stories (2004) and Anna Karenina (2014), for which she also wrote the introduction and accompanying notes. Chekhov: A Life in Letters, which she edited and co-translated for Penguin Classics (2004), is the first unexpurgated edition in any language. Her most recent publication is The Russian Soul: Selections from “A Writer’s Diary” by Fyodor Dostoevsky (2017), for which she wrote the introduction. Miran Bozovic is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, specializing in Early Modern Philosophy. He is the author of, among other works, Der grosse Andere: Gotteskonzepte in der Philosophie der Neuzeit (1993), An Utterly Dark Spot: Gaze and Body in Early Modern Philosophy (2000), and the editor of Jeremy Bentham’s The Panopticon Writings (1995). Predrag Cicovacki is Professor of Philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross. He is the author of several books, including Dostoevsky and the Affirmation of Life (2012) and Gandhi’s Footprints (2015). He is the co-editor of Dostoevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov”: Art, Creativity and Spirituality (with Maria Granik; 2010), and of Nonviolence as a Way of Life: History, Theory, Practice (with Kendy Hess; 2017). Diana Dukhanova received her PhD in Slavic Studies from Brown University in 2018 with a dissertation entitled “Jesus of Bethlehem: Vasily Rozanov and the


Discourse of Matrimonial Sexuality in the Russian Orthodox Church.” Diana also holds an MA in Religious Studies from Brown and an MA in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth College. She served as Visiting Instructor of Russian at the College of the Holy Cross in 2014–17. Diana’s work has appeared in the Journal of Icon Studies and Brown Slavic Contributions, and she will publish a number articles on topics of gender, sexuality, and religion in Russia in 2018. She also covers these topics for a popular audience, including her blog called “Russia: Religion Watch” ( Heidi Grek is a PhD candidate in German and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St.  Louis. Her research interests include Goethe’s Faust, the European epic tradition, and world literature. She is also a co-translator (from Serbian; with Predrag Cicovacki) of Laza Kostić, The Basic Principle (2016). Abdusalam A. Guseynov is Professor of Philosophy of Moscow State University, Full Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Principal Adviser for Academic Affairs of the Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the Institute of Philosophy (2006–15), Member of the International Institute of Philosophy (Paris) (2012), and Laureate of the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and NonViolence (1996). He is the author of the books: Zolotoe pravilo nravstvennosti (The Golden Rule of Morality; 1988), Velikie proroki i mysliteli: nravstvennye ucheniia ot Moiseia do nashikh dnei (Great Prophets and Thinkers. The Moral Teachings from Moses to Our Times; 2009), Antichnaia etika (Ancient Ethics; 2011), Filosofiia—mysl′ i postupok (Philosophy—Thought and Action; 2012), and Etika. Uchebnik dlia filosofskikh fakul′tetov (Ethics: Text-Book for Faculties of Philosophy; 2013). Robert L. Holmes is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Rochester. He is the past president of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, editor of Public Affairs Quarterly, Senior Fulbright lecturer at the Moscow State University, and Rajiv Gandhi Professor of Peace and Disarmament, at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of On War and Morality (1989; reprint 2014), Basic Moral Philosophy (2006), Pacifism: A Philosophy of Nonviolence (2016) and Introduction to Applied Ethics (forthcoming). He is the editor (with Barry Gan) of Nonviolence in Theory and Practice (3rd ed., 2011).




Božidar Kante is Professor of Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Maribor and currently also a Dean of the Faculty of Arts. In the Slovenian philosophical space, especially aesthetics, he introduced methods and contents of analytical tradition. His fields of work are the aesthetics of nature, the philosophy of literature, and film and philosophy. He has published several monographs, among others, The Philosophy of Art, Aesthetics of Nature and Aesthetics and Analytical Philosophy (all in Slovenian). He is also the co-director of the course Philosophy of Arts at the Inter-University Center Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik, Croatia), and the past secretary of the European Society of Analytical Philosophy. Liza Knapp is a Professor of Slavic Languages at Columbia University; before coming to Columbia in 2004, she taught for a decade in the Slavic Department at the University of California at Berkeley. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are the subjects of most of her scholarship and much of her teaching. She is the author of The Annihilation of Inertia: Dostoevsky and Metaphysics (1996), Anna Karenina and Others: Tolstoy’s Labyrinth of Plots (2016), the co-editor of the MLA Approaches to Teaching “Anna Karenina” (2003), and the editor of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”: A Critical Companion (1998). Inessa Medzhibovskaya is an Associate Professor of Liberal Studies and Literature at the New School for Social Research and Lang College in New York City. She publishes on Russian authors and philosophers, ideology and education, and the interplay of philosophy, religion, politics, and literary aesthetics. Tolstoy is one of her specialties: she is the author of Tolstoy and the Religious Culture of His Time (2008), and the editor of Tolstoy’s “On Life” (2018), Tolstoy and His Problems: Views from the Twenty-First Century (2018), and A Critical Guide to Tolstoy’s “On Life” (2018). Along with the recently supervised Tolstoy section for the Gale-Cengage companion to Short Story Criticism series (forthcoming January 2019), she is also completing a long monograph, Tolstoy and the Fates of the Twentieth Century, and the first multi-volume anthology of Tolstoy’s thought in English. Donna Tussing Orwin is Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Tolstoy’s Art and Thought, 1847–1880 (1993), Consequences of Consciousness: Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy (2010), and Simply Tolstoy (2017) as well as many articles and several edited volumes on Tolstoy. She was editor of Tolstoy


Studies Journal in 1997–2005. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and a recipient of the Pushkin Medal for contribution “to the rapprochement and mutual enrichment of different people’s cultures and the study and popularization of Russian language and culture” (2008). Mikhail Shishkin is a Russian writer whose books have been translated in more than ten languages. He has been awarded numerous Russian and ­international literary prizes. His main works include the following novels: One Night Befalls Us All (1993), Blind Musician (1994), The Taking of Izmail (1999), Maidenhair (2005), and Pismovnik (2010). Alexandra Smith is Reader in Russian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She obtained her PhD from the University of London in 1993. She is the author of “The Song of the Mockingbird”: Pushkin in the Works of Marina Tsvetaeva (1994), Montaging Pushkin: Pushkin and Visions of Modernity in Russian Twentieth-Century Poetry (2006), Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry: Reinventing the Canon (2017; co-edited with Katharine Hodgson), Canonicity, Twentieth-Century Poetry and Russian National Identity after 1991 (forthcoming; co-authored with Katharine Hodgson), as well as numerous articles on Russian literature and culture.


Introduction There is only one thing in this world which is worth dedicating all your life. This is creating more love among people and destroying barriers which exist between them.

—Leo Tolstoy1



round his fiftieth birthday, Tolstoy underwent a severe existential crisis.  Despite enjoying a rapidly growing family and fame as a writer, he could not find any meaning to life. Years of surveying the history of philosophy and the most advanced scientific knowledge did not bring a satisfactory answer to his quest for meaning. He became suicidal and thus stayed away from his ­hunting rifle and hid any rope, for they may provide too much temptation. Alyosha Karamazov advised his struggling brother Ivan that he must love life before he could find any meaning in it, that he must accept life’s suffering and injustice, and only then would he understand its meaning. This approach could not satisfy Tolstoy. He was determined to refuse to live, unless he could decipher life’s meaning. Struggling with the seemingly meaningless existence, Tolstoy felt trapped in the world. His sense of desperation increased with the realization that much of our social life is built around various kinds of lies and deceptions. The higher we look into the social hierarchy, the more duplicity we detect. Perhaps the Roman proverb, panem et circenses (bread and circuses), captures most succinctly what ultimately guides our social life. The obsession with comforts and pleasures of life, with heroic military adventures and spectacular love affairs, with greed for more money and power certainly offers potent distractions and


often even great entertainment. They create a veil, thick enough to “hypnotize” us for long stretches of time, maybe even throughout the course of existence. Yet, they do not reveal a genuine path through life, nor do they lead to meaning and truth. If not sooner, the untruth of this way of life is exposed in the face of death. Tolstoy’s fear of death was well documented, but perhaps not properly understood. His was not the existentialists’ Angst in the face of annihilation. It was more of a counterpart to his fear of (meaningless) life. Tolstoy was afraid that death would provide a mirror that reveals the tragic delusions of the so-called successful individuals and our advanced civilization. The Death of Ivan Ilyich may serve as an illustration of the former, and Tolstoy’s encounter of an execution by the guillotine in Paris in 1857, in front of the crowd of twelve thousand, as an example of the latter. Tolstoy’s horror of our so-called advanced civilization becomes even more understandable when we also remember the endless war campaigns, with their massacres of soldiers and mounting number of civilian casualties. In War and Peace Tolstoy describes the Battle of Borodino, which took place on September 7, 1812, involving approximately two hundred fifty thousand French and Russian soldiers. On that day, there were around seventy thousand casualties. What was so horrible about it was not so much the sheer number of dead soldiers as the pointlessness of their sacrifice, the meaninglessness of such a waste of life. There had to be another way, Tolstoy came to believe, another path that would restore the sense of human dignity and reveal life’s meaning. After a prolonged search, Tolstoy became convinced that he had found the answer. He did not have to invent this path for it was there all along, and had been for centuries. During his spiritual crisis, Tolstoy started reading the Bible with unparalleled devotion, in hope of retrieving the original message of Christ. (He also spent years reading other sacred texts and studying especially the Oriental religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism.) Tolstoy came to believe that the central piece of the New Testament is the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus preaches simple life, nonviolent resistance to evil, and unconditional love (even for our enemies). He concluded that this spiritual approach should be our path toward a meaningful and humane life. For the remaining three decades, Tolstoy tried to adjust his own way of life and disseminate the central message of the Gospels. His reformist zeal was manifested not only in his numerous nonfiction writings (e.g., The Kingdom of God Is within You, The Gospel in Brief, The Law of Love and the Law of Violence),




but also in his later fiction (for example, his novel Resurrection, his novella The Kreutzer Sonata, his stories “The Three Hermits,” “Father Sergius,” “Alyosha the Pot,” etc.) Tolstoy’s reinterpretation of the Gospels turned out to be highly controversial. The moralizing mission of Christianity has traditionally been sustained at the expense of the view that nature is innocent: the institutionalized Christianity regards our natural impulses as sinful, as something that must be either overcome or restrained. Many of those who defend the innocence of nature (e.g., Hermann Hesse, Joseph Campbell, and others inspired by Oriental traditions) reject the moralizing mission of Christianity, and to a great extent also reject Christianity itself. Tolstoy had an original, almost paradoxical view: he defended the moralizing mission of Christianity, while also maintaining the innocence of nature; instead of reproaching our “fallen” nature, Tolstoy put the blame squarely on our social institutions, such as State and Church. Instead of strengthening our spiritual aspirations, they promote the material side of our existence, which in turn can be sustained only by means of continuous violence. Instead of the law of love, they end up promoting the law of the sword. In Tolstoy’s words, The law of God contradicts human law. So what should we do? Should we hide the law of God and proclaim human law? People have done this for almost nineteen centuries, and the contradiction becomes stronger and stronger. There is only one solution: to replace the existing laws with the law of God.2

While elaborating on why the law of love should be regarded as the law of God, Tolstoy maintained: It is this recognition of the law of love as the highest law of human life, and the clearly expressed guidance for conduct that follows from the Christian teaching on love, applied equally to enemies and those who hate, offend and curse us, that constitutes the peculiarity of Christ’s teaching. The precise and definite meaning given to the doctrine of love and the guidance resulting from it inevitably involves a complete transformation of the established structure of life, not only among Christian nations, but among all the nations of the world.3


This insistence on the law of love as the law of God also explains why Tolstoy favored Christianity over other religions and why it should be accepted as the leading “kindly light” for all nations: The fact that love is a necessary and happy aspect of human life was recognized by all the ancient religious beliefs. In all the teachings of the Egyptian sages, the Brahmins, the Stoics, the Buddhists, Taoists and others, amicability, pity, mercy, charity and love in general are considered the chief virtues. . . . But not one of these doctrines made this virtue the basis of life, a supreme law that should be not only the chief, but the only, guiding principle in people’s conduct, as did the most recent religion: Christianity. In all the pre-Christian doctrines love was regarded as one of the virtues, but not as that which the Christian teaching acknowledges it to be: metaphysically the origin of everything, practically the highest law of human life, i.e., that which under no circumstances admits of exception.4

THE CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS VOLUME Tolstoy’s insistence on life with simplicity, thorough nonviolence and unconditional love are considered so radical that, in the words of Richard F. Gustafson, “Much of what is central to Tolstoy seems embarrassing to Western critics.”5 That is one of the main reasons why, throughout the major part of the twentieth century, Tolstoy’s spiritual legacy had been either passed over in silence, or simply dismissed as impracticable and utopian. The most puzzling thing was that, instead of examining Tolstoy’s views, his critics often engaged in what looks more like a “character-assassination.” Edward Crankshaw, for instance, maintains that, after his “spiritual conversion,” Tolstoy became “the enemy of life.” In his view, Tolstoy “was an overbearing man, and selfish. He went on incessantly about sincerity and the lack of it in everyone he met, but he himself practiced double standards.” His Confession did not mark a genuine spiritual quest, but was “in effect largely an apology to live.”6 Even when Tolstoy’s radical spiritual views were taken more seriously, they were by no means always appreciated or endorsed. Aylmer Maude, one of the greatest admirers and translators of Tolstoy, could not support what to Tolstoy was one of the central points of his spiritual turn, the teaching on nonresistance to evil by violence: “I am convinced that Tolstoy’s misstatement of the theory of Nonresistance has served, more than anything else, to conceal from mankind




his greatness as a thinker, and I always regret to find people devoting special attention to that side of his thought.”7 In this collection of essays, the contributors overcome the sense of embarrassment voiced by Tolstoy’s critics and carefully reexamine his controversial views on spirituality, including his ideals with regard to love, marriage, sex, and nonresistance to evil. A unique contribution of this collection is that Tolstoy’s spiritual legacy is examined from two frequently used but rarely combined approaches: literary criticism and philosophical analysis. Among the contributors we find quite diverse authorities as one of the leading Russian writers, Mikhail Shishkin; the world’s premier expert on Tolstoy’s fictional writings, Donna Tussing Orwin; Tolstoy’s biographer, Rosamund Bartlett; several well-established Russian scholars, Liza Knapp, Alexandra Smith, and Inessa Medzhibovskaya; two Slovenian philosophers, Božidar Kante and Miran Bozovic; and two of the leading world’s proponents of the ethics of nonviolence, Robert L. Holmes and Abdusalam Guseynov. Mikhail Shishkin maintains that Tolstoy was one of those rare human beings who all his life asked seemingly naïve questions. In his Confession, he confronted himself thus: “Well, you will have 6,000 desyatinas of land in Samara Government and 300 horses, and what then? Very well; you will be more famous than Gogol or Pushkin or Shakespeare or Molière, or than all the writers in the world—and what of it?”8 This, indeed, sounds very naïve to our sophisticated ears. Yet, Shishkin asserts, Tolstoy’s naïvety makes the foundations of the universe shake: this is “naïvety with earthquaking power.” Several months before his death Tolstoy kept questioning in the same spirit: “Machines to produce—what? Telegraphs to pass—what? Schools, Universities, Academies to teach—what? Assemblies to discuss—what? Books and newspapers to spread the information—about what? The railways to travel—to whom and where? Millions of people gathered together under the command of one power to make—what?” Tolstoy’s questioning never stopped, until he came to the roots of the problems: “Hospitals, doctors, pharmacies to continue the life. But to continue the life—for what purpose?” We still need to confront these questions. It may be that in our age, the confrontation of these questions has become more urgent than in Tolstoy’s time: we have seen what “machines” can do for our lives (in both the positive and negative sense) to a far greater degree than he suspected, just as we


have seen how they can widen the gap between sheer existence and good life. As Shishkin rightly asserts, it is the latter that should be our ultimate concern. Rosamund Bartlett focuses on the spiritual legacy of Tolstoy’s fiction. For the last two decades of his life, Tolstoy’s religious and philosophical w ­ ritings had a far greater impact on readers than his literary works. Once reputable translations of his novels began to be published in the twentieth century, his religious writings were unable to keep up, as readers were increasingly drawn to Tolstoy the artist rather than Tolstoy the preacher. Bartlett explores the reasons for this decline, with particular reference to Chekhov’s 1894 story, “The Student,” written in the year in which Tolstoy’s magnum opus, The Kingdom of God Is within You, began to be circulated around the world. Donna Tussing Orwin investigates what Tolstoy means by goodness and why he thinks we should be and want to be good. She first summarizes Tolstoy’s arguments from his later treatises, and then looks at his fictional works to see if and how they illustrate them. She focuses on two short stories, “Prisoner of the Caucasus” and “God Sees the Truth, but Waits.” Both were published in 1872, as readings for Tolstoy’s Primer. Much later on, in What Is Art? (1898), Tolstoy identified them as the only works he was proud to have written. The first, he explained, was an example of universal art, the second of religious art. Orwin revisits what he meant by these terms, and then analyzes the role of goodness in each story. Aside from the Sermon on the Mount, Richard Gustafson uncovers the Eastern Christian roots of Tolstoy’s theology. Pål Kolstø sets forth the holy fool, the elder, and the wanderer as the native models for Tolstoy’s religious persona. Nikolai Berdyaev labels his religious mindset “more Buddhist than Christian”; Tolstoy himself cites Siutaev and Bondarev, two thinkers from the folk, as kindred spirits. Liza Knapp explores yet another source of inspiration for Tolstoy’s spiritual ideals: novels. The very novels that were vital to Tolstoy’s literary apprenticeship also served as his religious handbooks. Their influence began early and continued even after Tolstoy is thought to have renounced the role of novelist and to have dismissed the novel as a genre. Among the novelists of importance for Tolstoy were: Laurence Sterne, William Makepeace Thackeray, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Victor Hugo. Tolstoy’s life was full of controversies. He neither avoided them nor did he conceal them. In fact, he seemed to welcome them. The controversies in which the late Tolstoy was involved dealt with both his life and his literary opus. Although it is not always easy to separate them, four contributors to this volume focus on Tolstoy’s most controversial writing, The Kreutzer Sonata (1889). In Russia




(and the United States), its publication and distribution were immediately banned. Because of its views on sex and marriage, this novella was labeled as “immoral,” and its literary value disputed. These c­ riticisms have never subsided. One recent critic called it “the world’s worst story about the evils of sex, and one that would no longer be given shelf-room had it been written by anybody else.”9 Predrag Cicovacki’s contention is to show that such criticisms are unfounded. The form of this novella was not arbitrary and standing independently on its own, but closely related to its content and symbolism (e.g., his use of music). Like Beethoven’s sonata for which it had gotten its name, Tolstoy’s novella is an extraordinary work of art, a controversial work whose message and symbolism we have not yet properly learned to appreciate. Alexandra Smith continues the polemic provoked by The Kreutzer Sonata. She discusses Tolstoy’s ambivalent attitudes towards the ethical value of music in the context of the reception of Beethoven in Russia as an advocate of the ideals of the French Revolution and as a precursor of modern music. Given the canonical reception of Beethoven, it is appropriate to consider Tolstoy’s novella as a manifestation of the author’s desire to find spiritual values o­ utside the boundaries of the European aesthetic canon. Tolstoy’s novella offers a critical reevaluation of the moral foundations of the Russian intelligentsia whose radical views on social reforms influenced a new vision of culture as an extension of politics. Miran Bozovic also discusses The Kreutzer Sonata and sheds light on the moral values of its infamous hero, Pozdnyshev, particularly on his notion of women as “something dangerous to people.” With this tale, Tolstoy practically invented the so-called “noir fiction.” It is not only that a woman as Pozdnyshev sees her—a woman in an elegant evening dress who brings ruin to the man who comes near her—foreshadows the femme fatale, one of the key characters of mid-twentieth-century noir literature and films. It is also that the setting and the haunting nocturnal atmosphere unmistakably evoke the noir universe: the entire story unfolds on a night train, where in the oppressive and suffocating enclosure of a railway carriage, a stranger begins his narration by confessing that he has murdered his wife, and then, in the course of the journey, he goes on to recount, until dawn, the series of events that inexorably led to the fateful act. Given how compulsive his storytelling is, the reader is left with the impression that this is probably not the first time, and almost certainly not the last, that Pozdnyshev has recounted his story; it appears as if he has been condemned for the rest of his life to change from train to train, endlessly repeating his dark secret to fellow passengers. A mere page or two into the story, it becomes clear


that, just like the notorious Raymond Chandler’s streets, Tolstoy’s compact microcosm of the railway carriage is “dark with something more than night.” Diana Dukhanova examines the deployment of The Kreutzer Sonata in Vasily Rozanov’s writings on the “religion of the family.” Most of their contemporaries considered Tolstoy and Rozanov to be representatives of the opposing reactions to the  Church teachings on the matrimonial sexuality (one advocating ascetic restraint and the other unbridled physical love). Rozanov presents himself and Tolstoy as fellow proponents of a religion based on the unfulfilled possibilities of a sanctified Christian body. For Rozanov, Tolstoy’s novels, as well as his personal life, reflected adherence to a familial religion based on the continuity between Christianity and paganism, crucial in Rozanov’s own view regarding the restoration of the sanctity of matrimonial sexuality. However, just as Rozanov’s own optimistic reading of Christianity as a “religion of the family” coincides with his styling of Tolstoy as its prophet, his own growing doubt about the plausibility of a Christianity based on family reflects his rejection of paganism and the development of his Christian asceticism. Nevertheless, Rozanov maintains the image of Tolstoy as a lifelong, faithful son of the Church whose novels hold immense possibilities for its renewal. Tolstoy’s novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, is yet another literary work that has attracted the attention not only of literary theorists but of philosophers as well. One of the reasons for this lies in the fact that the theme of death is in its foreground. According to Božidar Kante, Martin Heidegger is one the philosophers who explicitly refers to Tolstoy’s consideration of death in this novella. In Being and Time, Heidegger cites Tolstoy as having portrayed the attitude of an average individual’s “being-toward-death,” the individual whose actions are limited by the structures of everydayness developed in the course of one’s life. In being-toward-death, Da-sein is related to itself as an eminent potentiality-­ of-being. Kant maintains that we must agree with Heidegger insofar as he understands the extreme range of possibility represented by the occurrence of death as the “space” that enables every other possibility of existence. Robert L. Holmes reminds us that the quest for truth is central to Tolstoy’s spiritual turn. The corollary is that truth must be pursued through the use of reason, which Tolstoy did relentlessly in trying to answer life’s basic questions. Although the fundamental question of ethics concerns how we ought to live, Tolstoy in effect asked whether we ought to live, which in turn led to two further questions: What is the meaning of life? and What gives life meaning? Tolstoy thought the former was unanswerable because it would require understanding




the whole of creation, which is impossible. He found clues to the answer to the latter question in the lives of the peasants: their faith gave meaning to their lives. But their faith (as taught by the Church) contained much that was false, and what was false needed to be stripped away. When one did that, Tolstoy thought, what was left were the teachings of Jesus, which were not deliverances from on high, but metaphysical, ethical and spiritual truths at the core of which were the notions of love and nonviolence (nonresistance to evil). Explaining why Tolstoy thinks the teachings of Jesus are true is the main challenge to understanding his philosophy. Inessa Medzhibovskaya argues that, while the major principles of Tolstoy’s view on nonviolence are fairly well known, what is not so well understood and not usually taken into consideration are the genres, forms, devices and the imagistic repertoire with which this articulation is achieved. It may seem that nonviolence and destruction are incompatible. Not so for Tolstoy. By looking at the lesser known personal documents and drafts, Medzhibovskaya unravels the dynamic of the processes through which Tolstoy arrives at the desired formulations and the demonstration that evil should be destroyed, and will be destroyed, nonviolently. Abdusalam Guseynov urges that, when we speak of Tolstoy the thinker and his philosophical legacy, we must keep in mind one significant circumstance. He was not a philosopher in the sense prevalent today and was not part of that setting inhabited by the “law-givers”—such as Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Hegel, Russell, and Heidegger. His milieu was different—namely, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Francis of Assisi, Luther, and Thoreau. They were those who, with their teachings and their activity, brought a new understanding of life; while being thinkers, they were also the teachers of humanity. Tolstoy’s main reproach to philosophy, especially to the professorial philosophy contemporary to him, consisted in the fact that it does not give the proper meaning to the question that is at its center: “What am I to do?” This question, the understanding of its paramount place in the lives of human beings and in philosophy, is connected to the future status of Tolstoy as a thinker and as a teacher of humanity. The soundness of Tolstoy’s answer to this question would ultimately determine the legacy of his entire ­spiritual approach. *** The contributions presented in this volume suggest that there is not one but three interconnected yet distinguishable sides to Tolstoy’s approach to spirituality. First, there is Tolstoy the seeker. He is the one who asks the most


difficult questions regarding the meaning of life, and whose wrestling with these questions reminds us of the biblical figures of Job and Jacob: dealing with such questions is, for Tolstoy, not the matter of academic discussion, but of life and death. Tolstoy’s sincerity and the intensity of his quest make us uncomfortable and disturbed. The second aspect of his spiritual approach, in which Tolstoy appears as a social critic, is based on his relentless self-examination and self-­ exposure. Tolstoy’s quest for truth and meaning, his struggles with the issues of life and death, with violence and the mindlessness of modern man, are so extreme because he becomes convinced that the answers propagated by s­ ociety are disturbingly misleading and progressively dehumanizing. Through its accepted norms, our society turns us more and more into “machines”: efficient and hard-working, yet easily replaceable and disposable. It leads us toward becoming “the happy babes” in the custody of the Dostoyevskian “Grand Inquisitors.” As the critic of all idolatry and tireless exposer of the lies of society, Tolstoy proposed that, instead of such a “Kingdom of Man,” we should instead try to realize the “Kingdom of God.” This brings us to the third aspect of Tolstoy’s approach to spirituality, Tolstoy the preacher. In the dramas of Dostoevsky, the outcome is not known to the last minute, and even the protagonists do not know themselves what they will choose and how they will act. In the epic narratives of Tolstoy, present in both his works of fiction and nonfiction, the hand of destiny seems to guide the course of events and the lives of its protagonists. The truth does not have to be invented; it simply has to be rediscovered. The truth has been revealed long ago, by all the world’s religions, but society tones down their messages and keeps us away from the most perplexing questions concerning human life and death. With a didactic finality of an omniscient narrator, Tolstoy reveals to us the path to travel: it is the path of the simple life, nonviolence and love that leads toward the realization of the Kingdom of God. It is this last aspect of Tolstoy, Tolstoy the preacher, that is so readily rejected by his critics: his patronizing dogmatism and one-sided absolutism could hardly satisfy the “democratic” craving for pluralism and subjectivism of our age. The papers in this collection teach us three lessons with regard to this tension. One of them is that the first two aspects of Tolstoy’s spiritual approach (Tolstoy the seeker and Tolstoy the critic) are of much value, even if we are not willing to idolize Tolstoy the preacher. There is much to admire about the sincerity and thoroughness of Tolstoy’s spiritual quest, as well as plenty to agree




with concerning his criticism of the ills of our dysfunctional social order; most of our social institutions have, indeed, lost their moral authority. The second and more important lesson is that Tolstoy’s complex views on spirituality need not all be upheld (or rejected) together. Even if we rebuff some of them, that does not imply that we have to repudiate them all. What he had to say about sex and celibacy, for instance, may be to a significant degree detachable from his views on the simple life, radical nonviolence and unconditional love. Tolstoy sometimes makes an impression that all of his spiritual views must be accepted and followed together. But there are numerous places in his writings where he is more cautious and where he does not make such (unjustified) assumptions. A precise examination of his multi-facited views and the mapping of their mutual relations is a task that has not been accomplished by Tolstoy himself; it is a project for the future inquiries. The third lesson may be the most critical: some of the presented articles raise a disturbing possibility that Tolstoy the preacher may be right with regard to some of the central tenants of his teaching. More specifically, he may be right in maintaining that the central tragedy of our civilization consists in its persistent attempts to reconcile the “law of violence” (or “the law of Man”) with the “law of love” (or “the law of God”). Violence is so deeply rooted in our society, not because we are violent by nature, but because of the social outlook that promotes attachments to material goods. While the law of love, preached by every spiritual tradition, is the law of sharing, of giving, of non-attachment, and of nonviolence, we fight violently over what we believe “belongs” to us and what we think we are “entitled” to possess. We stubbornly—and irrationally— attempt to establish the Kingdom of Man, while we should be striving toward the Kingdom of God. The central message of Tolstoy’s spiritual approach is that we could realize this Kingdom of God, if only we could learn to become more non-possessive, nonviolent, and loving human beings. Considering the disoriented age of our present-day civilization, this may be the path that is very much worth pursuing. Tolstoy the preacher may, after all, turn out to be Tolstoy the prophet.

LOOKING BACKWARD, LOOKING FORWARD Reading through this collection may remind one of the old Zen Buddhist’s riddle: When I was young, a cloud looked like a cloud, a tree looked like a tree, and a mountain looked like a mountain. Then I grew up, became knowledgeable and practical, and a cloud did not look like a cloud any more, nor a tree like


a tree, nor a mountain like a mountain. Now I grew old, and a cloud looks again like a cloud, and a tree like a tree, and a mountain like a mountain. While Tolstoy was still alive, his prophetic voice thundered out of his Yasnaya Polyana, and resounded throughout the world. Then, as the twentieth century became absorbed in its increasingly destructive wars and dehumanizing ways of life, while Tolstoy’s message of love did not entirely disappear, it seemed obsolete and almost ridiculous. Instead of Tolstoy, it appeared to the educated audience that it was Dostoevsky and his internally tormented heroes who addressed our human struggles and sufferings more directly. We continued to read Tolstoy (especially his works of fiction), yet always with a certain “but”—a reservation that reflected our respect but also our distance from Tolstoy’s radical views on spirituality. All too often, throughout the twentieth century, Tolstoy was treated like a cartoon character—an easy target for any kind of “practical” and “realistic” criticism. Hardly anyone (besides Gandhi) took Tolstoy’s spirituality of the simple life, nonresistance to evil and unconditional love seriously. Tolstoy was not Tolstoy anymore. The tide of times may be changing again. The most unchristian-like wars and destruction continue to be waged, but in faraway lands: in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East. At home, we have reached a machine-like level of work-efficiency, an enviable standard of living, and a feverish obsession with material goods and technical innovations. Nothing wrong with that, right? Nothing, indeed. Except for something that the sages of all times have known and warned us about. It should not be our human ideal to lose our souls and turn ourselves into machines. Nor can money and hoarding material goods lead to happiness and a meaningful life. They are more likely to blind us from genuine values in life and distract us from our pursuit of them. Precisely in that world, overcrowded with material and technical goods and impoverished in human emotions and humane relations, the question that Tolstoy pounded on and repeated far too many times for the good taste of the ever-busy middle and upper classes begins to loom large again. This question, prosaic and annoying as it has always been, is: Why do we live? For decades past, the question of the meaning of life, if addressed at all, was dissected only in freshman classes of the introductory philosophy courses. For Tolstoy, it was not an academic question but a loaded and burning question, the question on which depends not only our peace of mind but perhaps our entire existence, at least insofar as it has to be spiritually understood. Do I really live like a human being and should I continue my existence if I cannot




determine its meaning and purpose? And why live in this increasingly fast and hectic, empty and unfeeling “Smart New World”? *** When I started thinking about the conference that preceded (and later inspired) this volume and its title, I wavered between “Tolstoy and Christianity” and “Tolstoy and Spirituality.” Interestingly enough, it is the participants of the conference who insisted that spirituality should be in the title. Why spirituality rather than Christianity?10 One reason is that, despite himself, Tolstoy was as much a pagan as he was a Christian, as much a follower of the Buddha (and of Lao-Tzu) as he was an admirer of Jesus. Spirituality means something broader than religion, and it is broad enough to encompass every religion, Christianity included. The second and more important reason may be our changing attitude toward Tolstoy’s works and his “spiritual mission.” Perhaps the time has come that we try to dispel the mist of self-deceptions we like to surround ourselves with and, as the Zen Buddhist wisdom indicates, to see once again a cloud as a cloud, a tree as a tree, a mountain as a mountain, and Tolstoy as Tolstoy. Only time will tell. What is already clear is that the messages that emerge from the contributions presented here challenge the almost unanimous twentieth-century scorn for Tolstoy’s views on spirituality. Upon closer analysis of the fictional and nonfictional writings of the last several decades of his life, these essays offer an admiring although critical approach to Tolstoy; they lead us to believe that his vision of spirituality was far more complex and disturbing, as well as profound and vital, than previously assumed. It appears that in the beginning of the twenty-­first century we can yet again recognize Tolstoy’s concerns as our own, and that we can once more learn from the great writer and thinker about how to nourish our spiritual well-being in this confusing world. Predrag Cicovacki

ENDNOTES   1 Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, trans. Peter Serkin (New York: Scribner, 1997), June 9, 173.   2 Ibid., November 3, 320.  3 Tolstoy, The Law of Love and the Law of Violence, chap 7. Quoted from Tolstoy, A Confession and Other Religious Writings, trans. Jane Kentish (New York: Penguin, 1987), 174.   4 Ibid., 172.

Introduction  5 Richard F. Gustafson, Leo Tolstoy: Resident and Stranger (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), xiii. Among the views of Tolstoy that his critics find embarrassing are also his radical opinions on sex, celibacy and marriage.   6 Edward Crankshaw, Tolstoy: The Making of a Novelist (New York: The Viking Press, 1974), 236, 253, 257.   7 Aylmer Maude, The Life of Tolstoy, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 2:367.   8 Leo Tolstoy, A Confession and Other Religious Writings, 29.   9 Anthony Briggs, Introduction to Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection, trans. A. Briggs (New York: Penguin, 2009), xvi. 10 Tolstoy himself hardly ever used the word “spirituality,” and only occasionally employed the word “spirit.” Perhaps he was influenced in that regard by Schopenhauer, who warns against it: “Take, for example, the concept ‘spirit,’ and analyze it into its attributes: ‘a thinking, willing, immaterial, simple, indestructible being, occupying no space.’ Nothing distinct is thought in connection with it, because the elements of these concepts cannot be verified by perceptions, for a thinking being without brain is like digesting without a stomach.” The World as Will and Representation, 2 vols., trans. E. F. J. Payne (New York: Dover, 1969), 2:65. For a brief history of the origin and function of the concept of spirit in the Western tradition, see Cicovacki, “The Spirit That Kills Not,” in Nonkilling in Spiritual Traditions, eds. Joám Evans Pim and Pradeep Dakhal (Honolulu, HI: Center for Global Nonkilling, 2015), 37–52. The two most developed (although opposed) understandings of spirit in the twentieth-century Western philosophy are those by Nikolai Berdyaev and Nicolai Hartmann. See Berdyaev, Spirit and Reality, trans. George Reavey (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1939); and Hartmann, Das Problem des geistigen Seins: Untersuchungen zur Grundlegung der Geschichtsphilosophie und der Geisteswissenschaften (The Problem of Spiritual Being: Investigations on the Foundations of the Philosophy of History and the Human Sciences) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1933).



But to Continue the Life— For What Purpose?1 Mikhail Shishkin


 hen I was in school, I used to take a book to the coatroom or library between classes and hide. The worst, weakest coward in the senior class used to bully me, dishing it out as hard as he’d got it himself. He’d boxed my ears. I’d read about medieval jesters asking their lords tricky questions and the lords trying to give painstakingly correct answers—and invariably just making fools of themselves. One day, I tried mocking my tormentor the same way, but he just boxed my ears as usual, before I could even finish my flowery remark. All the silver tongues in the world, all the philosophers and theologians, with their confident hope of living on in time, are just like those bookish boys, forever trying to cheat death with their flowery disputations, but in the end, death doesn’t even bother to hear them out: it just boxes their ears. There was one man, though, who asked very naïve, rather than sophisticated, questions his whole life. In his A Confession, Tolstoy writes: “Well, you will have 6,000 desyatinas of land in Samara Government and 300 horses, and what then? Very well; you will be more famous than Gogol or Pushkin or Shakespeare or Molière, or than all the writers in the world—and what of it?”2 It sounds very naïve. This isn’t the small-minded naïveté of a backward personality, though. Tolstoy’s naïveté shakes the universe to its very foundations. A naïveté with an earthquake’s power. Several months before his death, he wrote in his diary (PSS 58:48): Machines to produce—what? Telegraphs to pass—what? Schools, Universities, Academies to teach—what? Assemblies to discuss— what? Books and newspapers to spread the information—about what? ­


Mikhail Shishkin The railways to travel—to whom and where? Millions of people gathered together under the command of one power to make—what?

Death boxed his ears more than a hundred years ago, but he didn’t care and went on asking his questions, and he still is: (PSS 58:40): “Hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies to prolong life. But prolong life to what end?” *** In the summer of 1816, Lord Byron walked from Lake Geneva to the Bernese Oberland and left us a description of that walk in his diary. Forty years later, Tolstoy took the exact same roads and also kept a diary. They were both twenty-eight. Tolstoy didn’t know he was repeating the famous Englishman’s path, otherwise he would undoubtedly have chosen himself a different route. When I found myself in Switzerland, I had to take that same path with my notebook. How could I not? I walked for seven days, and out of it came seven ­chapters of my book, In the Footsteps of Byron and Tolstoy. What led the retired officer and budding man of letters to Switzerland during his travels through Western Europe in the spring of 1857? Visiting the Alpine republic had not entered into his plans initially. This was more like an escape than tourism. Tolstoy was fleeing, headlong, from Paris to Geneva— fleeing death. The young man had just returned from war, where he had seen many deaths, but this was a special death. One April morning, he had been part of a crowd of gawkers observing the workings of the guillotine. Chopped off was the head of a certain François Richeux, who had been convicted of the murder of two men with intent to rob. That same day, Tolstoy wrote to his friend Vasily Botkin: I saw many horrors in the war and in the Caucasus as well, but if they had torn a man to pieces in front of me, it would not have been as repulsive as this elegant, sophisticated machine they used to kill a strong, fresh, healthy man in one instant. There what we had was not sensible [will], but the human emotion of passion, whereas here there is a refined tranquility and convenience to murder and nothing magnificent at all. The impudent, insolent desire to carry out justice, the law of god. A justice decided by lawyers—each of whom, while grounding himself in honor, religion, and truth, says the opposite. With the same formalities did they kill the king and Chénier and the republicans and the aristocrats and the gentleman (I’ve forgotten his name) who two years ago was judged innocent of a

But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose? murder for which he was killed. The crowd is repulsive, too: a father who explains to his daughter what an exquisite and convenient mechanism this is accomplished by, and so on. Human law is nonsense! To be sure, the state is a conspiracy not only for the exploitation but, most important, for the corruption of its citizens (PSS 60:167–68).

In his diary for April 6, 1857, he writes (PSS 47:120–21): “Fat, white, a healthy neck and chest . . . . The guillotine long would not let me sleep and forced me to look back.” Tolstoy is harassed by nightmares and can’t sleep. He tells his friends about this. Aksakov writes in one letter what Turgenev told him about Tolstoy: “He dreamed of the guillotine. It seemed to him that he himself was being executed; waking up, he found a scratch on his neck, which frightened him terribly, and he explained to himself that it was the devil who’d scratched him . . . and all of a sudden he’d vanished, and he was now writing from the shores of Lake Geneva.” The guillotine lopped off all of Tolstoy’s life previous in a single blow. In his twenty-eight years he had seen and experienced quite a lot, enough to last anyone else a lifetime. University had disenchanted him and he’d abandoned his studies. So it would be with everything he took up. He couldn’t be like other people and make any occupation his life’s cause: he would abandon the army, pedagogy, running his estate, and his zemstvo [institution of local government] activities. He only managed to do one thing—write books—but even this occupation he tried to abandon more than once, even soon after his first success, with his book Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, whose publication instantly made him one of Russia’s leading authors. In A Confession, he recalled how at age twenty-six he’d arrived in Petersburg after the Crimean War and been accepted into a writers’ circle: The view on life these people, my writing confederates, had was that, on the whole, life is constantly developing and that we, men of thought, have the main part in this development, and of all people of the mind, we artists and poets have the most influence. Our calling is to teach people (PSS 23:5).

Tolstoy felt like the adherent of a new religion: “This belief in the significance of poetry and the development of life was a belief, and I was one of its priests” (PSS 23:5). The famous writer’s status promised him not only



Mikhail Shishkin

renown, wealth, and the love of women in his lifetime but also the hope of immortality, if only literary, but his feeling of belonging to a caste of priests did not last long: “In my second and especially my third year of this life I began to doubt the infallibility of this belief.” Disenchantment with literature was the reason for his trip to Europe, and the execution in Paris inflicted the coup de grâce on his belief. A Confession was written some twenty years after this event, which may have been the key event in his life. When I saw the head separated from its body and both clattering separately in the box, I understood—not intellectually but with my entire being—that no theories of the rationality of what is or of progress could justify this act and that no matter if all the people in the world, based on whatever theories, since the world’s creation, have found this necessary— I know that this is not necessary, that this is bad and that therefore the judge of what is good and necessary is not what people say and do and not progress but I myself and my heart (PSS 23:8).

This was a declaration of war against an imperfect world. After this time, his human essence would be protest, rebellion, and denial. *** During his Swiss journey, Tolstoy spent the night of June 1 in Grindelwald and wrote in his diary (PSS 47:130): Sensuality is a terrible torment. I couldn’t get to sleep until twelve and paced around my room and the hallway. I went to take a walk through the gallery. To the light of the moon, gletchers and black mountains. I groped the downstairs maid, and the upstairs one, too. She’d run past me a few times, and I thought she was expecting it; everyone had gone to bed and she ran past me again and looked around at me angrily. Downstairs I hear I’ve raised the whole house and they’ve taken me for a malfaiteur. Schuft. Steht immer. [Scoundrel. Still true].

These notes were not intended for publication; they were published only after his death. They are an honest and pitiless attempt at self-examination. What tormented this healthy young man, what he fears and is ashamed of, found its expression on practically every page. He was oppressed by the duality

But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose?

of the human being, part of whom belongs to God, while the other part is in the grip of lust. This harrowing contradiction would pursue him his whole life. He experienced disgust before “slipping into the animal nature,” as he could not reconcile himself to everything banal and ordinary that comprises human existence. “God forbid living only for this world,” he would write in his diary much later, in October 1901. “For life to have meaning, its aim must lie beyond the limits of this world, beyond the reach of the human mind” (PSS 54:111). Tolstoy resolves the issue radically to arrive at a rejection of lust and base human instincts. In one letter he writes: Unjust is your assumption that good is intended for both the spiritual and the corporal principle. . . . Good is characteristic only of the spiritual principle and consists in none other than an increasing liberation from the body, which is doomed to evil and which alone impedes the achievement of the good of the spiritual principle (PSS 80:30).

Thus writes a man who brought thirteen children into the world. It was this chasm between the ideas of a moralist and the hand of an artist, between his human nature and his attempts to overcome it, that makes Tolstoy—Tolstoy, who even today arouses our admiration and revulsion, our incomprehension and love. In order to live on the sinful earth, one needs to develop an immunity against the many things that poison our life. This immunity was totally absent in Tolstoy; he was ill with life and there was no medicine for this. It is impossible to get along in one’s daily existence without a certain bare minimum of baseness. One needs simply to accept as a given that evil exists, that millions of people live in poverty, and that there will always be wars. Now, we do know that somewhere innocent people are being tortured in prisons, missiles are falling on people’s homes, and children are dying from a lack of medical care, but this does not prevent us from having breakfast, laughing, earning money, bearing children, and telling jokes. Everyone does this. We do this too. We live trying to remain at our own low rung of baseness and not descend any lower. But Tolstoy didn’t want to, couldn’t live the way we do. That life tormented him with constant shame. Here he saw a poor woman in the freezing cold and writes in his diary that he saw a hungry old woman freezing, while he was warm in his sheepskin coat and was on his way home to “gorge on eggs.” To us, this seems ridiculous. What naïveté! It seems to me that Tolstoy’s most important lesson is this: we need to learn to be naïve. Under the naïve gaze, all the usual connections that hold our world together are torn asunder



Mikhail Shishkin

and everything falls apart in chaos. This is a dangerous ability that’s hard to live with. The flood wiped only the surface off the face of the earth, after every creature was preserved in twos, and with it a belief in the meaning of creation and the necessity of life. In Tolstoy, the very foundations of being are shaken: “Without knowledge of what I am and why I am here, I cannot live. If I cannot know this, I cannot live.” So says his hero, but there is no doubt that these words were achieved through Tolstoy’s own suffering. It was he who could not live without knowing why. His burning desire was to be rid of all these thoughts, contradictions, and doubts, to be rid of the necessity of leading an ordinary family life, to be rid of himself, of his own mind, to become mad, a holy fool: “If I were on my own, I wouldn’t be a monk, I’d be a holy fool,” he writes to Strakhov in 1877, “that is, I would treasure nothing in life and would do no one evil” (PSS 62:346). He was able to realize this dream only at the end of his long life, when he left home in order to become no one, a nameless wanderer. Eighteen-year-old Sonya Bers married a man who had this hell in his soul. The catastrophe was preprogrammed. Literary scholar Viktor Shklovsky wrote sympathetic lines about Sofia Andreevna in his biography of Tolstoy: In that house, she was the envoy from reality, she reminded him that the children should live “like everyone else,” that they had to have money, they had to marry off their daughters, and their sons had to graduate from high school and university. He could not quarrel with the government or else they might exile him. He had to be a famous writer, he had to write another book like Anna Karenina, she herself had to publish the books the way Dostoevsky’s wife published his, and, moreover, be “in society” and not among odd, “dubious” people. She was the representative of the good sense of the day, the focus of the prejudices of the time.3

She wanted Tolstoy to be an ordinary, normal person, whereas he wanted to reject all his wealth, give away his land and all his property to his peasants, and give up all rights to the publication of his books, considering it especially amoral to profit by his own words, and suggested to her a simple life in poverty and his soul’s salvation and hers. The more he insisted on leaving his estate and beginning a new, pure life, the harder she resisted, especially angry that he wanted to make beggars of a count’s children and send them out into the world.

But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose?

Tolstoy would have left Yasnaya Polyana earlier had it not been for her weapon of last resort—suicide threats. In 1894, he writes in his diary that novels usually end when the hero and heroine marry. He goes on: “Describing people’s lives in such a way as to break off the description at the wedding is like describing a person’s journey and breaking off the description at where the traveler is fallen upon by brigands” (PSS 52:135–36). Anna Karenina is by no means a book about family drama or feminine passion, as has been assumed by the screenwriters who regularly subject the novel to vivisection—with more than thirty screen versions made to date. It is a novel about the black hole that swallows up each of us and from which the writer tried all his life to save himself. Every person born comes into the world not only with the standard array of innards but also with a cosmic void, which he carries around inside. This hole sucks in not only the soul but ultimately the body as well. We’re used to tossing toys, lessons, work, career, family, fame, money, and hobbies into this voracious abyss. For most, this is enough. The size of the hole in someone’s soul probably depends on the size of the soul itself. For Tolstoy and his outrageously cosmic hole, all this was utterly insufficient. Neither family happiness, nor wealth, nor the fame of Pushkin, Gogol, Shakespeare, and Molière put together could fill it. Why did Anna kill herself ? What led this mother of two to her death? Was the lover who abandoned her to blame? Her hard-hearted spouse, not agreeable to a divorce? The society that rejected her? Or did the reason lie in her sense of guilt at having violated the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”? In her loss of a positive self-appraisal? The ­sensible view from the present-day sees no reason for her, in her situation, to leave two children orphans. Does this mean that in the modern situation everything would have been all right for Anna? Then why, in prosperous, ­tolerant, humane Switzerland, according to statistics, does one woman commit ­suicide daily? Tolstoy shares Anna’s utter lack of immunity to life. What for others would be painless, for her crosses the threshold of pain. Her circle was happy to put up with her secret liaison with the young guard on condition that she hypocritically maintain certain appearances of decency. Just think, a lover! You simply have to be able to lie and prevaricate! But a lie would have been unworthy of this woman and was therefore impossible. Everyone has his or her own bare minimum of human dignity as well as baseness. Anna would



Mikhail Shishkin

rather have died than agree to turn her family life into a degrading farce, as the Oblonsky family had done. A woman fills her cosmic void with children, husband, house, daily cares, and work, if she has it. But all this cannot fill the unfilled vacuum in her soul. A woman waits for a great love as the answer to all her questions. Her ultimate answer is all-consuming passion. It seems to her that her limitless emptiness can be filled only with limitless, selfless love. This vitally important need waits only for a chance. The object itself plays a secondary role. He could well be a handsome guard with a mustache trimmed in the latest fashion. That doesn’t matter. Someone else could have taken Vronsky’s place. All that’s important is that in the final analysis no earthly man can withstand the competition of the role a great love assigns him. The majority manages without a great love, making do with ordinary ones. But Tolstoy gives his Anna the fatal talent of being unable to be satisfied with less. In her struggle for her great love, Anna sacrifices everything of value: social position, religion, family, children. For the novel’s author, this path leads nowhere. The cosmic void cannot be filled by destroying and sacrificing both oneself and one’s near and dear. The heroine’s death is not great love’s triumph. It is a crushing defeat. For Tolstoy, Levin is an attempt to find another path for struggling against the vacuum horrendum. Anna isn’t searching; she already knows the answer. And this answer—salvation via all-consuming passion—pushes her into the abyss. Like his author, Levin seeks an answer, in an effort to save himself from despair. “And Levin, a man happy in his family, a healthy man, was several times so close to suicide that he hid the rope lest he hang himself and was afraid to walk about with a gun lest he shoot himself. But Levin neither shot nor hanged himself and continued to live” (PSS 19:371). The path the author found for Levin is the indefatigable search. Tolstoy’s hero finds his answer—whether or not the final one, we don’t know—in love as well, but a completely different kind of love, the love in Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians (13:4–8): Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose?

The novel ends with a statement from the author put in Levin’s mouth: “My life now, my whole life, regardless of whatever may happen to me, each minute of it, is not only not meaningless, as it was before, but possesses the undoubted meaning of that goodness I have the power to put into it” (PSS 19:399). These words breathe of incantation, which is what they are. More than anything in the world, Tolstoy would have liked to lead this life and fill the hole in his soul with God and the idea of good. But this didn’t work out for him. His pen filled his hero’s soul to the brim with good—but not the author’s. Tolstoy wanted to follow Levin’s path, but in reality he followed the path of ruin, like his heroine. He would rebel against religion. He would rebel against the foundations of society and statehood, against laws and property rights. He would disown his own books. And art. And family. In his home, endless family conflicts would turn into an unworthy farce all the more humiliating because this was the Tolstoys and not the Oblonskys. Had Levin lived longer in the book, he would undoubtedly have repeated his creator’s path, the path of disappointments. He never would find the answer to the question of questions. The famous lines I began with were written not by a youth but by an old man just a few months before his death. “Hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies to prolong life. But prolong life to what end?” His life was already coming to an end and he still hadn’t found his answer. All that was left was the void that had torn Anna apart and was now tearing him apart as well. The famous words of Bakunin, the ideologue of anarchism—“the passion for destruction is a creative passion”—help us understand the emotional makeup of the artist as well as the revolutionary.4 At the base of every creative individual lies a rejection of this world. The mightier the creative force, the more powerful its rejection of the status quo. Tolstoy’s entire life was a rebellion against the humiliating banality of the everyday, against everything that distracts from the main thing and impedes the search for the answer of answers. Tolstoy’s first rebellion against that inveterate liar civilization, against the base arrangement of society, raged within the comfortable framework of the Rousseauist tradition. But his real rebellion was aimed at human nature itself and his own self. If the stream of life is flowing the wrong way, then for Tolstoy this meant that he should stand crosswise to that current and block it off with his person. His calls to be vegetarian, not to hunt, not to obey laws, to reject property, and so forth, brought him fame as a righteous man, a great repenting sinner, a living saint. His power of illumination possessed such might that it brought him thousands of disciples and followers.



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But Tolstoy went further and rose up against two other most important sources of life that had distanced him from the divine in himself: the instinct to procreate, and the creative instinct, the need to write. He wanted to disembarrass himself of skin and flesh, everything earthly, and leave only his naked soul, only his pure spirit. To wrest himself from the clutches of his animal nature and free himself from the artist’s pride. The Kreutzer Sonata is a gauntlet thrown in the face of the Creator, who willed us to be fruitful and multiply. A declaration of war against life itself. Tolstoy’s might is consistent throughout, even in its rejection of everything living on earth. His rejection of the corporeal leads ultimately to the notion of the extinction of humanity itself: “But what about the human family? I don’t know. I only know that the law of copulation is not mandatory for man” (PSS 27:28). If at age twenty-eight, during his journey through Switzerland, he wrote about himself as a writer (PSS 47:142): “You must be bold, otherwise you won’t say anything other than what is graceful, and I need to say a great deal that is new and sound”—then after he had proven to himself that he could write humanity’s greatest novels, he simply repudiated them, stating that writing as such was not important. He spoke of art as something unnecessary and amoral. When his friends and family reproached him, saying he needed to continue writing, he grinned in reply (PSS 50:86): “You know, this reminds me of former admirers of an aging French tart telling her: ‘How ravishingly you lifted your little skirt and sang your little songs!’” Understandably, Tolstoy’s rejection of creativity was connected with that strange simultaneous sense of fullness and emptiness that overtakes a writer after completing a major work. He needs to catch his breath. Take a gulp of air. Tolstoy’s lungs needed a lot of air. The breathing of an ordinary mortal is barely enough to blow out a candle. Tolstoy’s breath could warm a humanity that has turned to ice without love. When the next text came to him, he forgot all about his declarations and promises and sat down to write The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, and Hadji Murat—works that were all written after his rejection of art and that belong among the best of world literature. The fear of death is a diligent muse. The fear of disappearing accompanies every person her whole life, but only with creative people do these onslaughts of horror bring on onslaughts of the energy that gives birth to paintings and

But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose?

books. In “Memoirs of a Madman,” Tolstoy describes an onslaught like this, familiar to each of us: I tried to think about what had interested me—about the purchase, about my wife—and not only was there nothing cheerful, but it had all turned into nothing. Everything was overshadowed by my horror at my perishing life. I needed to sleep. I went to lie down. But no sooner had I lain down than suddenly I jumped up in horror. The anguish, the anguish, the spiritual anguish, such as happens before vomiting, only spiritual. It’s awful, it’s frightening, death seems frightening, but you recall, you think about life, and it’s the dying life that’s frightening. Somehow life and death have merged into one. Something kept trying to tear my soul to pieces and couldn’t. Once again I went to look at the people sleeping, once again I tried to fall asleep, and still the same horror, red, white, and square (PSS 26:470).

A black hole through which death peers into your eyes takes on the shape of a square. The story was published posthumously, in 1912. A year later, Malevich begins to draw his own squares. In Tolstoy’s notes, you are constantly coming across thoughts on the necessity and desirability of death. In May 1889, about Jean-Paul [born Johann Paul Friedrich Richter]: “His story about a father who raised his children underground is good. They have to die in order to come into the light. They wanted very badly to die.” Or: “Life is the transition from one form to another form. The life of this world is the material for the new form.” Or: “The fear of death comes from the fact that people take for life one small part of it that is limited by their false notion.” Or another: “Substance and space, time and movement, separate me and all living things from all of God.”5 Thoughts of death were the threads out of which all his years were woven. If we realize that Tolstoy’s entire life, each minute, each second, was a c­ onscious and desperate preparation for this most important moment of human ­existence, then we can understand all his eccentricities, quirks, and rejections. In essence, all his rebellions against nature, against the natural course of things, were his insurrection against death, against the inevitable end. After the sight of the guillotine in operation in Paris, the thought of death becomes his constant companion, and the more powerfully the fear of death torments him, the more powerfully his insurrection burns. On October 6,



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1863, he writes in his diary: “I go rolling, rolling down the hill of death and can barely feel the strength in me to stop. I don’t want death. I like and love immortality” (PSS 48:57). His whole life is this lost battle. His whole life is a gradual realization of his defeat and an awareness that his defeat must simply be accepted. The only way to vanquish death is by accepting it. Tolstoy’s might is in this acceptance and understanding. Hence follows his rejection of the values of life, of art, of what seems important to us all. The acceptance of death makes life and everything in it unimportant. We are used to death being an evil. One must be Tolstoy in order to assert that death is a good and is not to be feared. I was riding through Turgenev’s forest, in the evening dusk: fresh greenery in the forest underfoot, stars in the sky, the scents of blooming broom, a withering birch leaf, the sounds of nightingales, the buzz of beetles, a cuckoo—a cuckoo and solitude and the pleasant, brisk movement of your horse underneath you, and both physical and emotional health. I thought, as I think constantly, about death. It became so clear to me that it will be just as good on the other side of death, although in a different way. . . . It was clear to me that it will be just as good there—no, better (PSS 84:314).

The day his daughter Maria dies, he writes in his diary: November 26, 1906. Just now, at one in the morning, Masha passed away. A strange feeling. I experienced neither horror, nor fear, nor an awareness of something exceptional happening, nor even pity, grief. I seemed to feel it necessary to summon up inside me a special feeling of grief and I did, but deep down in my soul I was more at peace than at the act of a stranger—to say nothing of my own—a bad, improper action. Yes, this event is in the corporeal sphere and for that reason indifferent. I watched her the whole time as she was dying: amazingly peacefully. For me, she was a being opening up before my own opening up. I followed its opening up, and it was joyous for me. But this opening up in a sphere accessible to me [life] ceased, that is, I ceased to be able to see this opening up; but what opened up is what is. Where? When? These are questions related to the process of opening up here and cannot be applied to genuine, extra-­spatial, extra-temporal life (PSS 55:277–78).

For Tolstoy, death is not the decomposition of tissues, not the rotting of the bodies of the people he loved, but the salvation, the “opening up” of a person, that very answer to life’s main question. The answer of the answers.

But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose?

He looked at the world from such a height that what is for us still separated appeared to him as a single whole. Death cannot take anything away from life because it cannot take anything away from itself. Tolstoy talks to a madman on the street and says goodbye to him: “May we meet in the other world!” Tolstoy is struck by the reply: “What other world? There is only this world” (PSS 50:86). Elsewhere he writes in his diary: I lay, drifting off; suddenly something in my heart definitely broke. I thought, this is how death comes from a heart breaking, and I remained calm—no distress, no joy, but blissfully calm; whether here or there—I know that I am fine—this is what should be—as a child in the arms of a mother who has tossed him in the air never stops smiling joyously, knowing he is in her loving arms (PSS 53:83).

As he was dying in a strange bed at an obscure rail halt that would be made famous by his departure, Tolstoy would see before him his deceased daughter, he would reach out and call to her: “Masha! Masha!” They say that the people who we loved and who have gone come for us. Thus Masha, who had already been “opened up” for a new life, came to help her father be “opened up.” *** Hadji Murat is one of Tolstoy’s last texts, published posthumously. It is the story of the endless Chechen war my country has been waging for just shy of two hundred years, with no end to this war in sight. He himself was in the Caucasian War, and these impressions would stay with him his whole life. Half a century later he returned to this theme once again. Here are Chechens returning to their settlement after an attack by the Russians: Sado returned to his village and found his hut destroyed: the roof caved in, and the door and columns of the small gallery burned, and the interior befouled. His son, that handsome boy with the flashing eyes who had gazed ecstatically at Hadji Murat, was brought dead to the mosque on a horse covered with a felt cloak. He had been bayoneted in the back. The decorous woman who had served Hadji Murat during his visit and who now, wearing a shirt torn at the breast, revealing her old, sagging breasts, with her hair let down, was standing over her son and scratching her own face bloody and wailing without cease (PSS 35:80).

It took Tolstoy a very long time to write this novella. The first version was ready in August 1896, but he worked on it for another eight years. The writer



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hadn’t worked that long on either War and Peace or Anna Karenina. In the end, he abandoned the novella, deciding that it had failed. This stunning text absolutely does not fit into Tolstoy’s image of the world; it openly contradicts it. The vital strength of Hadji Murat frankly overturns everything the writer said and preached about nonresistance to evil and evangelical love. This novella, in which everything is permeated with death, is a genuine hymn to earthly life. This is a text that rebels against its creator. In Hadji Murat, Tolstoy suffers a crushing defeat as a philosopher and ­ethicist. The writer’s pen, with all its graphic Tolstoy’s might, did not leave a stone standing from all his sermons and dogmas. The image of broken but living burdock becomes a symbol of life. One needs to cling to every moment of being, fight for every breath, one needs to live according to the true laws of existence: either do or be done to. One needs to fight for the right to live up until the very end, not worrying about the mysteries of the universe or the deep connections between things, not digging into endless whys and wherefores, not thinking about searching for meaning. Hadji Murat can’t be broken, just destroyed; he personifies vitality itself, the earthly life force in its pure form, without any admixtures of soul-searching or philosophizing. The ordinary ­burdock by the road becomes the source of that vital energy whose flow no one can resist—even Tolstoy. In this text, there is no nonresistance to evil whatsoever. Here people fight good and evil, without distinguishing one from the other, and they know no form of fighting for life other than violence. Here, an insatiable hunger for life rules. The song of Hadji Murat’s brother overturns all the dogmas of Tolstoy the preacher (PSS 35:91–92): The land on my grave will dry out, And you will forget me, my dear mother! The cemetery will grow up in grave grass, And the grass will muffle your grief, my old father. The tears in my sister’s eyes will dry, And the grief will fly from her heart. You, older brother mine, will not forget me, though, Until you avenge my death. You, second brother mine, Will not forget me until you lie down beside me. Hot you are, you bullet, and you carry death, But was it not you who was my faithful slave? Black earth, you will cover me,

But to Continue the Life—For What Purpose? But was it not I who trampled you with my steed? Cold you are, death, but I was your master. The earth will take my body, the sky my soul.

In this song we hear the most indomitable flow of life, which Tolstoy wanted to stand crosswise to with all his protests and rebellions and whose ­current swept him away like a broken branch. Was this why he worked so long on this short novella, almost ten years, because it was his final battle with his own pen? His pen emerged victorious. The writer admitted his defeat. This mighty man was powerless in the face of life. All his life, Tolstoy was afraid of dying. He was tormented by this fear, as his Ivan Ilyich was tormented as he lay dying, whereas Hadji Murat, who never gave such things a thought, died an easy and handsome death. This is precisely what Tolstoy sought his whole life, but an easy and handsome death was not his lot. It was a head, shaven, with a large jutting skull over his eyes and a cropped black beard and short mustache, with one eye open and the other halfclosed, with a split but not entirely hacked, shaved skull, with a bloodied nose caked in black blood. His neck was wrapped in a bloody towel. Despite all the wounds on his head, there was a good, childish expression in the set of his blue lips (PSS 35:109).

It all began with a chopped off head in Paris and ended with the chopped off head of Hadji Murat. Tolstoy in his story, “Lucerne”: “Infinite is the kindness and wisdom of that which allowed and ordered all these contradictions to exist” (PSS 5:26).

ENDNOTES   1 Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz.   2 L. N. Tolstoy. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii [The Complete Works], 90 vols. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1928–58), 23:11.   3 Viktor Shklovsky, Lev Tolstoy (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978), 322.   4 Quoted from Mark Leier, Bakunin: The Creative Passion (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006), 12.   5 All four quotes are from PSS 50:86.



Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy Rosamund Bartlett


here are many reasons why we read Tolstoy. There is the epic sweep of his novels, embracing the lives of several families, and exploring issues of national destiny, not to mention the big questions of life and death. Like a great cinema director, Tolstoy unfolds an extraordinary narrative canvas before us, which he approaches from different angles. One moment we have been set on a mountain-top and had a telescope put into our hands, as Virginia Woolf put it,1 while the next Tolstoy’s characters are brought into such close focus that we can almost feel them breathing. It is perhaps his acute and sympathetic understanding of human psychology, which above all accounts for his enduring popularity with readers of all ages and backgrounds. Tolstoy’s unerring ability to “see what we see,”2 both during the humdrum times in our lives, and at moments of crisis, transcends boundaries of both time and nationality. This was undoubtedly what the celebrated British mathematician Alan Turing found most compelling in Tolstoy’s fiction, which he read for the first time during the most harrowing period of his life. Despite his pioneering code-breaking work, which had played such a crucial role in World War II, he was convicted for indecency as a homosexual in 1952.3 Two years before his untimely death (most likely suicide) from cyanide poisoning in May 1954, sixteen days before his forty-second birthday, he had begun chemical castration treatment as an alternative to prison. It was also during this traumatic time that he began reading Tolstoy. Turing had the writer Lyn Irvine (1901–1973) to thank for the spiritual solace that Tolstoy’s fiction gave him. She was the wife of his mathematician colleague Max Newman, who had been instrumental in bringing Turing to work in Manchester in 1948, and they both formed a close friendship with him there in his last years.4 As we know from a letter Irvine wrote to Leonard Woolf

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy

(who had commissioned and published her first novel in 1931, and introduced her to the writers of the Bloomsbury Circle), she was herself reading Tolstoy in 1952, along with Austen and George Eliot.5 Her suggestion that Turing read Anna Karenina and War and Peace was far from random, however, and in her foreword to Sara Turing’s 1957 biography of her son, she explains what her motivations were: Alan certainly had less of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in him than most of his contemporaries. One must go back three centuries (or two perhaps) to place him; and yet of all the great minds most likely to understand and appreciate him, I should place Tolstoy first. A couple of years before he died I pushed first Anna Karenina and then War and Peace into his hands. I knew that he read Jane Austen and Trollope as sedatives, but he was totally uninterested in poetry and not particularly sensitive to literature or any of the arts, and therefore not at all an easy person to supply with reading matter. War and Peace proved to be in a very special way the masterpiece for him and he wrote to me expressing in moving terms his appreciation of Tolstoy’s understanding and insight. Alan had recognized himself and his own problems in War and Peace and Tolstoy had gained a new reader of a moral stature and complexity and an originality of spirit equal to his own.6

The above-mentioned written appreciation of Tolstoy’s “understanding and insight” is frustratingly not traceable, but of interest here is the fact that Irvine correctly predicted that Turing would be most engaged by the spiritual content of War and Peace. She did not suggest he read any of the explicitly spiritual writings Tolstoy produced in the last decades of his life, however. Having in the early 1880s abjured his earlier novels in order to proselytize his new-found, idiosyncratic Christian faith, Tolstoy himself would no doubt have found this state of affairs profoundly depressing. By the time of his death in 1910 he had devoted thirty years (longer than he had spent pursuing a career as a professional novelist) to this mission. His enormous body of spiritual writings were instantly translated and avidly read around the world upon publication. Within half a century of his death, however, most of these voluminous works—the works he most cared about—had not only disappeared largely from public view, but had been completely overshadowed by his earlier fiction, which now conversely was valued by readers such as Alan Turing precisely for its spiritual message. This article seeks to shed some light on this apparent paradox.



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Discussion of the translation history of Tolstoy’s writings (both spiritual and otherwise), and of Chekhov’s relationship with Tolstoy, with particular reference to his 1894 story, “The Student,” will be followed by a consideration of the fate of Tolstoy’s spiritual legacy in contemporary Russia. For the last two decades of his long life, Tolstoy’s religious writings had a far greater impact on readers than his literary works. He had renounced his Orthodox faith and aspired to be a wanderer (strannik) in 1879, then in quick succession completed A Confession (which circulated in samizdat), A Union and Translation of the Four Gospels, An Investigation of Dogmatic Theology and What I Believe. The first English translations of War and Peace and Anna Karenina appeared in 1886, just at the time when carefully produced translations of Tolstoy’s early religious writings were first published. By this point, Tolstoy heartily deplored the fiction that had made his reputation and did not care whether it was read in other languages, so it was A Confession and What I Believe that made by far the greater initial impression. There was certainly a haphazard quality to many of the first English translations of Tolstoy’s fiction. Not only was his artistic language more unpolished and more uncompromising after the urbane and measured Turgenev, whose prose seemed to slip so easily into English, the sheer prolixity of works like War and Peace and Anna Karenina was also an effective deterrent. Eugene Schuyler, who visited Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana while working as American Consul in Moscow, was highly qualified to become his first English translator: he published his edition of The Cossacks in 1878, after extensive travel throughout the Russian Empire. The first English War and Peace was translated from the French edition rather than the Russian original, however, while the first translation of Anna Karenina teemed with indigestible clumps of transliterated Russian words and showed signs of being rushed into print. Neither of their translators had ever set foot in Russia. A passage from an unsigned review of Nathan Haskell Dole’s 1886 translation of Anna Karenina in the New York Times will suffice to show why Tolstoy’s two fictional masterpieces made little impact at first: The faithful mistranslations which are at present making Russian fiction unfamiliar to us are happily saved from the risk of being read aloud by a defensive barrier of hard names, which an avenging Providence has endowed with a seemingly wanton exuberance of consonants that might appall the heart of Dr. Johnson himself, impelling every conscientious mistranslator to spell them in three or four different ways, all equally wrong. Of this class is the work before us, which in its present form

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy suggests the geological subsidence of a layer of Russian into a sub-­stratum of English, leaving a number of the original words to linger fossil-like amid the latter in untranslatable durability. The glossary at the end is c­ ertainly a step in the right direction, but why not go further still and print the two languages in parallel columns like the Testaments sold at the Fair of NijniNovgorod?7

In 1891, at the age of sixty-three, Tolstoy decided to waive his copyright on everything he had written since Anna Karenina (leaving his embattled wife to derive an income from his earlier fiction), and since nearly everything he now wrote was censored in Russia, energies were concentrated on producing translations of his spiritual writings to be published abroad. In March 1893, he completed the magnum opus, The Kingdom of God Is within You, inspired by the Sermon on the Mount, in which he argued it was impossible to live as a true Christian in conventional society, called on his readers to live without hypocrisy and love their neighbors as themselves, and lambasted any church that could condone armament and military conscription. French and Italian translations of The Kingdom of God Is within You appeared at the end of 1893, while German and three separate English translations followed in early 1894.8 One of the first English translations of The Kingdom of God Is within You was by Constance Garnett, who, along with Louise and Aylmer Maude, would in time do more than anyone else to ensure Tolstoy’s enduring reputation as one of the world’s great fiction writers. After Garnett graduated in classics from Newnham College, Cambridge, she married the editor and critic Edward Garnett in 1889, and became an active member of the Fabian Society. Socialism, anarchic or otherwise, was a common thread uniting the community of radicals and writers living on the Kent-Surrey border at that time, and there was even more reason for this enclave to be known as “Dostoevsky Corner” after she took up translation in the early 1890s, having learnt Russian from the exiled revolutionary journalist Felix Volkhovsky. After completing her first translating project, Goncharov’s A Common Story, another revolutionary exile, Sergei Stepnyak (who had assassinated the head of the Russian secret police in St. Petersburg in 1878) encouraged Garnett to tackle Turgenev, but then, as now, the market for literary translation was small, and publishers needed to sell books. What was selling in 1894 was Tolstoy, so The Kingdom of God Is within You was what Garnett translated next.9 Within months of its publication in English in 1894, The Kingdom of God Is within You was being read in cities as far flung as Chicago, Alexandria and Rangoon,



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and causing scores of people to change their way of life. Its message of nonviolence had an immediate and dramatic impact on, for example, a young Indian lawyer in South Africa called Mohandas Gandhi, who would found a “Tolstoy Farm” in Natal, and on Francis Younghusband (1863–1942), a celebrated British colonial explorer in northern Pakistan. Younghusband resolved to leave government service and lead a simple life, commenting in his diary in August 1894: [The Kingdom of God Is within You] has influenced me profoundly. I now thoroughly see the truth of Tolstoy’s argument that Government, capital and private property are evils. We ought to devote ourselves to carrying out Christ’s saying, to love one another (not engage in wars and preparation for wars) and not resist evil with evil.10

Naturally, The Kingdom of God Is within You also made an immediate impact on Russian readers. People sympathetic to the Tolstoyan cause began to smuggle copies of the first edition, produced in Germany for censorship reasons, into Russia in early 1894, and Chekhov may have read one of these copies. Or perhaps he came across one of the particularly large number of samizdat typescripts circulating illegally in “the southern provinces” while he was working in Yalta on his story “The Student” that spring. The sheer quantity of copies of this banned work provoked alarm in the Tsarist government, according to a secret memo written that May.11 It is certainly striking that on March 27, 1894, the day on which he completed “The Student,” a work replete with allusions to War and Peace, Chekhov also wrote one of his most famous letters to Aleksei Suvorin, in which he declared that Tolstoy’s philosophy, after possessing him “for six or seven years,” had ceased to influence him.12 These allusions show that Chekhov was still in thrall to Tolstoy the artist even as he was breaking away from the practical applications of Tolstoyan spirituality. Yet, it could be argued that he also intended his story to represent his considered and typically subtle response to The Kingdom of God Is within You and Tolstoyan thought in general, both in terms of its form, and its content. Chekhov’s “Tolstoyan” phase had reached its height in 1886. In his story “A Nightmare,” for example, moral judgment is passed on a crassly ignorant and hypocritical landowner, Kunin, who mistakes the village priest’s poverty for a lack of manners: [Father Yakov] was wearing a cassock the color of weak chicory coffee, with large patches on each elbow. “Strange individual . . .” thought Kunin,

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy looking at his mud-spattered hems. “He comes into the house for the first time and can’t even manage to dress decently.”13

In “Good People,” another story from 1886, Chekhov asks directly through his character Vera Semyonovna “where should we all be if human life were ordered on the basis of nonresistance to evil?” Revising the story for his collected works at the end of the 1890s, Chekhov replaced the involved passage about Tolstoyanism, which follows her question, with a retrospective summary from the narrator: This was just at the period—in the eighties—when people were beginning to talk and write of nonresistance, of the right to judge, to punish, to make war; when some people in our set were beginning to do without servants, to retire into the country, to work on the land, and to renounce animal food and carnal love.14

Other stories that bear the stamp of Chekhov’s Tolstoyan period include “The Beggar” (1887), “The Letter” (1887), “An Unpleasantness” (1888), and particularly “The Name-Day Party” (1888).15 But by 1890, when he read The Kreutzer Sonata, Chekhov had begun to take issue with Tolstoyan ideas,16 and in August 1891 he pronounced in a letter to Suvorin from a chilly rented dacha that he could never become a Tolstoyan himself. As he commented, “I love beauty above all in women, and culture in the history of mankind, as manifested in carpets, sprung carriages and sharp-witted thought.”17 Chekhov continued to revere Tolstoy as favorite writer, however.18 He relished rereading War and Peace in the autumn of 1891,19 and in 1893 commented in a letter that Turgenev’s female characters paled in significance when compared to Anna Karenina.20 In December 1891, after Tolstoy published “About Ways to Help the Population Suffering from the Failed Harvest” in the Russkaiia gazeta (Russian gazette), and then proceeded to shame the government by setting up soup kitchens in the absence of any official famine relief, Chekhov proclaimed him to be “not a man, but a giant, a Jupiter,”21 but this did not prevent his ­continued c­ ritical engagement with his ideas. As a doctor, he had found Tolstoy’s views on ­medicine in The Kreutzer Sonata both arrogant and ignorant, and his ­criticisms ­culminated in the above-mentioned forthright letter he sent to Suvorin in March 1894, when Russian engagement with The Kingdom of God Is within You, and Tolstoyan spirituality generally, was at its most intense. It is a model of sober-minded clear thinking: Reason and justice tell me there is more love for mankind in electricity and steam than there is in chastity and abstaining from meat. It is true that



Rosamund Bartlett war is evil and courts of law are evil, but that does not mean I have to go about in bast shoes and sleep on top of the stove beside the laborer and his wife, and so on, and so forth.22

If the spirituality Tolstoy expressed in his post-Anna Karenina writings now left Chekhov cold, this is clearly not the case with ideas he advances about life in his earlier fiction, as can be seen in “The Student,” the story he finished on the day he wrote to Suvorin. It is a story full of paradox. As we know, Chekhov had largely lost his religious faith by the time he reached adulthood, yet the hero of “The Student” (which he later maintained was his favorite work) is a seminarian, a future priest, and the story’s plot, insofar as there is one, revolves around his retelling of a biblical story. At dusk onе unseasonably bleak Good Friday, Ivan Velikopolsky, a seminary student, is overcome by feelings of desolation while returning home cold and hungry to his parents’ village, thinking that the same poverty must have always existed throughout Russian history, and will never change. While warming himself at a bonfire tended by two widows, he tells them the story of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus, and the deep emotional response this produces in them somehow communicates itself to him, so that he now perceives the present time’s connection to the past in a positive light. When he crosses the river on the ferry as he continues home, he is suddenly inspired by feelings of beauty, youth and happiness. Attentive readers of War and Peace will note that the story contains clear resonances (none of which Chekhov appears to take particular pains to hide) with Andrey Bolkonsky’s conversation with Pierre on a ferry in part 2 of book 2, and with his famous encounters with an old oak tree in part 3 of book 2. In the spring of 1809, we find Andrey on his way to visit the Ryazan estates inherited by his son. While crossing the river by ferry, he recalls Pierre talking ecstatically to him about Freemasonry and the meaning of life in exactly the same spot during his momentous visit to Bald Hills the previous year: “Don’t I feel in my soul that I am a part of this vast, harmonious whole? Don’t I feel that I form one link, between the lower and higher beings, in this vast harmonious multitude of beings in whom the Deity—the Supreme Power if you prefer the term—is manifest?”23 Pierre will later learn that his faith in Freemasonry is misplaced, but his radiant desire for truth, goodness and love is infectious. Andrey is skeptical, but gets out of the ferry, looks up, “and for the first time since Austerlitz he saw

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy

the lofty, eternal sky, as he had seen it lying on the field of Austerlitz, and something that had long been slumbering, something better that had been in him, suddenly awoke with a joyful, youthful feeling in his soul.”24 The next time he is crossing the river, a year later, Andrey notices an oak that has seemingly “refused to yield to the charm of spring or notice either the spring or the sunshine.”25 Identifying with its “scowling, rigid, misshapen, and grim” demeanor, he is convinced that spring is a fraud, and that his life is finished, but that night he is infected by Natasha’s irrepressible joie-de-vivre. On his return home the following evening he is astonished to discover the old oak “quite transfigured, spreading out a canopy of sappy dark-green foliage,” and all at once he is seized “by an unreasoning springtime feeling of joy and renewal.” All the best moments of his life come flooding back to him, such as “Austerlitz with the lofty heavens,” Pierre at the ferry, and Natasha “thrilled by the beauty of the night,” and he is suddenly filled with optimism, and a desire no longer to live for himself alone, but in harmony with others.26 As Alla Golovacheva has shown, there is a structural and thematic similarity between the progression from despair to hope experienced by Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace and Ivan Velikopolsky in “The Student” as a result of their unexpected encounters. The two heroes both cross a river, which is real and symbolic, they both experience an epiphany of truth and beauty, and there are references in both works to a transformed natural environment, and their young age.27 Chekhov’s story about a student narrating an episode of human fallibility in the Gospels functions as a parable, just like the miniature stories about Andrey Bolkonsky’s spiritual journey that Tolstoy embeds within the epic canvas of his novel. Ivan Velikopolsky’s story within a story moves its listeners because he translates the archaic Church Slavonic of the Bible into modern-day Russian. By speaking in his own words, and consciously thinking about the words he is using, he breathes new life into the story he is telling. Chekhov’s “The Student,” which is a parable about the power of storytelling—the most basic form of artistic creation—is about the crucial part played by art in communicating spiritual meaning. As such, it can be construed as Chekhov’s typically oblique, self-effacing but nevertheless robust response to the uncompromising message delivered in The Kingdom of God Is within You and all the other spiritual works Tolstoy produced from the 1880s onwards. It is as if Chekhov is suggesting with “The Student” a way out of the spiritual impasse to which he believes doctrinaire adherence to ascetic Tolstoyan ideas must surely lead. In this, he shares something with Matthew Arnold (1822–1888), author of one of the first critical



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appraisals of Tolstoy’s writing in English. On the basis of a shoddy early translation, Arnold first declares that “we are not to take Anna Karénine as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life. A piece of life it is. The author has not invented and combined it, he has seen it.” Arnold then moves, however, to Tolstoy’s spiritual writings, expressing a sentiment, which Chekhov would undoubtedly have applauded: Christianity cannot be packed into any set of commandments. As I have somewhere or other said, “Christianity is a source; no one supply of water and refreshment that comes from it can be called the sum of Christianity. It is a mistake, and may lead to much error, to exhibit any series of maxims, even those of the Sermon of the Mount, as the ultimate sum and formula into which Christianity may be run up.”28

Chekhov had conveyed a similar message about the dangers of dogmatism in The Requiem, published in 1886, which was the first story he signed with his own name. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Chekhov is talking about his own childhood when writing about the lessons given by a curmudgeonly merchant to his late daughter: He would remember that she was his daughter, and so he began to teach her prayers and stories from the Bible, whenever he had some spare time. He was revered for his knowledge of the church rules and the Holy Scriptures even back then! The girl willingly listened to him, no matter how dour and humorless the expression on her father’s face. She would yawn as she repeated the prayers after him, but whenever he began to tell her stories, stumbling as he tried to express himself in a more sophisticated way, she would be all ears. Esau’s lentils, Sodom’s punishment and the misfortunes of the young boy Joseph all made her turn pale and open wide her blue eyes.29

Chekhov’s own father was a merchant renowned for his humorless devotion to the scriptures, and one can imagine his children responding in a similar fashion to the more exotic and colorful stories in the Bible. In literary terms Tolstoy was also Chekhov’s father, and his teacher. Chekhov, the respectful but quietly rebellious student, seems to suggest through his story that the spiritual ideas expressed in War and Peace are neither inferior to those Tolstoy puts forward later in his religious writings, nor demonstrably different in terms

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy

of their ideals.30 Ivan Velikopolsky’s poignant account of Peter’s betrayal of Christ in “The Student” is a manifesto for a compassionate spirituality that does not exclude art and beauty, and is rooted in real life. Ivan Velikopolsky tells the story movingly because he too has betrayed Christ by going hunting for woodcock on Good Friday, and because he is telling it in his own words. The emotional impact on the two widows who are his audience is profound because they understand every word he speaks, and because they themselves have sinned by cooking food on a day when they should have been fasting. The irony of a nonbeliever writing a story whose central event is a pivotal moment in Christ’s Passion is echoed in Chekhov’s letter to Suvorin in 1894. In recognition of the archaic Church Slavonic Bible’s beauty as a literary text (lost in Tolstoy’s dogged and workman-like translation, with its drastic deletions of material not germane to his cause of rational spirituality), and as an affirmation of the importance of Christian ritual and tradition in the cultural fabric of Russian society, Chekhov furthermore closes his farewell to Tolstoyanism with a quotation from Jesus’s lament over Jerusalem in Luke, chapter 13: “Tolstoy has simply passed on, he is no longer in my heart, and when he departed he said, Behold, your house is left unto you empty.”31 Perhaps precisely because of his intellectual independence and artistic integrity, Chekhov became one of the few contemporary writers Tolstoy respected. They met the following year and became good friends. By the beginning of the twentieth century, there were more people ­reading Tolstoy in translation than any other writer, which was an extraordinary ­phenomenon simply by virtue of the speed with which it was accomplished. It took a while before readers of Tolstoy in English had reputable versions of his novels, however, and thus the wherewithal to discern in them their spiritual legacy for themselves. “Twenty years ago Tolstoy was hardly known outside Russia,” wrote the anonymous literary critic (whom we can identify as H. G. Wells) for the Saturday Review in 1905, commenting that an “American novelist of first rank, a great admirer of Turgenev” (clearly Henry James) had expressed doubts to him back then that Tolstoy would soon achieve greater renown. Since then, he noted, sensational works such as The Kreutzer Sonata and Resurrection, not to mention Tolstoy’s trenchant essays on art, morality and religion had become best-sellers. “Who has not heard of Tolstoy now?” continued the critic, finding it incongruous to see “this Radical entered amongst the Classics of the World,” but readily acknowledging him as “the most striking personality of our time.” As the Saturday Review critic noted, Tolstoy’s “undaunted challenge of conventional assumptions” had as much to do with his



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amazing ­popularity abroad as the artistic merits and eloquence of his books.32 The anarchic Russian Count who dressed like a peasant, and spoke out against state-sponsored violence and the hypocrisy of organized religion, was one of the world’s first international celebrities. The reclusive author suddenly wished to communicate with everybody after emerging from the spiritual crisis that overcame him when he finished Anna Karenina in 1877, and the evangelical zeal with which he sought to spread his new-found Christian ideas around the globe had the consequence of also increasing the popularity of his novels, as well as the number of translators ready to do battle with his prose. Henry James can be forgiven for not immediately perceiving Tolstoy’s ­literary genius in the first defective translations of his novels in the 1880s, but the new generation of translators who appeared on the scene a decade later were distinguished by their professionalism. In 1901 Constance Garnett c­ ompleted her translation of Anna Karenina, and by 1904 she had also ­translated War and Peace. Until the catastrophe of World War  I, Tolstoy’s spiritual writings ­continued to exert a profound influence around the world. An Oxford undergraduate called Stephen Hobhouse stumbled across A Confession in January 1902, for example, and its “twin revelation of the evil entangling our society and of the stern ideal of brotherly love which alone could avert its destruction” led him to become a Quaker, live amongst the London slums and renounce his inheritance. In 1917, his mother found herself publishing a pamphlet on behalf of her son and all the other conscientious objectors who were serving British jail sentences amid brutal conditions for refusing to be conscripted into the war effort.33 Gilbert Murray (1866–1957), Regius Professor of Greek, University of Oxford, directly addressed Tolstoy’s continuing importance in his Introduction: When compulsory military service was made part of the law of England in January 1916 it was well known that there existed in the country a ­certain number of persons who looked upon war as murder and on military service as a training in deliberate evil. The Society of Friends, an influential and universally respected body, had traditionally taken up this attitude with regard to war, and had been specially exempted from service in the Napoleonic wars by Mr. Pitt. Other religious bodies, such as the Christadelphians and the Plymouth Brethren, were known to hold more or less similar views. More important still, though perhaps not quite appreciated in War Office circles, the greatest of all modern men of letters, whose books sold by the hundred-thousand in almost every country

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy of Europe, had devoted himself to a spiritual crusade against war and violence in any shape. Tolstoy’s doctrines were so extreme that actual Tolstoyans were rare; but almost every young man and woman in Europe who possessed any free religious life at all had been to some extent influenced by Tolstoy. And his influence was probably at its greatest in Russia and England.34

This influence began to wane sharply after World War  I, however, in inverse proportion to the growing esteem of his novels. Here a key role was played not only by Constance Garnett, but also Louise and Aylmer Maude. The son of an Anglican clergyman from Ipswich, Maude finished his schooling in Moscow, and settled there in 1884, having married Louise Shanks, who had grown up in the city. For the next decade he embarked on a successful career selling carpets while they raised a family, but in 1895 he came under Tolstoy’s spell and soon became a trusted associate and full-time disciple. The Maudes settled back in England in 1897, with their translations of Anna Karenina and War and Peace appearing in 1918 and 1922, respectively, followed by a successful campaign for a complete Tolstoy edition in English, launched in 1928, on the centenary of the writer’s birth. It was Garnett and the Maudes’ translations of Tolstoy’s fiction that did most to ensure Tolstoy’s enduring reputation as one of the world’s great writers. Their editions deservedly stood the test of time, bewitching modernist writers. As Virginia Woolf commented in 1929, having read Anna Karenina between 1909 and 1911, and in 1926: “Practically every scene in Anna Karenina is branded on me, though I’ve not read it for 15 years.”35 The catastrophe of World War II, coupled with Tolstoy’s growing stature as a writer of fiction, led to the ultimate eclipse of his once hallowed status as religious thinker and patron of the pacifist cause, such that it would have been already implausible for Irvine to think of suggesting Alan Turing read one of Tolstoy’s spiritual works along with his novels in 1952. If it is sad to consider the short-lived legacy of Tolstoy’s spiritual writings in the English-speaking world, it is nothing short of tragic where his homeland is concerned. While Tolstoy’s spiritual thought achieved new popularity in Russia following the February Revolution in 1917, when censorship was fully lifted, and remained influential into the 1920s, it once again became subject to official repression after Stalin came to power. As an indefatigable critic of Tsarist power, and one of the world’s greatest writers, Tolstoy was too valuable to the Bolsheviks to be left out of their artistic canon, but he had to be ‘tamed’ in order to fit into the ideological straitjacket they fashioned for him. Lenin’s



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article, “Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution,” which he wrote on the occasion of the author’s eightieth birthday, became the blueprint for all Soviet criticism of Tolstoy, and required reading in the Soviet school curriculum, ahead of those works on the list of his officially approved fiction. After Tolstoy’s spiritual writings had been published once, in a very small print-run, in the “Jubilee” edition of his collected works, launched in 1928, and finally complete in 1958, they were quietly forgotten. New generations of educated Russians consequently grew up with a sanitized, Soviet Tolstoy celebrated above all for his patriotism and love of the people. The task of reeducating Russians about Tolstoy’s enormous legacy in the fields of religious thought, educational philosophy, and practical philanthropy was started during the Brezhnev era by the dissident writer Mark Popovsky, who died in emigration in 2004 at the age of eighty-two. As a typical member of the Soviet intelligentsia, Popovsky had grown up knowing nothing about the “other” Tolstoy, and his discovery in the late 1970s of a small number of tenacious followers of Tolstoy who had survived through the worst Soviet years with their integrity intact inspired him to write about their experiences in a book published abroad in 1983. Having been persecuted before the Revolution for their refusal to be conscripted, thousands of Tolstoyans had believed the agricultural communes they established after the Revolution would flourish, since private property was abolished, and each member did manual labor to earn his daily bread. In fact, the persecution was far worse under the Bolsheviks, whose “taming” of Tolstoy involved the complete ­obliteration of Tolstoyanism. Many Soviet Tolstoyans relocated to Siberia, believing they would be left alone, but their commune was soon collectivized, their members arrested and sent to the camps, and their school shut down. The fifty or so survivors with whom Popovsky later made contact made a deep impression on him. As he later explained to James Billington, the U.S. Librarian of Congress, the Tolstoyans had protested against the Soviet regime in an admirably intelligent way, simply by doggedly leading their individual lives in accordance with their moral principles against all odds. The Tolstoyan Boris Mazurin lived to see the memoirs he completed in 1967 finally published in Novy Mir in 1988 at the height of “glasnost’,” when he was eighty-seven, and the journal’s print-run was 1,110,000.36 Assisting him with publication was the historian and former dissident Arseny Roginsky, one of the founders and current Chairman of Memorial (Russia’s best-known human rights group), who went on to the memoirs of peasant Tolstoyans in a book the following year.37 But the huge appetite in Russia for testimony by

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy

the victims of repression quickly evaporated; in post-Soviet Russia there is no longer any ideological impediment to publishing Tolstoy’s religious works, but there appears to be little demand for them. The muted commemoration in Russia of the centenary of Tolstoy’s death in 2010, as noted in the international press, points indeed to a distinct ambivalence regarding this part of his legacy.38 In an article entitled “Tolstoy has Left,” published on November 15, 2010, Dmitry Bykov suggested that this was due both to a lack of interest, and Tolstoy’s insufficient commercial potential in a cultural market dominated by translated blockbusters and foreign imports. He also, however, cited Russia’s slow progress in confronting the ethical issues that were still exercising Tolstoy at the very end of his life. Tolstoy’s conscience had not allowed him to remain silent about the injustice, lawless violence and poverty he saw all around him in late Tsarist Russia, and he had appealed continually to his fellow countrymen to take a stand. Bykov argued that the situation was no better in early twenty-first-century Russia, but that unlike the millions of pre-revolutionary Russians for whom Tolstoy was a shining beacon of truth, his contemporaries preferred not to remember the greatness and humanity of their nineteenth-­century writers out of a feeling of discomfort in the face of their own ­compromise and apathy. Tolstoy’s appeal to hearts and minds, Bykov concluded, was as futile in today’s Russia as his own attempt to expose the country’s disgraceful failure to honor the memory of one of its greatest citizens.39 It is interesting to note in this regard the title given to the press conference called by the Tolstoy Museum in Moscow on November 19, one day before the anniversary of Tolstoy’s death: “Does Contemporary Russia Need Tolstoy?”40 Questions tabled included: “Why does Russia keep going further away from Tolstoy?”, and “Tolstoy: Myths and Reality. Who is Distorting Tolstoy’s Ideas and Why?” No debate appears to have ensued. Instead a reader of Rossiiskaya gazeta in Kaluga asked whether Tolstoy was really responsible for the d­ estruction of Russia, having followed with some bewilderment the ­accusations leveled at Tolstoy during the media coverage, and wondering what the great writer had done to bring misfortune on the Russian people.41 On November 18, 2010, Feliks Shvedovsky, a Buddhist monk, published an article on the ecumenical site about religion “” entitled “There is no Tolstoy in his Homeland. Letter to Tolstoy in the twenty-first century, or Why the Russian Government Is Silent about a Classic Аuthor.” Concluding that Russia had little changed since Tolstoy’s own times, at least in relation to that part of his life in which he was “Paul” rather than “Saul,” Shvedovsky revealed that he had asked the writer’s great-great-grandson



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Vladimir Tolstoy whether he had asked the Minister of Culture about Russia’s “silence” in 2010. Vladimir Tolstoy’s diplomatic answer had been to imply that the Orthodox Church had objected to any official commemoration of the anniversary of Tolstoy’s death since he had been excommunicated and had never repented.42 At the time of the centenary, from November 15 to November 18, 2010, the Russian state television channel “Kul′tura” broadcast a four-part documentary directed by Aleksandr Krivonosov entitled “In Search of Tolstoy.” Its concluding installment, “Tolstoy’s Spiritual Quest,” included an interview with Aleksandr Viktorovich Shevchenko, an elderly Tolstoyan based in the Crimea.43 Born in 1928, he had gone straight to working in a factory during the Second World War without finishing school, but had come across Tolstoy’s spiritual writings in his youth, and begun a lifelong project to summarize extracts from his late writings and publish them. Tolstoy, he explained in his quiet and gentle voice, had helped him understand why man lives, and what he should and should not do. Through Tolstoy’s last secretary Nikolai Gusev, Aleksander Shevchenko had come into ­contact with other Tolstoyans. Now in his declining years, and one of the last s­ urviving Tolstoyans of his generation, he took the local train from Bakhchiserai every weekend to stand near the harbor front in Sevastopol in the hope that ­passing pedestrians might be open to Tolstoyan wisdom. This involved holding a sign i­ndicating his homemade Tolstoy exhibition attached to the railings next to where he was standing, and wearing a placard round his neck bearing the following message in large capitals: “Dear people, brothers and sisters, love each other—what joy to live with love!” The exhibition consisted of a series of hand-produced posters c­ ontaining extracts from “Tolstoy’s Thoughts,” which he hoped ­passers-by would take away and read. It was not obvious while he was being filmed in Sevastopol that there was anyone even noticing him, let alone taking an interest. Amongst the very few Soviet citizens who appear to have become Tolstoyans after the Second World War is the artist Vladimir Moroz. Born in Moscow in 1929, he built up a fine art collection ranging from icons to the avant-garde in the 1950s and 1960s, and became a close friend of the a­ rtists Robert Falk (who declared he had the “best eye” in Moscow) and Oleg Prokofiev (the composer’s son), the Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov and the ­pianist Svyatoslav Richter.44 In 1974 Moroz was arrested for anti-Soviet a­ ctivity, and during his six-year prison term rediscovered Tolstoy’s spiritual thought: by a quirk of fate, it was easier to read the volumes in the Jubilee edition of Tolstoy’s collected works containing his spiritual writings in prison libraries than it was in other Russian libraries, where they were either discharged or not given out.

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy

In the diary Moroz continued to maintain in the Gulag, he made a solemn vow that if God willed it, and he remained alive and was released, he would ­proselytize Tolstoy as a “religious teacher.” Between 1991 and 2001, Moroz edited and published 14 issues of the Tolstovskii listok (Tolstoy sheet), in which he reissued little-known articles by Tolstoy on spiritual matters, which had been censored both during his lifetime and during the Soviet period. In 1996, he also published 307 often aphoristic excerpts from his prison diary under the title “Tolstoy in My Prison Life.” The excerpts, of varying length (but usually one or two sentences) are mostly meditations on Tolstoy’s religious thought, with numerous quotations from Tolstoy’s diaries, letters, translations of the Gospels, and spiritual writings, and references to art and artists, such as: 180. Lev’s repetitions are not literary, as Schubert’s are musical, for example, and are not due to carelessness, but are the consolidation of a thought on a new spiral of movement, raising it to the level of revelation. To the Word of God. 269. With Lev, faith in God has been replaced by understanding of God.45

In September 1998, Moroz addressed a lengthy personal letter to Vladimir Tolstoy, then Director of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum, which he also divided into several enumerated points, exhorting him to transform Tolstoy’s former home into a “spiritual center of Russia (and by extension the world),” in the hope that visitors would experience a “second birth” as Tolstoy had at the end of the 1870s: Firstly, it is necessary to remember that WITHOUT SHARING Tolstoy’s outlook, nothing useful can be done towards the work that was Tolstoy’s LIFE’S WORK. Secondly, it is not enough to read the Gospels—one must live them, and according to them, just as it is not enough to read Tolstoy, as one must live as him, and according to him.

In 2003, Vladimir Moroz published a thousand copies of The Book That Mankind Has Long Been Waiting For at his own expense. The sub-heading “Tolstoy Thoughts” [sic] leads directly to a compendium of quotations from the diaries Tolstoy kept between 1881 and 1910, with a comment from Moroz on the first page as its only introduction: “The book requires no foreword, except an observation that the reading public has never before had a book of such importance and indispensability. But now it does!” The quotations, which



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are reproduced without commentary or annotation, range in length from a ­sentence to several paragraphs, and run to 1031 pages.46 While not a Tolstoyan, Irina Petrovitskaya, who taught at the Journalism Faculty of Moscow University (she died on May 24, 2016), and contributed substantially to research on Tolstoy’s publicistic career, in 2009 made the 90-volume edition of Tolstoy’s complete collected works available to download on her website, and thus performed an inestimable service by making them widely available for the first time.47 Another Muscovite who has sought to keep Tolstoy in the public eye is the Orthodox Priest Father Andrey Dudarev who raised funds to put up a statue of Tolstoy in his Pushkino parish. It was unveiled on October 5, 2013. His deep interest in a writer and thinker excommunicated by the Orthodox Church, and his enthusiasm for debate may well have lain behind the Church’s decision to dismiss him from his post in October 2016.48 Despite the huge impact of Tolstoy’s religious ideas on hearts and minds throughout the world in the early twentieth century, the supposition that seems to be embedded in Chekhov’s story “The Student”—namely, that Tolstoy’s greatest spiritual legacy probably lay in his fiction, has been proved largely correct. Tolstoy’s spiritual works are little-read in the twenty-first century, and the number of contemporary Russians drawn to Tolstoyan ideals is very small. The great potential for discussion, dissemination and collective action now offered by the internet would seem to promise the possibility of bringing Tolstoy’s spiritual works to new generations of Russians, but pacifists are prone to encounter political difficulties. The electronic library of the “antimilitary project ‘Beyond Violence,’” was blocked by a court order in 2015, for example. One of the project members, Vitaly Adamenko (b. 1977), a mathematics graduate from Samara, with a longstanding interest in nonviolence, and Tolstoy’s work in particular, queried the legality of this decision online.49 Adamenko continues meanwhile to publish electronic articles, such as “The Gospels Unanimously Forbid Violence,” on the site “Exodus Today” (Vykhod iz sistemy), which is sub-titled “A Christian Journal” and dedicated to nonviolence.50 The site also includes materials concerning Father Andrey Dudarev’s work, and articles published by the “Tolstoyan Almanac,”51 a “free internet journal about Tolstoy’s work, pacifism, nonviolent resistance and spiritual self-improvement” launched in 2016 via the Russian social media network Vkontakte. Its first issue included an article entitled “Demand for Tolstoy’s Views at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century,”52 which is regrettably more a statement of wishful thinking rather than one of fact. When in 2015

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy

Exodus Today published an article on “Contemporary Tolstoyanism,” it could only identify five people who appeared to have resisted temptation and followed the principles of love and nonviolence “in real life: every day, every hour,” basing their way of life, “with all its mistakes, failures, disappointments” on the Christian teaching of Leo Tolstoy. Of these, one was no longer alive, and three (including Vladimir Moroz and Aleksandr Shevchenko) were extremely elderly.53 In his 1906 article, “The End of the Age (On the Approaching Revolution),” Tolstoy touched on some of the political obstacles preventing the realization of his anarchic vision of a world of love and nonviolence: At present the power of Austria spreads over Hungary, Bohemia, and Galicia, and that of the British government over Ireland, Canada, Australia, Egypt, and India. That of the Russian government covers Poland, Guria, and others. But tomorrow this power may cease. The only force uniting all these Russias, Austrias, Britains, and Frances is coercive power. And coercive power is the creation of men who, contrary to their rational nature and the law of freedom as revealed by Jesus, obey those who demand of them evil works of violence. . . . People need simply cease to obey power in the name of the idols existing only in their imagination—of Russia, France, Britain, and the United States—and immediately these dreadful idols, which now ruin the physical and mental welfare of men, will of themselves disappear.54

Had Tolstoy been able to predict not just the Russian Revolution, but also the “evil works of violence” meted out in the catastrophes of the two World Wars, and the extent of the worldwide racial and ethnic tensions in the early twenty-first century, not to mention the rise of the United Russia party in his homeland, he would probably have himself predicted a bleak future for his ­spiritual legacy.



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ENDNOTES   1 Virginia Woolf, “The Russian Point of View,” in The Common Reader (London: Hogarth Press, 1925), 230.   2 Ibid., 229.   3 Turing’s code-breaking work was the subject of the 2014 film, “The Imitation Game.” He was given a posthumous pardon in 2013.   4 William Newman, “Married to a Mathematician: Lyn Newman’s Life in Letters,” http:// Accessed on October 1, 2017.   5 Lyn Newman to Leonard Woolf, February 28, 1952, NewmanL/1/24, St. John’s Library, Cambridge.   6 Lyn Irvine, “Alan M. Turing,” in Alan M. Turing, Centenary Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), xx-xxi.   7 “A Russian Novel,” unsigned review of Anna Karenina, by Count Lyof N. Tolstoï, New York Times, April 4, 1886, 12.   8 For further details, see R. Bartlett, Tolstoy: A Russian Life (London: Profile, 2010), 343–44.   9 See Richard Garnett, Constance Garnett: A Heroic Life (London: Sinclair Stevenson, 1991), 112–17. 10 Patrick French, Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (London: HarperCollins, 1994), 109. 11 Bartlett, Tolstoy, 344. 12 A. P. Chekhov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem [The Complete Works] (Moscow: Nauka, 1974–83), Pis′ma [Letters], 5:283–84. Hereafter cited by volume and page. 13 Chekhov, Pis′ma, 5:61. 14 Ibid., 417, 586–87. 15 For the author’s acknowledgement of Tolstoy’s influence on “The Name-Day Party,” see Chekhov, Pis′ma, 3:20. 16 See Bartlett, Tolstoy, 329–30. 17 Chekhov, Pis′ma, 4:267. 18 See, e.g., ibid., 362. 19 Ibid., 291. 20 Chekhov, Pis′ma, 5:174. 21 Chekhov, Pis′ma, 4:322–23. 22 Chekhov, Pis′ma, 5:283–84. 23 Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude, rev. Amy Mandelker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 415–16. 24 Ibid., 417. 25 Ibid., 449. 26 Ibid., 452. 27 A. Golovacheva, “‘Student’: pervyi krymskii rasskaz Chekhova” [“The Student”: the First Chekhov’s Crimean Story], Voprosy literatury 1 (2006) voplit/2006/1/go12.html. Accessed on October 1, 2017. 28 Matthew Arnold, “Count Leo Tolstoi” (1887), cited in Bartlett, Tolstoy, 311.

Tolstoy’s Fiction: Its Spiritual Legacy 29 Chekhov, Pis′ma, 4:354. 30 If this is the case, then Chekhov is anticipating the scholarly debate “about the existence of two Tolstoys—that is, whether Tolstoy’s conversion constituted a “break” in his development as an artist and thinker,” and siding with Nikolai Rodionov and Richard Gustafson. See G. M. Hamburg, “Tolstoy’s Spirituality,” in Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy, ed. Donna Tussing Orwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 142. 31 In the King James Bible this passage reads (37–39): “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” 32 “English Versions of Tolstoy,” Saturday Review, April 22, 1905, 527. 33 Mrs. Henry Hobhouse, “I Appeal unto Caesar”: The Case of the Conscientious Objector (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1917). 34 Ibid., v-vi. 35 Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West, January 8, 1929, The Letters of Virginia Woolf, eds. Nigel Nicholson and Joanne Trautmann, 6 vols. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975–80), 4:4. 36 B. Mazurin, “Rasskaz i razdum′ia ob istorii odnoi tolstovskoi kommuny ‘Zhizn' i trud’” [A Story and Thoughts on One Tolstoyan Community “Life and Work”], ed. A. B. Roginsky, Novy Mir 9 (1988): 180–226. 37 A. B. Roginsky, Vospominaniia krest′ian-tolstovtsev, 1910–1930-e gody (Moscow: Kniga, 1989). For an English translation, see Arseny Roginsky and William Edgerton, eds. Memoirs of Peasant Tolstoyans in Soviet Russia (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993). 38 See, e.g., Miriam Elder, “Russia Snubs Tolstoy,” The Global Post, October 12, 2010, and Ellen Barry and Sophia Kishkovsky, “For Tolstoy and Russia, Still No Happy Ending,” New York Times, January 3, 2011. 39 D. Bykov, “Tolstoy ushel” [Tolstoy Has Left], Profil′, November 15, 2010. 40 “Nuzhen li Tolstoy sovremennoi Rossii?” [Does the Modern Russia Need Tolstoy?”], press-conference, November 19, 2010. See id/16632/. 41 S. Mitrofanov, “Vinovat li Lev Tolstoy v razrushenii Rossii?” [Is Tolstoy Guilty of the Collapsing of Russia?], Rossiiskaya gazeta, November 23, 2010.  42 F. Shvedovsky, “Net Tolstogo v svoiom otechestve. Pis′mo Tolstomu iz XXI veka, ili Pochemu rossiiskaia vlast΄ molchit o klassike” [There Is No Tolstoy in the Homeland. A Letter to Tolstoy from the Twenty-First Century, or Why Russian Authorities Keep Silent about the Classics], November 18, 2010. Accessed on September 30, 2017. See also his blog “Lev Tolstoy i krasnorechivoe molchanie gosudarstva” [Leo Tolstoy and the Government’s Conspicuous Silence], November 19, 2010, Radio Liberty website, Accessed on October 1, 2017. 43 See a film by Aleksandr Krivonos, V poiskakh Tolstogo [Finding Tolstoy], TV Kul′tura website, Accessed on October 1, 2017.



Rosamund Bartlett 44 A. E. Beskrovnykh, “Ob avtore” [On the Author] in V. A. Moroz, Tolstoy v moei arestantskoi zhizni [Tolstoy in My Prison Life] (St. Petersburg: V. S. Dmitriev, 1996), 108. 45 Moroz, Tolstoy v moei arestantskoi zhizni, 55, 88. 46 V. A. Moroz, ed., Kniga kotoruyu davno dozhidaetsa chelovechestvo [The Book That Mankind Has Long Been Waiting For] (Moscow: Moroz, 2003). 47 Website of Irina Petrovitskaya. Accessed on September 27, 2017. 48 See Howard Amos, “Russia’s Most Unorthodox Priest is Difficult to Have Around,” Moscow Times, June 19, 2017, Accessed on October 2, 2017. 49 See his statement in October 2015 regarding the “disappearance” of the site (http://www. V. Adamenko, Livejournal, October 7, 2015. 50 V. Adamenko. or its mirror website 51  V. Adamenko, “Evangelie odnoznachno zapreshchaet nasilie” [The New Testament Unequivocally Forbids Violence], March 5, 2017, Accessed on September 28, 2017. 52 V. Adamenko, “Vostrebovannost' vzgliadov L. N. Tolstogo v nachale XXI veka” [Demand for Tolstoy’s Views at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century]. 53 Sovremennoe tolstovstvo [Contemporary Tolstoyanism], 2015. tolstovstvo/ or 54 Leo Tolstoy, “The End of the Age (On the Approaching Revolution),” trans. V. Tchertkoff and I. F. Mayo (London: William Heinemann, 1906), 49.


What is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be? Donna Tussing Orwin


 hen I was a graduate student, decades ago, my PhD supervisor once called me into his office. He had a question for me. He had been reading Tolstoy’s story “God Sees the Truth, but Waits,” and he asked me if I found the conclusion convincing. It was obvious that he did not. I was taken aback, and I mumbled something that I knew was not satisfactory. Right away, like JeanJacques Rousseau in his Confessions when he reports how he once performed badly in a conversation, I began to construct better answers in my mind than the one I had given. Of course, I no more than Rousseau could turn back the clock, so I will never have a chance to redo my performance at that particular moment and impress my supervisor, but the experience got me thinking about just what Tolstoy was trying to do in that story and how successfully he did it. In this essay, as one approach to Tolstoy’s spirituality, I want to share my latest thoughts on the matter. I will analyze the story and use Tolstoy’s fictional writings and treatises to help illuminate his own reading of it. “God Sees the Truth, but Waits” was published in 1872 in Tolstoy’s first Primer and republished in 1875 for The New Primer that went through ­twenty-eight printings in his lifetime. Along with another story from the ­primers—“Prisoner of the Caucasus”—it was the only work of his own fiction that Tolstoy recommended in his treatise What Is Art? (1897) as worth reading. So only these two short stories for the people—not, say, War and Peace or Anna Karenina—were deemed both sufficiently artistic and sufficiently ethical to live up to the later Tolstoy’s strict standards of rectitude.1 According to him, they represent two kinds of great art: a universal one expressing simple human


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feelings recognizable by all (“Prisoner of the Caucasus”), and a religious one, the highest, Christian form of which is expressed in “God Sees the Truth, but Waits” as the brotherhood of all humankind based on the relationship of each individual to God (PSS 30:157). The two are very different and even contradictory in certain respects but in fact, as I will argue, they are alike in certain fundamental ways. The full titles of both stories include their (folk) genre designation: byl′ (a true story). Tolstoy intended them to be realistic, and that meant in his terms that they had to be psychologically believable as well as true to various aspects of external reality. My supervisor did not ask me about “Prisoner of the Caucasus,” so apparently, he accepted the psychological (and spiritual) premises underlying it, or at least they did not actively annoy him. In it, a Russian officer returning home from the Caucasus to visit his mother and possibly to retire and marry is captured by Chechen warriors. They hold him for ransom, but eventually he escapes back to the Russian side. He is aided in this by a Chechen girl, the daughter of his owner, and in general he learns to his surprise that Chechens are not the monsters and savages he had expected them to be. Here are the final words of the story. He looked intently, and saw guns glistening. They were soldiers— Cossacks! Zhilin was filled with joy. He collected his remaining strength and set off down the hill, saying to himself: “God forbid that any mounted Tartar should see me now, in the open field! Near as I am, I could not get there in time.” Hardly had he said this when, a couple of hundred yards off, on a hillock to the left, he saw three Tartars. They saw him also and made a rush. His heart sank. He waved his hands, and shouted with all his might, “Brothers, brothers! Help!” The Cossacks heard him, and a party of them on horseback darted to cut across the Tartars’ path. The Cossacks were far and the Tartars were near; but Zhilin, too, collected his remaining strength. Lifting the shackles with his hand, he ran towards the Cossacks, quite beside himself, crossing himself and shouting, “Brothers! Brothers! Brothers!” There were some fifteen Cossacks. The Tartars were frightened, and stopped before reaching him. Zhilin staggered up to the Cossacks. They surrounded him and began questioning him. “Who are you? What are you? Where from?”

What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be? But Zhilin was quite beside himself, and could only weep and repeat, “Brothers! Brothers!” Then the soldiers came running up and crowded round Zhilin—one giving him bread, another buckwheat, a third vodka: one wrapping a cloak round him, another breaking his shackles. The officers recognized him, and rode with him to the fortress. The soldiers were glad to see him back, and his comrades all gathered round him. Zhilin told them all that had happened to him. “That’s the way I went home and got married!” said he. “No. It seems plain that fate was against it!” So he went on serving in the Caucasus. A month passed before Kostilin was released, after paying five thousand rubles ransom. He was almost dead when they brought him back.2

Zhilin decides not to return to Russia but to remain with his colleagues at the fortress. Why? Because it is his ‘fate,’ but also because he realizes that the fortress is his real home, and his fellow soldiers—his real family. Though the narrator does not openly articulate this second reason the way he does the first one, the motivation for it is implicit in Zhilin’s words. Three different times he cries out “Brothers,” and each time he repeats the word, twice in two cases and three times in the third, middle one. Through these repetitions—a favorite device of Tolstoy—the author signals that in Zhilin’s mind, his fellow soldiers have become a family that trumps his biological one. Nevertheless, given what Zhilin has learned about the humanity of the enemy the Russians are fighting, it seems strange that he would choose to stay in the war zone. One possible ­explanation of his behavior is the general psychological ­principle that human beings overcome their individuality and organize themselves into s­ ocieties through war. This is a lesson illustrated already in Tolstoy’s The Cossacks (1863), in which the male Cossack protagonist proves himself to the female one by his willingness to fight and die for the village. In “Prisoner of the Caucasus” the same dynamic is embedded in the ending. The root of Zhilin’s name—zhiv—means life, or vitality, and he acts with maximum effort to save himself: “Zhilin collected his remaining strength” (Zhilin sobralsia s poslednei siloi); but as he calls out “brothers!”, “he was quite beside himself ” (sam sebia ne pomnit; literally, “he forgot himself ”), and to make sure we notice the phrase, Tolstoy repeats it as Zhilin reacts to his rescue: “Zhilin was quite beside himself ” (A Zhilin sebia ne pomnit). Zhilin has done all he can to save himself, but when



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he reaches the limits of his ability to do so, he submerges his individual self in the collective one that will protect him. When he does this, he experiences a happiness he had not known before. Once pointed out and explained, all this makes sense. Tolstoy saw this dynamic at work in the North Caucasus, where small groups fought constantly and thereby generated and reaffirmed a collective identity.3 Russian Cossacks living and fighting there for generations became part of the same dynamic: they “adopted their [the local peoples’] customs, their manners, and their ways” (The Cossacks; PSS 6:15). Russian regular troops mingled with the Cossacks and admired them as the Cossacks admired their Caucasus enemies. (Olenin is a typical Russian officer in wanting to be a Cossack.) One might call the mentality that we are identifying a pre-Christian form of self-sacrifice. It is at play in Homer, whom Tolstoy knew well and loved.4 It seems fundamentally opposed to the brotherhood of all mankind, which Tolstoy considered the Christian ideal, and he espoused as the major plank of his late teaching. Nonetheless, it is part of the Russian war ethos, and it was very attractive to Tolstoy. The situation in “God Sees the Truth, but Waits” is very different. On a business trip, the main character, Ivan Aksyonov, meets a fellow merchant he knows and they spend the night in adjoining rooms at an inn. The other merchant is found murdered the next morning, and Aksyonov is convicted of the crime and sent to a Siberian prison camp. After twenty-six years, a thug named Makar Semyonov shows up there, and Aksyonov soon suspects he is the real murderer. Prison officials discover that someone has been digging an escape tunnel, and they pressure the prisoners to reveal the culprit. Aksyonov knows it is Makar, and he is tempted to take revenge by turning him in. He decides against it, however, for two reasons: he can’t be absolutely certain that Makar is the murderer, and, even if he is, denouncing Makar will not make him feel any better.5 The next evening, Makar confesses his long-ago crime to Aksyonov. The following evening, as Aksyonov was dozing off, he heard someone draw near and then sit down by his feet. He looked into the darkness and recognized Makar. “What do you want from me now?” he asked. “What are you doing here?” Makar Semyonov said nothing. Aksyonov raised himself up on one elbow and said, “What do you want? Go away or I’ll call the guard!” Makar Semyonov bent over towards Aksyonov and whispered, “Ivan Dmitrych, forgive me!” “What should I forgive you for?” asked Aksyonov.

What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be? “I killed the merchant, and I hid the knife in your bag. I’d have killed you too, but there was a noise outside. I left the knife in your bag and climbed out of the window.” Aksyonov was silent. He did not know what to say. Makar Semyonov got down off the bed-boards, knelt on the ground and said, “Ivan Dmitrych, forgive me, forgive me for the love of God! I’ll confess that I killed the merchant and you will be pardoned [ forgiven]. You’ll go back home.” “Fine words,” said Aksyonov, “but do you know what I’ve suffered? My wife is dead, my children have forgotten me. Where can I go now?” Still on his knees, Makar Semyonov beat his head against the floor. “Ivan Dmitrych,” he said, “forgive me! The knout on my back was easier for me to bear than the sight of you now. And yet you had pity on me, you didn’t tell. Forgive me, for the love of Christ! Forgive me, cursed wretch that I am!” And he began to sob. When Aksyonov heard Makar Semyonov weeping, he began to weep too. “God will forgive you,” he said. “Maybe I myself am a hundred times worse than you are.” At this, he felt a weight off his heart. He stopped feeling homesick, he no longer wanted to leave the prison, and his only wish was to die. Aksyonov told him not to say anything, but Makar Semyonov confessed to the murder. And by the time the order for his release came, Aksyonov had died.6

Whereas the salient word in the denouement of “Prisoner of the Caucasus” is “brothers,” here it is “forgive.” Three times Makar begs Aksyonov to forgive him, first saying it once, the second times—twice, and the third—three times; and the word is used in other forms in the passage three more times. In “Prisoner of the Caucasus,” there is no need for forgiveness, because there has been no injustice. On the contrary, Zhilin discovers that his captors are more humane than he had assumed they would be, and that they act according to rules that both Russians and the Caucasus warriors understand and accept. Aksyonov, by contrast, is the victim of an injustice that alienates him from everyone, including even his wife, who suspects that he may be guilty. It is when she suggests this to him that he accepts his fate, but he cannot not let go of his anger and desire for revenge until the final episode of the story. When he does do this, he feels that a burden has been lifted from him. The ‘lightness’ in his soul is his reward for his virtuous act, but, because it occurs after the forgiveness, it is not its cause. At first



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Aksyonov remembers his ruined life and resists Makar’s plea, but when Makar bursts out crying, Aksyonov weeps too, and it is then that he forgives Makar. But note what Aksyonov says: “God forgives you; perhaps I am a hundred times worse than you are.” It is not he, but ‘God’ who pardons Makar. Since there is no divine intervention in the story—in other stories for the people, there are supernatural occurrences—we must assume that with this locution, Tolstoy, speaking through Aksyonov and using an expression common in colloquial Russian, means that the voice of God present in Aksyonov’s soul is what forgives.7 When it dominates, the same voice extinguishes the pride and sense of self-respect natural to individuals; hence Aksyonov couples his forgiveness with the statement that he himself may be a hundred times worse than Makar. It is pride that motivates the actions of Zhilin in “Prisoner of the Caucasus,” and pride explains Aksyonov’s simmering anger at his humiliation. In response to injustice, pride naturally curdles into passions of anger and revenge. There is a character in “Prisoner of the Caucasus”—an old man whose sons have been killed by Russians—who represents these passions and who hates Zhilin and wants him killed. This same old man has sought out and killed a son who went over to the Russian side.8 Anger and vengefulness are sources of evil. Tolstoy makes this point obliquely in “God Sees the Truth, but Waits” when he writes that “When Aksyonov realized it was his enemy, he trembled all over with rage” (Kogda Aksyonov uvidal svoiego zlodeia, on ves′ zatriassia ot zlosti). The words Chandler translates as ‘enemy’ and ‘rage’ both are based on the Russian root (z/l) meaning evil. Furthermore, that same root can mean ‘anger.’ Over his years in prison, Aksyonov has changed, and already listens more than in his youth to the voice of God. Yet, he is still angry, and when Makar threatens to kill him if he tells the authorities about the escape plan, he responds that, “As to whether or not I say what I’ve seen, that’s as God wills.” The last phrase, in Russian, kak bog na dushu polozhit, is a common expression that means literally “as God puts it in my soul.” As it turns out, God prompts him to forgive, but in Aksyonov’s mind even the moment before the act of ­forgiveness, this is not a foregone conclusion.9 The tears shed first by Makar and then Aksyonov are related to the famous passage in the novel Resurrection about the soul as a river. One of the most common and widespread superstitions is that every person has his own fixed qualities, that a person is good, evil, smart, stupid, energetic, lazy, and so on. People are not like that. We can say of a person

What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be? that he is more often good than evil, more often smart than stupid, more often energetic than lazy, and the other way around; but it would not be true if we said of one person that he is good or smart, and of another, that he is evil or stupid. But we are always dividing up people this way. And this is untrue. People are like rivers. The water in all of them is the same, but every river is now narrow, now swift, now wide, now quiet, now clear, now cold, now murky, now warm. People are like that. Every person carries the beginnings of all human characteristics and manifests now some of these, now others and is often completely unlike himself, while remaining one and the same self (PSS 32:193–94; part 1, chap. 59; translation mine).

In this simile, Tolstoy identifies human beings as creatures of will and the actions flowing from it. Like rivers, will or vitality flows differently in response to different factors; in the case of human beings, these factors can be internal— related to passions, feelings, reason, bodily impulses, and memories—as well as external. In “God Sees the Truth, but Waits,” Aksyonov’s tears signal a dissolution of the individual, animal self that makes forgiveness of an enemy possible. Tolstoy implicitly concedes that only under such conditions can this happen. This is the second time in the story that Aksyonov weeps; the first is when his wife asks whether he in fact committed the murder. In the words of McLean, he then finds himself in an “existential state,” in which he “must face death and eternity alone.”10 But Aksyonov does not see his situation the way McLean does, though a modern reader might. After his wife had left, Aksyonov thought everything over. When he thought about how his wife had suspected him and asked him if he had killed the merchant, he said to himself, ‘It seems no one but God can know the truth. It is to Him alone I must appeal, and from Him alone that I must expect mercy.’ And Aksyonov gave up writing petitions and abandoned all hope; all he did was pray to God (PSS 21:249).

From this moment on, as Jahn observes,11 Aksyonov’s soul is in a state of disarray and transition that is only resolved when he weeps the second time.12 Tolstoy is a pragmatic thinker schooled in his youth as a psychologist by the likes of John Locke (through Laurence Sterne). (Part of an early translation by him of Sterne’s Sentimental Journey survives.) In chapter 6 of his treatise What I Believe (1882–84), he says that it is impossible to love a personal enemy, and he agrees that the forgiveness of one is a very extreme and unlikely occurrence



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(PSS 23:365). There is another factor in the final scene that I wish I had pointed out to my supervisor. God may forgive Makar, but Makar does not forgive ­himself. In a certain sense, then, Aksyonov gets his revenge, and in this life, not the next one. Makar tells Aksyonov that his having to face the man whose life he destroyed is more painful than having been beaten by a knout. Admitting that he is evil, calling himself “a cursed wretch” (zlodeia okaiannogo), he suffers the torments of the damned. The story does not tell us what happens to Makar after all this, but there are other examples of murderers who confess in Tolstoy’s oeuvre. In The Kreutzer Sonata (1889), it is not certain that the main character Pozdnyshev has fully repented of killing his wife; he may be still making excuses for his crime. In The Power of Darkness (1886), however, the murderer Nikita not only repents of murdering his illegitimate child, but takes responsibility for crimes he has not committed, such as the death of old Pyotr. Nikita does not suffer as he confesses. On the contrary, there is an ecstatic, over the top quality to his confession that fits well with his life-loving, Dionysian personality (PSS 26:239–43). In this case, it is as if the fun-loving Aksyonov had committed a crime, repents of it, and finally publicly announces his guilt. Even if Makar suffers terribly for his crimes, would that be enough to compensate Aksyonov for his ruined life? Sweet though revenge might be, I doubt it. Tolstoy therefore gives us another way, encoded in the title, to think about what happens to the protagonist. Bog pravdu vidit, da ne skoro skazhet translated literally means “God sees the truth, but does not speak it right away.” The Russian word for ‘truth’ here is pravda. The word for ‘justice’—spravedlivost′—is related to it. So the title of the story references its underlying theme, which is whether justice and the possibility of dignity and meaning exist outside the human need for it. Aksyonov gets involved in complicated machinations by which these can occur even in the seemingly most unjust of circumstances and even after a long time has passed. On this metaphysical level of the work, his reward for his sufferings is to save another soul. Since in Tolstoy’s Christian anarchist view of things, everything spiritual occurs on the level of individuals, Aksyonov’s act elevates him to a level of general meaningfulness not usually present in life. I’m not sure all readers would follow Tolstoy here, and some would condemn him. (Does Makar’s repentance undo the injustice of the murder he committed?) One such critic was Leo Shestov who, in 1900, in his long essay, “The Good in the Teaching of Tolstoy and Nietzsche: Philosophy and Preaching,”

What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be?

criticizes Tolstoy for caring more about proving that God is good than about alleviating human suffering.13 There is something to what Shestov says here, but Tolstoy’s goal deserves a sympathetic hearing as well. The most thorough explanation of it is to be found in his A Confession. There he explains that it is reason in human beings that demands that life make sense, but that, paradoxically, that metaphysical sense cannot be accessed through reason.14 As he explains in this work and elsewhere, the sense we are longing for is that God loves us and that we all have meaningful tasks in life. In The Kingdom of God Is within You (1893) we learn that this “truth is only available as an ‘image,’ not through explanation.” The whole teaching consisted in the recognition of truth (istina) and following it, in a greater and greater attainment of truth, and a closer and closer following of it in the acts of life. There are no acts in this doctrine that could justify a man and make him just. There is only the image of truth (obrazets istiny) that draws the heart to it, for inward perfection in the person of Christ, and for outward perfection in the establishment of the kingdom of God (PSS 28:41; chap. 3, translation by Constance Garnett with modifications).

Images mean storytelling, starting with the story of Christ, but of course including that of Aksyonov as told by Tolstoy. Ludwig Wittgenstein observed that Tolstoy expressed his beliefs successfully only in his stories, and Dermot J. Archer, who quotes Wittgenstein to this effect, remarks that “by developing a particular example [through a narrative] he can show a whole way of life” ­without the necessity of a narrator providing an argument for it.15 In “God Sees the Truth, but Waits,” what happens to Makar is understandable according to the universal psychology at work in “Prisoner of the Caucasus.” Makar has assumed that others are as cynical and base as he is, and given this assumption, he sees himself as superior to all others. Aksyonov’s failure to take revenge undermines Makar’s cynical calculus, though, and he burns with shame as a result. The story is an image of a rare instance in which the usual dynamics of power fail. When Makar threatens to kill Aksyonov if the latter turns him in, Aksyonov retorts that Makar has already killed him: “You killed me long ago. And as to whether or not I say what I’ve seen, that’s as God wills.” Aksyonov considers himself already dead, so he no longer fears Makar. According to the rules of pride and power that Makar follows, Aksyonov defeats him by not being intimidated by his threat.



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Why does Aksyonov do what he does? Is there a psychologically believ­ able explanation for that? In The Kingdom of God Is within You, Tolstoy explains that there are three stages of human development: the animal one, which is simply selfish; the ‘social’ or ‘pagan’ one, in which people sacrifice themselves for what they regard as their own group and therefore an extension of themselves; and a higher one that unites all people (PSS 28:69–70; chap. 4). The transition to the second stage is natural as a response to our limited strength and mortality: as we have seen, it is at work in “Prisoner of the Caucasus.” The third one—a love of ‘humanity’ as a whole—is not natural according to Tolstoy.16 Though he does not mention Rousseau’s Second Discourse, this argument reflects its influence. In it, Rousseau says that love of self can be extended to family and tribe, but, except in the case of a few great cosmopolitan souls, not further. In Tolstoy’s more Kantian version of this argument present in both The Kingdom of God Is within You and the Afterword to The Kreutzer Sonata, he asserts that the love of all can be an ideal, but not a psychological principle. It can only be based on a love of God that is once again psychologically motivated as a ­rejection of our mortal self for our divine and hence immortal one. Christianity recognizes love of self, of family, of nation, and of humanity, and not only of humanity, but of everything living, everything existing; it recognizes the necessity of an infinite extension of the sphere of love. But the object of this love is not found outside the self in societies of individuals, nor in the external world, but within the self, in the divine self whose essence is that very love, which the animal self is brought to feel the need of through its consciousness of its own perishable nature (The Kingdom of God Is within You, PSS 28:84–85; emphasis mine).

Tolstoy equates the highest principle of reason above and outside of individual self-interest with the voice of God in the soul. He calls this principle ‘love,’ but it is important to understand its connection to higher, universal reason. Having been excluded from both family and society, deprived of simple animal pleasures like good food, sex, music, and freedom, Aksyonov is in the rare position of heeding and acting exclusively, if momentarily, according to that voice. Strangely enough, then, according to Tolstoy’s argument, love of all requires a turn inward, not outward. The self gives up its animal desires and its yearning to join with others, and all the good and bad that comes from that, and instead joins with an impersonal God who, Tolstoy asserts, is benevolent.

What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be?

It is this last claim that might seem dubious both in Tolstoy’s time and our own. Do keep in mind that Tolstoy was not merely a sentimentalist. It is no ­accident that, when The Power of Darkness was performed to rave reviews in 1888 in Paris, the French naturalist Émile Zola was one of its greatest ­admirers.17 Tolstoy may have regarded social Darwinism as an enemy to be fought, but this was not because he thought it was entirely wrong. On the contrary, he recognized its power and truth and incorporated it into his fiction. His correction of naturalism was that we are not all animal, and indeed that, except when we are overwhelmed by extreme necessity, we act only in accordance with what we regard as in our reasonable self-interest. When our beliefs fail us, we either find new ones or lose all ability to act. In A Confession, he blames an epidemic of suicide among the elites on the spiritual poverty of the dominant ideas of his time. The idea that we are merely animal turns out to be unacceptable to us because it denies us the freedom, dignity, and yes, immortality that our human will, influenced by reason, longs for. What makes “God Sees the Truth, but Waits” convincing is Tolstoy’s adherence even in it to a complex form of psychological realism. It is interesting to compare Aksyonov to several other characters in Tolstoy’s oeuvre in this respect. I have in mind Platon Karataev from War and Peace (1865–69), Alyosha from “Alyosha the Pot” (1905; published 1911), and Anatoly Svetlogub from The Divine and Human (1906). Platon tells a version of Aksyonov’s story in which the character is a model for how to deal with the extreme helplessness and injustice of the life of a conscript soldier (vol. 4, part 3, chap. 13). Platon uses common expressions to guide his listeners toward the Stoic thought of which he himself is the exemplar in the novel. Tolstoy presents Platon as a representative of peasant wisdom developed over time in response to necessity. The story of Aksyonov is one product of this wisdom, and is presented by Platon as such. In Platon’s version of it, the merchant has no name and never speaks; we know nothing about his motivations. By contrast, psychological motivation is woven into Platon’s own speeches and acts as presented by Tolstoy. Unlike Aksyonov in the 1872 version of the story, however, Platon displays no anger or pride: indeed, the lack of those reactions in the face of injustice is the main lesson he conveys to Pierre Bezukhov in the novel. In this sense, Platon is a more abstract, less psychologically convincing character than Aksyonov. Although he accepts Platon as a role model, Pierre does not live by all his precepts, especially by those that recommend he merely distance himself from injustice rather than battling it.



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Alyosha the Pot is more a holy fool than a wise man. Like Aksyonov, he is denied the basic happiness of wife and children, in his case when his father forbids marriage because it would be inconvenient for him. Unlike Aksyonov, Alyosha does not protest against this injustice. He seems to be nothing but an innocent, cheerful animal, like the horse Mukhorty in Master and Man (1895). He says little, even during his courtship or at the time of his death. Along with this element, however, the story has a symbolic dimension that seems to stretch the limits of psychological realism. Alyosha’s cheerfulness and his easy death suggest a saintly quality to his personality according to which his flappy ears might even hint at wings. The origin of his nickname may be a clue to this side of his personality. As a boy, asked by his mother to carry a pot of milk to the deacon’s wife, he stumbled and dropped and broke the pot. This broken pot and the spilt milk are portents of death hanging over Alyosha. This brings us to another way of interpreting the pot, this one both Christian and Stoic. The pot, made of all the elements—water, fire, air and earth—represents the line from Genesis 3:19 that “Dust thou art, and unto to dust thou shalt return.” To accept this fate is the height of spirituality and wisdom in the old Tolstoy. Alyosha, without self-consciousness, accepts the fact that he is mortal, and lives that way. He is not involved in organized religion; he does not even pray with words—here he resembles the holy fool Grisha in Tolstoy’s first work Childhood—but he lives a spiritual life because of his unself-conscious stoicism. Finally, there is Svetlogub—whose name means Brightlips—in The Divine and Human. He is an idealistic gentry youth in the 1870s whose life story illustrates the right-thinking that the older Tolstoy preaches. Feeling guilty about his wealth and privilege, he first tries to help his peasants within established philanthropic conventions. This only makes him feel worse until he joins the populist movement to enlighten the peasants about their own situation in an unjust society. When the government tries to suppress these activities, his group begins to advocate force against it. An associate hides dynamite in his apartment, and when it is discovered, Svetlogub takes the blame rather than betray his comrade. He is imprisoned and eventually executed. While he undergoes this ordeal, he discovers the Gospels, and converts to a Tolstoyan version of them. He accepts his martyrdom, and forgives even his brutish executioner, who subsequently gives up his job even though it has bought him special privileges within the prison system. From the perspective of another character who views him on his way to the execution, Svetlogub resembles an angel. The narrator describes his inner state as a struggle between the body

What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be?

that wants to live and the Tolstoyan Christian spirit of love, with the latter ­prevailing throughout. Parallel to this story is that of the charismatic revolutionary Ignaty Mezhenitskii who had originally recruited Svetlogub. This proud angry man endures seven years in solitary confinement in the Peter-Paul Fortress in Petersburg without cracking, and then is sent to hard labor. There he e­ ncounters a group of young Marxist revolutionaries who, instead of ­welcoming and respecting him, sneer at him as a member of a failed, outmoded generation. They even attribute their own situation to the mistakes of that generation. Stunned and humiliated by this rejection, Mezhenitskii hangs himself. Svetlogub and Mezhenitskii take opposite approaches—divine and human—to the problem of social and personal injustice. What is unique about Aksyonov in “God Sees the Truth, but Waits” is the way he combines these two approaches and only at the end does he transition completely from one to the other. This seems psychologically more convincing than Svetlogub’s relentless saintliness. As human beings, we have reason, and reason decoupled from self-­interest equals Love and the Divine in Tolstoy’s worldview. We are a combination of will, feelings, body, and reason, and only rarely do we act purely reasonably. In most cases, our reason serves the needs of our animal selves. As the example of Aksyonov shows, even pure reason accords with our personal self-interest in some mysterious way. Forgiving and thereby transforming Makar, Aksyonov takes part in a mystery play that gives meaning to life well above mere preservation of our bodily selves.18 He participates in this play because at the climactic moment in the story, he heeds the immortal voice of the God of Love and Reason. The fact that Aksyonov dies right after his apotheosis is important, I think. Tolstoy does not show him remaining in the same state of perfection, because sustaining that state for any period of time might be psychologically unconvincing. Tolstoy’s psychological realism does not prove the existence of a benevolent God, but it shows how much we yearn for one, and why. What is appealing to the modern mind is the way Tolstoy combines reason and revelation, philosophy and religion, and body and spirit in his writings. In his late teaching, he argues that we should sacrifice our personal self-interest in order to achieve the connection to meaning and immortality that is the deepest longing of the soul. Would anyone follow this advice, however, given that it requires them to sacrifice the very individual self that longs for immortality? In The Kingdom of God Is within You, Tolstoy argues that we would do this because our selfhood in its essence is a “spark of the divine,” and “a human being loves not because it is



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advantageous for him to love this or those ones, but because love is the essence of his soul, because he cannot not love” (PSS 28:85). It is unlikely that human beings could reject the body and individuality as totally as this definition of the soul implies, or that society could be structured on such a plan, so that teaching seems utopian. The stories based solely on it, like “Walk in the Light While There is Light” (written around 1886) are dull. Zhilin in “Prisoner of the Caucasus” did not die, but “went on serving in the Caucasus.” His story is structured around a life lesson that conveys him from the animal to the social stage of life. Aksyonov, who eventually forgives even a personal enemy, dies. He has nothing left to live for, so his story ends. It is a paradox, but one that addresses the very real problem of human incompleteness and mortality. Perhaps in my conversation with my supervisor I should have focused on the human longings that Tolstoy’s art expresses and addresses. No modern writer confronts them more directly than he does, no one shows more forcefully how these longings structure our lives, and that is why his art continues to intrigue and move us. It may not have answers we can entirely accept, but it asks questions we cannot ignore if we want to live a meaningful life.

ENDNOTES   1 See L. N. Tolstoy. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii [The Complete Works], 90 vols. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1928–58), 30:163. To be fair, he did say that the ones he recommended, both by him and by others, were merely examples that came easily to mind, and that there might well be others.   2 PSS 21:325–26; translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude with my modifications; italics mine.   3 For a fascinating and relevant anthropological account of this dynamic in the Caucasus, see Bruce Grant, The Captive and the Gift: Cultural Histories of Sovereignty in Russia and the Caucasus (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009), especially chap. 4, 63–90.   4 It is no accident that, as L. E. Kocheshkova shows, Tolstoy relied on Russian folk epic (the bylina in particular) in creating “Prisoner of the Caucasus.” See “‘Kavkazskii plennik’ L. N. Tolstogo i ‘neoklassicheskaia’ proza kontsa ХХ veka: Tip smyslovoi tselostnosti” [Leo Tolstoy’s “Prisoner of the Caucasus” and the “Neo-Classical” Prose at the End of the Twentieth Century], in Russkaia klassika: mezhdu arkhaikoi i modernom [Russian Classic Literature: Between Archaism and Modernity] (St. Petersburg: Izd-vo RGPU im. Gertsena, 2002), 111–17.   5 Hugh McLean and Gary Jahn debate the significance of the fact that Aksyonov denies he knows the wrongdoer. See McLean, “Could the Master Err? A Note on ‘God Sees the Truth, but Waits,’” Tolstoy Studies Journal 16 (2004): 77–81; and Jahn, “Was the Master

What Is the Good According to Tolstoy, and How Good Can I Be? Well Served? Further Comment on ‘God Sees the Truth, but Waits,’” Tolstoy Studies Journal 16 (2004): 81–86. The debate is reprinted in McLean, ed., In Quest of Tolstoy (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2008), 87–102. Tolstoy’s disciple Vladimir Chertkov disliked the fact that Aksyonov lied here because he considered lying un-Christian, and he proposed a change in the work when it was to be published in Intermediary Press (which Tolstoy and Chertkov founded to publish works for the people) in 1885. In his version, Aksyonov would say, not that he did not know, but that he would not tell who has been digging the tunnel. Tolstoy agreed to this but wrote Chertkov to make the change himself. The Jubilee edition uses the original text, and McLean and Jahn— the latter approving and the former disapproving—disagree about this decision.   6 PSS 21:253; translation by Robert Chandler with my modifications; italics mine.   7 For a cogent summary of Tolstoy’s artistic and symbolic use of colloquial language in the work, see Zinaida Uglitsky, “L. Tolstoy’s ‘Story God Sees the Truth’: Stylistic Analysis,” in Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association: Proceedings and Papers of the Twelfth Congress Held at the University of Western Australia, February 5–11, 1969, ed.  A.  P.  Treweek and H. C. Coombs (Sydney: AULLA, 1970), 131–32. See also P. I. Mel′nikov-Davydov, “Opyt filologicheskogo rasskaza L. N. ‘Kavkazskii plennik’” [An Essay in Philological Story: “Prisoner of the Caucasus”], Tolstovskii sbornik (2008): 125–35. The story was neglected during Soviet times because it was considered too religious. Pushing back against this perception, the prominent Soviet scholar, N. N. Gusev, argued that it had no religious or mystical content, and that God is present in the title only as part of a folk expression. See Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy: Materialy k biografii s 1870 po 1881 god [Leo Tolstoy: Biographical Materials, 1870–1881] (Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, 1963), 78. In 1964, Soviet critic I. A. Kashtanova, reporting on Chertkov’s objections in the letter to Tolstoy discussed above, argues that the fact that Aksyonov lied proves that the story is about “human” rather than Christian truth, and therefore is suitable for Soviet children. See “Rasskaz-byl′ L. N. Tolstogo ‘Bog pravdu vidit, da ne skoro skazhet’” [A Story-Byl′ of Leo Tolsloy “God Sees the Truth, but Waits”], Tolstovskii sbornik 2 (1964): 84–85.   8 PSS 21:315. The filicide is especially horrendous because the Russians have killed seven of the old man’s eight sons, and it is the eighth remaining one whom he kills.   9 Jahn also pays close attention to when Aksyonov’s apotheosis occurs. 10 McLean, “Could the Master Err?,” 78. 11 Jahn, “Was the Master Well Served?,” 85. 12 In another article, Jahn argues convincingly that the story is symmetrical, the first part being about Aksyonov’s early life up until the crisis, and the second part, twenty-six years later, about its resolution. See “A Structural Analysis of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘God Sees the Truth, but Waits,’” Studies in Short Fiction 12 (1975): 261–69. In Jahn’s reading, Aksyonov passes from youth to old age, and from material to spiritual happiness. While Jahn attributes this transformation to Tolstoy’s dualism (ibid., 268), I try to extract a psychological explanation for it from Tolstoy’s text and his later teachings.



Donna Tussing Orwin 13 See Shestov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nietzsche, ed. Bernard Martin (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969), 1–140. 14 See the end of chap.  8 for the most concise formulation of the problem the work addresses: “By faith it appears that in order to understand the meaning of life I must renounce my reason, the very thing for which alone a meaning is required” (PSS 23:33; translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude). In chap. 12, Kant is mentioned twice (and Schopenhauer once) as the source of Tolstoy’s belief that reason cannot prove the existence of God (PSS 23:44). 15 See Archer, “Tolstoy’s ‘God Sees the Truth, but Waits’: A Reflection,” Religious Studies 21 (1985): 76ff. I disagree with Archer about what is being represented in the story. For Archer, it is Aksyonov’s example, while I argue that it is his experience. Tellingly, Archer relies on the Maude’s translation of the story, which uses Chertkov’s “correction” of Aksyonov’s speech (discussed above in note 3) that makes the character more religiously correct. 16 The Kingdom of God Is within You, PSS 28:83. For the more extended Rousseauian response to secular thought, see PSS 28:81–84. 17 L.  D.  Opul′skaya, Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy, Materialy k biografii s 1866 po 1892 god [Leo Tolstoy: Biographical Materials, 1866–1892] (Moscow: Nauka, 1979), 69. 18 Jahn in “A Structural Analysis,” 85, calls the work “a miniature theodicy—an explanation of the existence of evil in God’s world,” and I agree. For a related argument, see Richard Clark Sterne, Dark Mirror: The Sense of Injustice in Modern European and American Literature (New York: Fordham University Press, 1994), 78.


Tolstoy’s Unorthodox Catechesis: English Novels Liza Knapp


olstoy’s take on Christianity is original—sui generis. Still, Richard Gustafson and others have revealed Eastern Christian roots in Tolstoy’s theology; Pål Kolstø and others set forth the holy fool, the elder, and the wanderer (rather than pilgrim) as native models for Tolstoy’s religious persona; Milan Markovitch and others found the blueprint for Tolstoy’s religious program in the work of his master Rousseau and, especially, in the profession of faith of his Savoyard Vicar; Nikolai Berdyaev and others labeled his religious mindset in some respects “more akin to Buddhism than to Christianity.” Tolstoy himself cited Siutaev and Bondarev, two religious thinkers from the folk, as inspirations, even mentors; his debt to the Sermon on the Mount and the Gospels is universally acknowledged (even by Tolstoy himself ).1 Tolstoy clearly drew on a multitude of sources as he fashioned a faith that he could live by. In what follows, my focus will be on how novels—especially English ones—inspired and shaped Tolstoy’s quest for faith. Tolstoy read a lot of novels and they all left their residue. Novels vital to the young Tolstoy’s literary apprenticeship also captured his religious imagination. Their spiritual influence began early and continued. Even if Tolstoy at various points disparaged the novel, d­ ismissed it as a Western form unfit for Russian truth, and swore off of practice of the genre (after having written two works that are generally recognized as great novels), his relationship with the novel is probably best characterized as one of lovehate. Thus, in What Is Art?, as he disparages novels for their obsessive c­ oncern with sex, especially adultery, he nevertheless included a handful of novels as he


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attempted to come up with examples of “good art in our time,” that is, art that conveyed and promoted love of God and of neighbor.2 My focus here is on English novelists, including novelists of the ­nineteenth-century heights of the English novel, Thackeray, Dickens, and George Eliot, often acknowledged as his favorites, but also novelists a­ ssociated with the early rise of the novel in England, including William Defoe and Laurence Sterne, and their forerunner John Bunyan.3 First, a few words about why English novels inspired Tolstoy in his quest for faith. This is not to say that they satisfied his spiritual yearnings. One of the raps on the English novel, in contradistinction, say, to the French, is that it encodes not just family values, but also religious feeling. According to generalizations popular in Tolstoy’s time and beyond, the French novel was known for its liaisons dangereuses and for its “godless” naturalism. This view was presented most eloquently by the typologist of European novels, Melchior de Vogüé, in Le Roman russe, an early attempt to characterize the Russian novel as a national brand. De Vogüé argues that the affinity between English and Russian novels is their God-seeking quality, which he found lacking in the French novel.4 As de Vogüé’s comments suggest, Tolstoy’s fellow Russian novelists themselves used the novel for religious purposes. Although my focus in this essay is on the impact of English novels on Tolstoy’s spiritual development, Dostoevsky, Gogol, and Pushkin hover in the background (and haunted Tolstoy’s religious consciousness); but they, too, had their English godparents. The English point of view, as discovered by this generation of nineteenth-century Russian writers, played a role in the rise of the God-seeking novel in Russia.5 In 1835 Pushkin reworked the opening of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in verse form, calling it “The Wanderer” (rather than “The Pilgrim”).6 As Dostoevsky indicated in his “Pushkin speech” (1880), the material was alien to the spirit of Orthodoxy: Just recall the strange verses: “Once, wandering ‘midst a valley wild . . . ” This is almost a literal reworking of the first three pages of a strange, mystical book written in prose by one ancient English religious sectarian—but is it merely a reworking? In the melancholy and rapturous music of these verses one senses the very soul of northern Protestantism, of an English heresiarch whose mysticism knew no bounds, with his dull, gloomy, and compelling strivings and with all the unchecked force of mystical visions. Reading these strange verses [of Pushkin], you seem to sense the spirit of the age

Tolstoy’s Unorthodox Catechesis: English Novels of the Reformation; you begin to understand this militant fire of incipient Protestantism; you begin to understand, finally, the history itself, and understand it not only rationally but as though you had been there yourself, as though you had passed through the armed camp of sectarians, as though you had sung hymns with them, as though you had wept with them in their mystical ecstasies, and as though you had shared their beliefs.7

Dostoevsky goes on, attempting to make his Dostoevskyan case for Pushkin as the protean, chameleonic Russian, who knows no national or creedal boundaries, who inhabits and transcends them all, and who will utter the ultimate word of “brotherly love” and the ultimate expression of “Christ’s gospel.” In the process, Dostoevsky documents a pattern according to which an unorthodox English Protestant spirit makes its way into Russian classics. Whether it is Pushkin appropriating Pilgrim’s Progress, Gogol as the new Russian Sterne (according to Pushkin), Dostoevsky channeling Dickens, whom he referred to as that “great Christian,” Russian writers drew on English models for novelizing religious experience. Like Dickens, they sought to create art that imitated “the ways of Providence.”8

THE NOVEL IN ENGLAND: RELIGION BY OTHER MEANS If the “English point of view” had such a profound impact on Russian novelists and most especially on Tolstoy, it has a lot to do with the way the English Bible (and, by extension, what Dostoevsky, in his typical way, refers to as “the soul of Protestantism” or its “militant fire”) haunts English novels, so that they’re all about pilgrims’ progress, so that they depict Vanity Fair, so that they narrate in parables, so that they show how hard it is to live gospel-wise even—or especially—in England, so that they show that while the parish constable wears the emblem of the Good Samaritan healing the bruised man on his brass buttons, the charity provided under the Poor Laws or even under the auspices of the Church fell far short of the gospel example. To be sure, English novels present varieties of religious experience: but what mattered to Tolstoy and the Russians is the degree to which they focus on real religious experience.9 Although in its early stages the novel was suspect as a secular form and although the novel has been popularly regarded as a genre that describes “a universe abandoned by God” (Georgy Lukacs; my emphasis), many scholars of the English novel note its concern with faith and its close ties to the Bible. Thus, the rise of the novel in England in the eighteenth century, followed by its ascendancy



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as a form in the nineteenth century, is closely linked not only to factors such as “economic individualism” (as described by Ian Watt), but also to religious experience. Translation of the Bible into vernacular English, by Tyndale in 1534 (the King James version following in 1611) contributed to its impact on the English public and the English novel. The Bible came to be regarded as a polysemous and even polyphonic text, open to interpretation of individual readers. These acts of interpretation do not, however, necessarily intimate the death of God or loss of faith.10 That English novelists knew their Bibles is critical to the tradition and this is true from proto-novelist Bunyan, through Defoe and Sterne, to Thackeray, Dickens, and others. It includes Maryanne Evans, who had been raised Anglican, had gone through a period of evangelical rebellion, before settling into her p­ rofessed agnosticism, translating Strauss (Life of Jesus) and Feuerbach (Essence of Christianity), rethinking biblical hermeneutics, only u­ ltimately to christen herself George Eliot and, starting with Scenes of the Clerical Life, to write novels in which religious experience often figures prominently. George Eliot’s Adam Bede was one of the handful of novels singled out by Tolstoy in What Is Art? as good art because they promote love of neighbor and love of God. In an early episode in Adam Bede (chap. 6), one that I suspect spoke to Tolstoy in a very direct way, Dinah Morris’s aunt (a surrogate mother to this orphan) tells Dinah—a Wesley-style evangelical preacher—that she needs to “settle down like any other woman in her senses, instead o’ wearing yourself out, with walking and preaching, and giving away every penny you get.” Dinah’s aunt is convinced that Dinah’s understanding of religion is misguided: “And all because you’ve got notions i’ your head about religion more nor what’s i’ the Catechism and the Prayer-book.” Dinah’s immediate response is: “But not more than what’s in the Bible, aunt.” Her aunt then insists that Dinah has misinterpreted the Bible because the authorities (“them as know best what’s in the Bible—the parsons and people as have got nothing to do but learn it”) do not tell people to behave the way Dinah does. As George Eliot presents it, the conflict is between the aunt’s t­ raditional Anglican piety, which bows to the authority of catechism, ­prayer-book, clergy, and to the way of the world, and her Methodist niece’s evangelical faith, according to which she acts on her own inspired ­interpretation of Christ’s t­ eachings, as recorded in the Bible. The aunt tells Dinah that “if e­ verybody was to do like you . . . the world must come to a standstill,” and everybody would cease “bringing up their families, and laying by against a bad harvest.” She therefore concludes that Dinah’s “can’t be the right religion.”

Tolstoy’s Unorthodox Catechesis: English Novels

Here you have, in dialogic form, a conflict at the heart of Tolstoy’s thought, art, and life: to what degree does following Jesus’s teachings and living ­gospel-wise mean breaking with the social order and institutional Christianity? In some ways, George Eliot’s Dinah Morris could be seen as an English g­ odmother to Tolstoy’s Nekhliudov in Resurrection in that she visits prisons (doing Jesus’s bidding in Matthew). (When she, however, prays with Hetty on death row, she does something that Tolstoy’s Nekhliudov is not inspired—or licensed by Tolstoy—to do.) Yet, Adam Bede is, ultimately, the tale of the domestication of Dinah Morris whose preaching from the start may be subjected to gentle irony; she ends as Adam Bede’s wife, an angel in the house, no longer allowed to preach, where once she made others hear the angels sing.

THE BIBLE IN RUSSIAN: RUSSIANS HOUSES AND SOULS LEFT DESOLATE The Bible, which inflected the language of English novels, inspired the ­imaginations of their authors, and is often read and interpreted by the ­protagonists, played a different—and seemingly more remote and controlled— role in Tolstoy’s Russian Orthodox milieu.11 Russian Orthodox gained familiarity with the Bible through formal religious education and what was read in Church Slavonic in the liturgy. Translation of the complete Bible into the vernacular Russian began in a spirit of ecumenical cooperation under Alexander I by the Russian Bible Society (with help from the “English and Foreign Bible Society”); the New Testament was translated and published, but official support for its dissemination and for translation of the Old Testament waned; the project was halted under Nicholas I, and only started up again under Alexander II. The Russian Synodal version was published in 1876. Even when the Bible was available in Russian, the expectation remained that Orthodox believers should read it in the spirit of the Church and interpret it according to Holy Tradition rather than according to one’s own conscience.12 Later in life, Tolstoy became an advocate of religious freedom and a champion of the rights of sectarians and others to read and interpret the Bible without fear. In Resurrection Tolstoy draws attention to the persecution of Bible-reading sectarians and others who, to Nekhliudov’s dismay, could, according to Article 196 of the Russian law code, be condemned to Siberia simply “for reading the Bible with others”—that is, “if one can only prove that in reading the Bible he took the liberty of explaining it to others not as sanctioned, and so condemned the explanations given by the Church.”13



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Bible reading did not permeate traditional Russian Orthodox piety to the degree that it did the forms of Protestantism represented in English novels. This makes it all the more remarkable that the Bible became so vital to the life and art of Tolstoy—as it did, under very different circumstances and to very different effect—to the life and art of Dostoevsky.14 Tolstoy declared the Gospels, along with Rousseau, to have had a ­profound impact on him from early on. However, his letters and journals, which document his interest in prayer, faith, and religious experience, suggest that Bible reading was more of an event than a practice. Thus, for example, in a letter of March 28 / April 9, 1857, Tolstoy mentions reading the Gospels in a letter he wrote to Turgenev, but left unsent, on arriving in Geneva after fleeing Paris, where he had witnessed an execution by the guillotine. (Tolstoy would identify this experience as a turning point in his spiritual life in his later A Confession.) Tolstoy writes: I sat all evening alone in my hotel room looking at the moonlit night and the lake, and then I mechanically opened a book, and the book was the Gospels, which the Societé Biblique puts in every room here. And now I feel so terribly happy that I could cry, and I’m glad to feel that in such a mood I constantly think of you and wish you as great, if not greater happiness. I spent one and a half months in Sodom [Paris], and there is a great accumulation of filth in my soul: two whores, and the guillotine, and idleness and vulgarity.15

Twice over the next couple of days Tolstoy mentioned in his journal taking up and reading the Gospels (PSS 47:123).16 A few years later, in late April / early May 1859, writing from Yasnaya Polyana to Alexandrine Tolstoy, his confidante about religious matters, in what he h­ imself acknowledged as a profession de foi and a cry for faith, Tolstoy wrote of having struggled for the past two years (thus, from 1857) and attaining “heights of thought,” and finally coming to something of a credo. Tolstoy explains: “I discovered something old and simple, but something I now know in a way no one else does—I discovered that there is immortality, that there is love, and that one must live for others in order to be happy for all eternity. These discoveries amazed me by their resemblance to the Christian religion.” So then, he reports, he turned to the Bible: “I began to look for them in the Gospels, and found little. I didn’t find God, or the Redeemer, or the sacraments, nothing; and I searched with all, absolutely all the powers of my soul, and wept, and tormented myself, and craved for nothing but the truth.”17

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Throughout the spring of 1859, after being disappointed by his reading of the Gospels, Tolstoy continued to seek faith. In a letter sent a month later to Alexandrine Tolstoy, he shared with her a revelation, he had discovered what he enthusiastically referred to as “a moral and religious book.” Tolstoy declared: “Blessed are those who, like the English imbibe Christian teaching with their milk, and in such a lofty, purified form as evangelical Protestantism.”18 The book in question was George Eliot’s first work of fiction, Scenes of the Clerical Life. Tolstoy was enthralled. This is not to say that he found Jesus or was a closet Protestant or Evangelical (he was wary of any talk of Jesus as savior): he recognized that their form of the Christian idea may not have been right for him. What is revealing here is his sense that the Russian Orthodoxy Tolstoy imbibed with his milk left him spiritually hungry. There was something enthralling to him about the English novelization of the struggle to live gospel-wise, based as it was, in fact, on personal interaction with the Bible. This was something he had not yet experienced—he “found little” in the Gospels. Also notable, especially in view of Tolstoy’s subsequent claims about the impact of the Gospels on him as a young man, is another letter of 1860, again to Alexandrine Tolstoy, written when Tolstoy was again in Switzerland at the time of his brother’s death. Tolstoy wrote, “I will fulfill your wish that I read the Gospels. I do not have a copy now, but your very good friend Olga Dundukova has promised to give me one” (December 6, 1860, no. 187, PSS 60:362). Tolstoy does not follow up to say whether Dundukova provided him with the Gospels—or what the effect was if she did. This reference to gospel-reading, like that in the letter to Turgenev from Geneva of 1857, suggests that both the act of reading the Gospels and the fact of having access to a copy registered as events and were associated with special circumstances. It should be mentioned that Tolstoy did use the Bible to great effect in his peasant schools and later attempts to produce literature for the Russian people. Moreover, as is well known, in his period of intense religious searching after he finished Anna Karenina, Tolstoy immersed himself in serious reading of the Bible and in “harmonizing” the four Gospels in an attempt, as he saw it, to ­provide an authentic and unadulterated version. Tolstoy’s own foray into Bible commentary, redaction, and translation reveals what may be seen as an affinity with William Tyndale. He devoted his work and sacrificed his life to battling the church for being in cahoots with the state, for violating Christ’s teaching, and for controlling interpretation of God’s word. Translating the Bible into English and making it accessible to all the faithful was vital to his project. His dream, as he put it, was for “a plough boy”



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to come to know more of the scriptures than officials of the Church. In his own way, Tolstoy devoted himself to acquainting the “plough boys” of Russia with the scriptures and to defying temporal authorities in the process.

TOLSTOY THE PREACHER: SERMONIZING AT SEVASTOPOL AND BEYOND Although the young Tolstoy had not yet come to know the Bible intimately, he incorporated into his writing what has been identified as a sermonic mode. It surfaces most notably in “Sevastopol in May,” in the narrator’s monologues about the vanity of the officers’ concerns—they strive for earthly rewards in the form of “Annas and Vladimirs” (Russian medals of honor)—while “the angel of death has hovered unceasingly” above them, while the sun rises again and then sets. Tolstoy’s narrator bemoans the loss of life, but adds a disturbing note to his lament about all human toil being for naught when he remarks that “the question not resolved by diplomats is being settled even less by powder and blood.”19 Boris Eikhenbaum observes that these monologues sound like sermons and argues that the new sermonic or preacherly mode that Tolstoy developed in “Sevastopol in May” was “an artistic discovery” critical to the development of Tolstoy’s style.20 In the words of Eikhenbaum, the author “holds forth as an orator, as a sermonist—he does not narrate, nor does he even describe, but rather he declaims, he sermonizes.” According to Eikhenbaum, when Tolstoy’s narrator is in this sermonizing mode, he “does not identify with any of his characters and does not participate in the events,” “nor is he an observer any longer”; he is rather “a sermonist, a judge, whose voice does not mingle in, but overpowers [the voices of the characters], and sounds in the silence like the voice not even of an outsider, but of a being from another world.”21 The sermonic narrative voice, which emerges in “Sevastopol in May” “as if from another world,” will return to haunt Tolstoy’s fiction— and it will take over, most famously, in Resurrection. (For example, Michael Holquist used the term “preachy” to describe the narration there—and elsewhere in Tolstoy.)22 Eikhenbaum mentions in a footnote to his observation about the sermonic narration in “Sevastopol in May” that Tolstoy had tried his own hand at writing sermons in 1851.23 Tolstoy’s attempts, composed during an Easter week in which he also prepared for communion, have not survived (PSS 46:58, 60, 301). Tolstoy’s diary indicates that he continued to be interested in the

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sermon as a form of literary persuasion: on November 22, 1853, he comments on the potential of the sermon as a means of “religious education of our lower class”—provided the sermonist is able to “sacrifice his authorial self-love” (PSS 46:204). Tolstoy’s composition of sermons in 1851 and his remarks about ­sermons in 1853 indicate his keen interest in the genre. What inspired Tolstoy to sermonize as he wrote? Certainly, sermons were an important medium in Orthodoxy, from those of Byzantine greats, like John Chrysostom, to those of Filaret (1782–1867), the Metropolitan of Moscow, a renowned sermonist (and also the author of the catechism and a staunch supporter of translation of the Bible into Russian.) As Dmitry Likhachev has observed, Russian literature in its early stages, from the eleventh through the sixteenth centuries, tended to be sermonic. Tolstoy’s Russian literary forerunners also might have inspired him: Tolstoy admired Karamzin for his interest in moral education, and was familiar with Gogol’s preaching in his Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends (1847) and his way of occasionally incorporating sermonic elements into his other fiction. (Unlike many readers, Tolstoy, in fact, was somewhat taken with the preachy Gogol.) But Tolstoy clearly also had non-Orthodox English inspiration for ­sermon-writing. The often sermonic quality in English novels may owe ­something to the fact that key early practitioners, like John Bunyan and Laurence Sterne, were masters of the sermon form. Sterne, referred to by the young Tolstoy as his “favorite writer” (in 1851, August, the summer of the same year in which, at Easter, he had tried his own hand at sermons), was a renowned author of ­sermons. As Peter Rudy has argued, Tolstoy’s reading of Laurence Sterne fed his interest in writing fiction; “A History of Yesterday” was ­written under what Rudy calls his “apprenticeship” to Sterne.24 Of special interest here is Rudy’s ­evidence that the young Tolstoy was familiar with the sermons (as well as the fiction) of Sterne. He appears to have used them to learn English. Furthermore, Rudy notes that this reading appears to have piqued Tolstoy’s interest in the sermon as a ­literary (and religious) mode and sparked imitation.25 Thus, insofar as he soaked in the poetics of his “favorite writer,” Tolstoy would have appreciated (even as he worried about digressive tendencies) not only the Sternian interest in the inner workings of the mind and the Sternian violations of Aristotelian poetics, but also Sterne’s homiletics.26 What appeared in unadulterated form in Sterne’s actual sermons was manifest in attenuated form in Sterne’s fiction, where it is often laced with irony. Tolstoy’s tendency to sermonize, even in his fiction, which sometimes results in him sounding “preachy,” has roots in Sterne and in the English tradition.



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VANITY FAIR AT SEVASTOPOL ON THE BRINK OF THE GRAVE Among the other novelists who appear to have inspired the young Tolstoy’s sermonizing from Sevastopol is William Makepeace Thackeray.27 Thackeray himself sermonized periodically in his novels, even while insisting that sermons do not belong in novels. Tolstoy had been reading a lot of Thackeray during the siege.28 And Tolstoy alludes to him in “Sevastopol in May,” in the midst of a sermonic passage on vanity: Vanity! vanity! vanity! everywhere, even on the brink of the grave and among men ready to die for a noble cause. Vanity! It seems to be the characteristic feature and special malady of our time. How is it that among our predecessors no mention was made of this passion, as of small-pox and cholera? How is it that in our time there are only three kinds of people: those who, considering the principle of vanity to be an inevitably existing fact and therefore justifiable, freely submit to it; those who regard it as a sad but unavoidable condition; and those who act unconsciously and slavishly under its influence? Why did the Homers and Shakespeares speak of love, glory, and suffering, while the literature of today is an endless story of “Snobs” and “Vanity”?29

Tolstoy in “Sevastopol” uses the Russian word for vanity that is used in Vanity Fair (tshcheslavie) rather than the one used in Russian translations of ­vanities from Ecclesiastes (sueta). In fact, it is possible that any apparent traces of Ecclesiastes in Tolstoy’s Sevastopol are filtered through Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.30 The preacher’s “sermon” which is Ecclesiastes subjects to radical ­critical inquiry all forms of “received wisdom,” all conventions, all illusions.31 It is a defamiliarizing text, meant to make it impossible to return, unscathed, to normal life: in this respect, the spirit of Ecclesiastes haunts Tolstoy’s fiction, from Sevastopol to Resurrection. Thackeray appears to have been the intermediary as Tolstoy incorporated the mood and style of Ecclesiastes into his “epic of Sevastopol.” Death and vanity, obsessions of the preacher in Ecclesiastes, permeate Thackeray’s novel, as they do Tolstoy’s tale, in which he reminds us that “the angel of death has been hovering ceaselessly over Sevastopol for months” and ends “Sevastopol in May” by having us contemplate a pile of bloody corpses. Within the tale, Tolstoy shows those depicted in relationship to this angel and that pile of corpses: even if everyone, as a survival or coping mechanism tries to

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ignore them both and seems to forget his own mortality. Thackeray did the same thing in Vanity Fair and elsewhere. For Thackeray, in the words of Jack Rawlins, “the basic vanity is a forgetting of one’s own mortality.”32 According to Rawlins, the deaths, and reminders of death, that punctuate Thackeray’s novels have the effect of making us read differently: in the face of death, “the fundamental reading force—what is going to happen? —becomes an absurd question.” This introduces a sense of futility (or “vanity”) into plot and undoes assumptions readers tend to make about virtue being rewarded and vice punished.33 Tolstoy creates the same dynamic in “Sevastopol in May,” where he frustrates the reader’s impulses to look for rhyme or reason: we may try to invent rationalizations for who lives and who dies, but “The wise dies with the fool” and Tolstoy, like Thackeray, makes this, too, a vain reading strategy, like chasing the wind. Tolstoy scholars may think of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair first and foremost as a precursor to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, that non-novel and anti-novel that Tolstoy presented as having no comparables. If Tolstoy philosophizes and repeats himself in War and Peace, as Flaubert famously remarks, and if he preaches and sermonizes in War and Peace as well, he may have learned all this from Vanity Fair, even if Thackeray’s manner is more ironic than Tolstoy’s. However, Vanity Fair serves as a model because it is the English novel’s attempt to contain and police Bonaparte, known within as Boney, to put him in his place and to cut him down to size. In Vanity Fair, Thackeray shows his protagonists mired in Vanity Fair but at the same time suggests that Bonaparte and the values he embodies are antithetical to the ideals of English Christendom. In War and Peace, Tolstoy plays on the Russian impulse to see Napoleon as the antichrist: the equation is made for effect by Anna Pavlovna Scherer in her salon in the opening paragraph of the novel, and then by Princess Maria’s God’s folk, those Russian-style pilgrims, that is, destinationless wanderers, who are, along with Kutuzov and Karataev, Russia’s real answer to the problem of Napoleon. Still, in Tolstoy’s book, Napoleon is not just Napoleon, the world-historical threat, the invader of the Russian motherland. He is also the threat to the Russian soul. As Pushkin wrote, “we’re all little Napoleons, selfishly regarding ourselves as all that matters and everyone else just as instruments or tools to exploit.” In other words, Napoleonic values, which have captured the imagination and turned the heads of the younger generation especially, from Andrei Bolkonsky to Pierre Bezukhov and even to Nikolai Rostov, threaten Christian values and could make Russia, like the rest of Europe, into year-round ­century-long Vanity Fair.



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The process of revealing the anti-Christian dimension to Napoleon also began in Sevastopol when Tolstoy, echoing Pushkin, most obviously, but also Thackeray, wrote that, It is all very well to call some conqueror a monster because he destroys millions to gratify his ambition, but go and ask any Ensign Petrushev, ­Sub-Lieutenant Antonov, or anyone else, on their conscience, and you will find that every one of us is a little Napoleon, a petty monster ready to start a battle and kill a hundred men merely to get an extra medal or one-third additional pay.34

The Napoleon on everyone’s mind in Sevastopol was le petit (as Victor Hugo dubbed him), but Tolstoy’s point is clear: large or small, Napoleon embodied the antithesis of Christian spiritual values.

PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, WANDERER’S PROCESS John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress figures, along with Vanity Fair as an inspiration for Tolstoy’s sermonizing in the spirit of Ecclesiastes and for his plaints about the vanity of earthly endeavors. Even while he channels the mood and m ­ essage of Ecclesiastes, Thackeray names his novel after the Vanity Fair that John Bunyan’s hero named Christian had to pass through—and tear himself away from—in order to reach the Celestial City in Pilgrim’s Progress. What Tolstoy himself knew of Pilgrim’s Progress while in Sevastopol is hard to say, although there is evidence that he knew about it later. Scholars also assume that Tolstoy would have known Pushkin’s rendering of the first segment of Pilgrim’s Progress in “The Wanderer” even before becoming acquainted with Bunyan’s original version.35 Scholars have recognized in the plots of some of Tolstoy’s later works (and Tolstoy’s own departure from Yasnaya Polyana before his death) a paradigm that recalls Pilgrim’s Progress, especially in Pushkin’s version. Dmitry Blagoi and others have identified the common ground as the motif of the hero’s escape or flight from “normal” life.36 Among the works in which the Tolstoyan ­husband, pater familias, or bachelor seeker leaves home (or just talks about it), “Memoirs of a Madman” (published after Tolstoy’s death) is seen to be especially Bunyanesque; and Inessa Medzhibovskaya has noted that Levin in part 8 of Anna Karenina, as he wanders in his spiritual desperation in search of God recalls Pushkin’s and Bunyan’s pilgrim/wanderer.37 Also important to the correspondences between Tolstoy and Christian, Bunyan’s pilgrim, is the question Christian posed early on, as he stood “with his

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face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back,” and, as he opened his book and “read therein,” he “wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, ‘What shall I do?’” (In Pushkin’s version, the line is “What shall I do? What will become of me?” [Chto delat´ budu ia? chto stanetsia so mnoi?].) This was a question that tormented the heroes of Tolstoy’s fiction and Tolstoy himself. His treatise, What Then Must We Do? [1886] was an attempt at an answer. Ultimately, these questions have origins in the Bible (for example, in Luke 3:10, John the Baptist is asked “What shall we do then?” and answers that those with clothing and food should share what they have; or in Acts 2:37, Peter is asked, “What shall we do?” and answers, “Repent…”), but, in asking what is to be done, Tolstoy joins a chorus that already included Bunyan’s pilgrim and Pushkin’s wanderer.38 When first seen despairing, facing away from his house, and asking “What shall I do,” Bunyan’s Christian has that book in hand, which, although not named as such, is taken to be the Bible. Christian’s flight from his home and family seems to be what he, interpreting this book, has determined he must do, even though he weeps and trembles in doing so.39 As Grabichevskii notes, Pushkin makes a telling change in his version: whereas Bunyan’s Christian has the Bible in hand, Pushkin’s nameless wanderer has no book in hand.40 Indeed, this change fits Pushkin’s Russian context in which a desperate pater familias would not be walking around carrying and reading a Bible; nor would he even have one. But then Pushkin puts a book, presumably the Bible, in the hands of a youth that the wanderer meets: this youth, who offers guidance to the ­wanderer, is the analogue to a character named Evangelist who ends up g­ uiding Christian. To add to the Tolstoy-Bunyan connection, Williams James in his Varieties of Religious Experience discusses them consecutively in a way that suggests that he considers these two “sick souls” not to each be sick in his own way, but to be on some level the same.41 Thus, at least from the point of view of James, Tolstoy’s variant of religious experience has some of the traits associated with Bunyan’s English variant of religious experience: if Pushkin, according to Dostoevsky in the passage quoted above, somehow could channel “the Protestant soul” of Bunyan in his “Wanderer,” then maybe Tolstoy did so as well.

FAMILY UNHAPPINESS, ENGLISH PILGRIMS, RUSSIAN GOD’S PEOPLE Given the view, set forth by Boris Eikhenbaum, citing Tolstoy’s friend Nikolai Strakhov, that Tolstoy turned to the English novel for its celebration of family



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values (and turned away from the French novel for its desecration thereof), it is interesting that this same English tradition or at least what is sometimes regarded as the first English novel, Pilgrim’s Progress, is a source of the motif of the flight from family—as the first step on the path to doing what is needful for faith. This call to leave home is a commonplace in Eastern and Western saints’ lives as well; in the Gospels, Jesus himself speaks of the need to leave family behind and he declares his mother and brethren to be those who hear his word. But Bunyan provided a fruitful model for making a novelistic narrative of this experience. Christian, Bunyan’s pilgrim, abandons his family and neighbors, while all protest and try to hold him back. The pilgrim/wanderer realizes that he can’t save his soul by staying home and that saving his soul trumps family responsibility. Thus, he’s a forerunner to the late Tolstoyan hero who foregoes family (un)happiness, seeing it as a diversion from, if not a hindrance to, finding faith and living gospel-wise. As Tolstoy’s late works and last days show, he became all but obsessed with the paradigm of leaving home and family. This motif is in fact there ­earlier. It receives its most haunting expression in Princess Maria in War and Peace: mid-novel, we learn that she in fact dreams of leaving Bald Hills, and hitting the road, not to the Celestial City, checking off her progress as she passes landmarks. Her desire was to take on the life of a wanderer, in imitation of the God’s people she welcomes at Bald Hills. We are told that she had even acquired the clothes of a wanderer and a bundle to carry with her but was held back by her fleshly and earthly love for her father and nephew. Yet, she ­suffers—perhaps even “wept and trembled” like Bunyan’s Christian—because she is not, as she sees it, fulfilling the call to a Christ-like life and love. Then, in the epilogue of War and Peace, married to Nikolai Rostov and mother to her children, she acknowledges her duty to these “nearer” n­ eighbors, that is, her family, a duty that takes precedence over loving neighbors at large. Yet, at the same time, Tolstoy shows Maria bemoaning her inability to love even her nephew as her own, in accordance with Christ’s commandment. Thus, in the midst of what is often taken to be a celebration of family happiness, Tolstoy casts the shadow. Tolstoy’s versions of the pilgrim plot differ from—or stop short of— Bunyan’s in one revealing way. Whereas Tolstoy’s variant seems to take a bleak view of the possibility of family happiness, Bunyan gives his Pilgrim’s Progress a Second Part. Thus, Christiana, Christian’s wife, and their children, that family that had tried to hold Christian back and could not understand what ­tormented him, decide ultimately that they too want to leave home and set off on their p­ ilgrimage. It all ends with Christiana joyously passing through

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the Gate, p­ resumably to join Christian, and with their sons, their wives and ­children still alive and settled in a new form of family happiness “for the increase of the Church.” Bunyan thus provides a happy ending, fitting the English novelistic paradigm of a happy ending. Tolstoy, however, remains true to his Russian roots and eschewed the “All’s well that ends well” he associated with the English novel.

“I WAS IN PRISON AND YE CAME UNTO ME”: RESURRECTION AND THE ENGLISH NOVEL Resurrection, Tolstoy’s last novel (or penultimate if we consider Hadji Murat a novel) is known for its “preachiness,” or for being “socio-ideological.”42 In other words, the sermonic mode that charmed Tolstoy’s readers as he preached from Sevastopol as a young man has turned into a jeremiad. Tolstoy condemns all aspects of the world Nekhliudov inhabits, from high society, to courtship and family happiness, to the courts, and, finally, the penal system. In taking on the penal system, Tolstoy—unlike Dostoevsky, whose Dead House (1861) was an insider’s docu-fictional account, and Anton Chekhov, whose recent Island of Sakhalin (1893–94) was based on his firsthand observation— had to rely on the accounts of others. To write Resurrection, Tolstoy read up on prisons, social theory and practice. Dickens was, along with Hugo, Stendhal and others, among Tolstoy’s important forerunners in addressing this subject matter in the novel.43 Brian Rosenberg has found in Tolstoy’s Resurrection elements that recall Dickens’s prison novel Little Dorrit.44 To be sure, Tolstoy outdoes Dickens: the conditions Dickens describes at Marshalsea Prison are swank compared to jail in Russia or prison camp in Siberia; and Nekhliudov’s “moral nausea” at the conditions goes far beyond the Dickensian strains. Rosenberg detects a Dickensian aura in the narration of Resurrection. In doing so, he draws attention to a common feature of their critiques: he observes that both Dickens and Tolstoy have “been accused, with some justification, of lacking what Isaiah Berlin calls the ‘positive vision,’ the ability not only to expose existing social evils but to suggest specific, viable, social reforms.”45 Within the English novel, the chronotope of the prison visit is associated not just with social commentary on the carceral continuum, but also with ­religious reflection on judgment and Christian duty to answer Jesus’s call to minister to those in prison (Matthew 25). Thus, for example, in Adam Bede, Adam observes that, “Methodists are great folks for going into the prisons.” And,



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following this English pattern, Nekhliudov’s role of prisoners’ a­ dvocate e­ ventually takes on a religious dimension. Early on, he was out to upset a ­wrongful conviction for Maslova: he is motivated by his personal guilt for having ruined Maslova, a peasant ward of his aunt’s. In his youth, he had seduced her and then he abandoned her when she was pregnant, only to find himself, years later, on the jury that, due in part to his negligence, lets her get convicted of a murder she did not mean to commit. But, increasingly, as Resurrection progresses, Tolstoy makes Nekhliudov’s advocacy on the part of the prisoners and his mounting critique of the system into a religious mission—the answer to the question of what he should do. Nekhliudov comes to the realization that “once you allow—if only for an hour or in some exceptional circumstance or case—that there can be anything more important than a feeling of love for our fellow human beings, then there is no crime that we may not commit with easy minds, free from feelings of guilt” (381). Especially given the fact that the Russian word Tolstoy’s Nekhliudov uses here (chelovekoliubie) has a religious aura, Tolstoy makes Nekhliudov’s Bildung, if not his resurrection, there in Siberia into a religious awakening, perhaps even to the gospel as preached by Jesus. Later, we witness Nekhliudov taking up a Bible—and reading it. The novel ends with a series of quotations from the Gospels interspersed with Nekhliudov’s thoughts about them. This ending has annoyed or disappointed many readers. Hugh McLean writes: “The novel’s sudden fadeout in a long series of Gospel quotations seems hardly justified. That at any rate was the judgment of Chekhov. Though he liked the book calling it ‘a remarkable work of art,’ he objects that, ‘The novel has no ending. . . . To write so much and then suddenly make a Gospel text responsible for it all smacks a bit too much of the seminary.’”46 Yet, in many respects, this often-maligned non-ending of an oftenmaligned novel may be seen as Tolstoy’s homage to the English novel and at the same time his break away from it. The English influence is signaled by the presence of an Englishman. On this last day of the action of Resurrection, Nekhliudov spends a comfortable evening with other members of the ruling classes and a visiting Englishman at a gathering in the home of the general in charge of the prison. In a telling moment, the governor’s daughter, a proud mother, invites Nekhliudov to come admire her children and he feels a pang of wanting family happiness: “I want to live, I want a family, children. I want a human life” (471). (This may recall Bunyan’s Christian, torn between family and pilgrimage.)

Tolstoy’s Unorthodox Catechesis: English Novels

But Nekhliudov forges on, having agreed to accompany the visiting Englishman on a visit to the prison, where he ends up serving as simultaneous interpreter. The Englishman had been touring around, studying transportation and prisons. However, once he gets into the prison, he starts to “preach salvation by faith and the Redemption” and to tell the prisoners about Christ. The prisoners do not seem to respond. However, when he takes out New Testaments in Russian and asks how many in the ward can read, “more than twenty” respond affirmatively, and “many strong hands, with their hard, black nails, stretched out towards him” (474). Demand exceeds supply: he only gives out two in each ward. Nekhliudov and the Englishman encounter “Man” or “Human Being.” (He has no other name.) This “Man” is one of Tolstoy’s remarkable peasant originals, who appear at a rate of one a novel in key moments, as an embodiment of estrangement, there to make it impossible for the main protagonist to accept the way of the world. This man is thus like Grisha the Holy Fool, that truly great Christian in Childhood; like Platon Karataev in War and Peace; and like Fyodor in Anna Karenina, who resurrects Levin’s faith by telling him about a peasant (named Platon) living for the soul, as opposed to the belly. “Man” is a true wanderer, not a pilgrim with a destination. He has no name; as he explains, his only parents are God the Father and Mother Earth. Also he has no Bible. Before parting, Man talks with the Englishman and Nekhliudov about antiChrists, that is, those responsible for the whole carceral continuum; “Man” denies the authority of the government and the penal system. The Bible-toting Englishman declares, in English in Tolstoy’s Russian original, “he is crazy” (476–77), but Tolstoy and Nekhliudov refrain from commenting. This “Man,” declared crazy by the Englishman, is Tolstoy’s ultimate answer to Bunyan’s Christian, to Bunyan’s pilgrim, and to Bunyan’s positivist English belief in progress and his “all’s well that ends well” English mentality. And yet, the Englishman does his part. Later, back in his hotel room, after parting from the Englishman as they contemplate the corpse of Kriltsov, a prisoner who has died from neglect in prison, the guilt being everyone’s and no one’s, Nekhliudov is overcome by the evil. He paces and then we are told he opens a Bible “that the Englishman had given him as a remembrance and that he had thrown on the table when he emptied his pockets on coming in.” He takes it and reads. “‘It is said one can find an answer to everything here,’ he thought, and opening the New Testament at random, he began reading” (478). This moment recalls the culmination of Augustine’s conversion as described in his Confessions: Augustine, in his despair, sits in a garden and hears



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children’s voices telling him to “take it up and read”; he then opens the Bible at random and it moves him.47 But it also recalls a moment from a seminal novel in the English tradition and one familiar to Tolstoy, Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe (the child of Puritan Dissenters). Robinson, a prodigal son, somehow salvaged three Bibles from his sunken ship and eventually, in a dark hour of the soul on his desert isle, takes it and reads, undergoes a conversion, prays for the first time; and then he later teaches Friday to read the Bible in English.48 For all his theological reservations about many manifestations of Protestantism, Tolstoy may have channeled some of “militant fire” of an “English heresiarch” that Dostoevsky identified in Pushkin’s “Wanderer.” Like Tyndale, with his dreams of bringing the scriptures “to the plough boys,” Tolstoy militated against state control of religious freedom. At the very least, Tolstoy’s Resurrection ends with the Tolstoyan hero literally reading the Englishman’s Bible. (Whereas Pushkin had as if taken away the Bible from his wanderer, Tolstoy gives it back.) And Tolstoy’s hero is reading it, interpreting it, his way— neither in English evangelical style, nor according to Russian Orthodox tradition.49 Nekhliudov’s act is all the more meaningful in view of the attention earlier in the novel to the persecution of those who read and interpreted the Bible to others in what were perceived as unorthodox ways (259–60). Although Nekhliudov reads in the privacy of his hotel room and keeps his interpretations to himself (he has no disciples, no converts, no Fridays), Tolstoy went public with Resurrection to preach his point that Russian high society was Vanity Fair and that the Russian criminal justice system violated the teachings of Jesus. From start to finish, from his epigraphs (Matthew 18:21–22, Matthew 7:3, John 8:7, and Luke 6:40) to Nekhliudov’s own readings and comments that provided no closure for Chekhov and smacked “of the seminary,” Tolstoy draws inspiration and support from the Bible. This process of claiming the Bible, of visiting prisons, of preaching, and of refusing a happy ending in the Celestial City in Resurrection shows Tolstoy appropriating and transforming English paradigms as he makes them his own. In the process, he may have liberated himself to finish Hadji Murat.


On Tolstoy’s Eastern Christian roots, see Richard Gustafson, Leo Tolstoy, Resident and Stranger (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986); on the holy fool, the elder, and the wanderer, see Pål Kolstø and Ulrich Schmid, “Fame, Sainthood and Iurodstvo: Patterns of Self-Presentation in Tolstoi’s Life Practice,” Slavic and East European Journal 57

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 2   3   4



 7   8   9


(2013): 525–43; Pål Kolstø, “The Elder at Iasnaia Poliana: Lev Tolstoi and the Orthodox Starets Tradition,” Kritika 9 (2008): 533–54; Pål Kolstø, “‘For Here We Do Not Have an Enduring City’: Tolstoy and the Strannik Tradition in Russian Culture,” Russian Review 69 (2010): 119–34; on Tostoy and Rousseau, see Milan Markovitch, Jean-Jacques Rousseau et Tolstoi (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1928); on Rousseau’s Savoyard Vicar, see Donna T. Orwin, Tolstoy’s Art and Thought, 1847–1880 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); on Tolstoy’s affinities with Buddhism, see Nicholas Berdyaev, The Russian Idea (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962); on Tolstoy’s debt to Siutaev and Bondarev, see Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do? (New York: Scribner’s, 1929). Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art?, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (London: Penguin, 1995), 62, 132. On Bunyan as protonovelist, see Paschal Reeves, “The Pilgrim’s Progress as a Precursor of the Novel,” The Georgia Review 20 (1966): 64–71. Melchior de Vogüé, Le Roman russe (Paris: Plon, 1897), xxxviii-xlviii. Victor Hugo—who numbers among the handful of novelists Tolstoy credits with using the novel to promote love of God and neighbor—comes to mind as an exception to the trend identified by Vogüé. To be sure, the impact of the English on these Russian novelists was multifaceted and not limited to this concern with religion. Thus, for example, as Dostoevsky discusses in his “Pushkin speech,” Pushkin and others had to come to terms with Byron. Pushkin transposed into verse the first stage of Pilgrim’s Progress, which describes Christian’s despair, followed by his decision to leave home and family on his pilgrimage. What Pushkin gains in the process of translation is notable, starting with his choice of the title “Strannik,” a designation that emphasizes the process of wandering as opposed to a goal-oriented pilgrimage. Pushkin might have used the Russian palomnik for pilgrim. In 1881, Iuliia Zasetskaia, the daughter of the poet Davydov, did the first Russian translation directly from the English and called it Puteshestvie piligrima v nebesnuiu stranu [A Journey of the Piligrim to the Heaven Land]. On Russian renderings and echoes of Bunyan, see Gennady Kosyakov, “Bunyan in Russian Literatue,” Bunyan Studies 14 (2010): 96–103. On Pushkin’s version, see Peter Kozdrin, “Bunyan and Pushkin: A Cross-Cultural Dialogue,” Bunyan Studies 14 (2010): 104–14. I am grateful to Robert Davis, of the Columbia Libraries, for his expert help in tracking down these sources. Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Writer’s Diary, trans. Kenneth Lantz, 2 vols. (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1994), 1:1292. Dickens wrote of his art in these terms to Wilkie Collins on October 6, 1859. See Janet Larson, Dickens and the Broken Scripture (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1985), 37. The English novels that Tolstoy read depicted various forms of English Protestantism: from Puritans, Dissenters, Unitarians, Wesleyans, Methodists, Evangelicals, Broad church, non-descript Anglicans, even to High Church Oxford Movement. On “individual experience” as vital to the English novel, see Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001); on the Bible as Victorian literature’s “chief intertext,” see Elisabeth Jay,



Liza Knapp “Introduction” [to Victorian Literature] in The Blackwell Companion to The Bible in English Literature, ed. Rebecca Lemon (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 465–81; on English novels that are “biblical romances,” see Barry V. Qualls, The Secular Pilgrims of Victorian Fiction: The Novel as Book of Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), xi and elsewhere; on the Bible in Victorian life, see Timothy Larsen, A People of One Book: The Bible and the Victorians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); and on the ascent of the novel and the decline of religious authority, see Norman Vance, Bible and Novel: Narrative Authority and the Death of God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 11 This is not to say that Russian Orthodoxy did not offer its own special modes of religious expression with their own profound impact on the form and content of Russian novels. Take, for example, icons: they figure in the action of Russian novels and, furthermore, the theology and aesthetics associated with them have been appropriated by Russian novelists and account for some of the special properties considered to be unique to Russian novels. 12 Sergei Bulgakov explains the Orthodox way of reading the Bible as follows: “We should read the Word of God with faith and veneration in the spirit of the Church. There cannot be, there should not be, any break between Scripture and tradition. No reader of the Word of God can comprehend for himself the inspired character of that which he reads, for to the individual there is not given an organ of such comprehension. Such an organ is available to the reader only when he finds himself in union with all in the Church. The idea that one can himself discern at his own risk and peril, the Word of God, that one may become interlocutor of God is illusory: this Divine Gift is received only from the Church. This gift is received immediately, in its fullness, in union with the Church, in the temple, where the reading of the Word of God is preceded and followed by a special prayer. We there ask God to aid us in hearing His Word and in opening our hearts to his Spirit”; Bulgakov, Orthodox Church, trans. Elizabeth S. Cram (London: Centenary Press, 1935), 22–23. 13 Leo Tolstoy, Ressurection, trans. Louise Maude (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 259–60. For subsequent references to this work, page numbers will be inserted in parenthenses after the citation. 14 As Dostoevsky was proud to recount, his mother taught him to read from an anthology of Bible stories: but this in fact happens to be a Russian translation of the popular “104 Sacred Stories from the Old and New Testaments,” by Johann Huebner, a Lutheran. (The first edition of this work appeared in 1714, in Hamburg.) Dostoevsky already had a Russian New Testament when he was arrested, imprisoned, condemned to death, and then, instead, sent to prison camp in 1849. However, this Russian New Testament was stolen from him. But, en route to prison camp, Dostoevsky had been given another copy of the New Testament in Russian by the Decembrists’ wives. This edition had been published in St. Petersburg in 1823 by the Russian Bible Society. (The provenance of his New Testament possibly gave it a dissident and foreign aura.) As his marginalia attest, Dostoevsky read and responded to it. Religious texts were the only reading material officially allowed in prison camp. (Dostoevsky, however, also managed to read contraband Dickens in the prison hospital).

Tolstoy’s Unorthodox Catechesis: English Novels The interpretation of New Testament scriptures figures in telling ways in Dostoevsky’s novels. For example, in Notes from a Dead House, when the fictional narrator teaches the Muslim Aley to read from his Russian New Testament, together they interpret what they read: Aley admires Jesus as a great prophet and especially appreciates his capacity for forgiveness. In Crime and Punishment, Sonya reads to Raskolnikov the raising of Lazarus from the Russian New Testament that Lizaveta (whose activities included scavenging, clearing out and selling second-hand clothes and possessions) had procured for her—in the scene that Nabokov loved to bash, that is, the murderer and the harlot over the Book. This very New Testament will follow Raskolnikov to Siberia, only to remain unread under his pillow, until the final day of the epilogue, when Raskolnikov appears to undergo a change of heart and take Sonya’s faith as his own. In The Brothers Karamazov, although the reading of the Cana of Galilee in Zosima’s cell is in Church Slavonic, Dostoevsky weaves the Gospels into the fabric of the novel. Thus, his use of the Gospels is dynamic. In this sense, it differs from the use of the Gospels that Bakhtin complained about in some medieval texts where biblical text is a “pious and inert quotation that is isolated and set off like an icon.” Mikhail Bakhtin, “Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse,” in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin, TX, University of Texas Press, 1981), 69. 15 The English translation of this letter is by R. F. Christian, Tolstoy’s Letters, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 1:977–78. 16 See L. N. Tolstoy, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii [The Complete Works], ed. V. G. Chertkov. 90 vols. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1928–58), 47:441 (Subsequent references to this edition of Tolstoy’s works wil be given as PSS, followed by volume and page numbers, in parenthenses after the citation.) Two weeks later, after talking with a certain Petrov, an “ascetic,” Tolstoy wrote, “I ask God to grant me this faith” (PSS 47:127). During this stay in Switzerland, Tolstoy came into contact with a number of English people, including “preacher’s daughters with azure-colored eyes” (PSS 47:141). 17 Tolstoy’s Letters, 1:126. For the Russian, see L. N. Tolstoy to A. A. Tolstaya, May 3, 1859, no. 135, PSS 60:293. 18 L. N. Tolstoy to A. A. Tolstaya, June 12, 1859, no. 141, PSS 60:300–1. 19 Tolstoy, “Sevastopol in May,” in Collected Shorter Fiction, trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude (New York: Alfed A. Knopf, 2001), 1:97. 20 B. M. Eikhenbaum, Lev Tolstoy [Leo Tolstoy] (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1968), 170–77. Eikhenbaum draws attention to the presence of, and the contrast between, the two “styles,” two “tones,” and two modes of narration in “Sevastopol in May.” 21 Ibid., 175. 22 James Michael Holquist, “Resurrection and Remembering: The Metaphor of Literacy in Late Tolstoi,” Canadian-American Slavic Studies 12 (1978): 549. 23 B. M. Eikhenbaum, Molodoi Tolstoy [The Young Tolstoy] (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1968), 123. 24 Peter Rudy, “Lev Tolstoj’s Apprenticeship to Laurence Sterne,” Slavic and East European Journal 15 (1971): 1–21.



Liza Knapp 25 Peter Rudy, “Young Lev Tolstoj’s Acquaintance with Sterne’s Sermons and Griffith’s The Koran,” Slavic and East European Journal 4 (1960): 119–24. 26 On Sterne’s influence on Tolstoy (and on the “inward turn of narrative”), see Irina Paperno, “Who, What Am I?”: Tolstoy Struggles to Narrate the Self (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 18–19. 27 For the influence on the young Tolstoy of Harriet Beecher Stowe, an American novelist who, as a preacher’s daughter, wife, and sister, was attuned to homiletics and incorporated into her novel the poetics and rhetoric of the sermon, see my “Tolstoy’s Sevastopol Tales: Pathos, Sermon, Protest, and Stowe,” in Elizabeth Cheresh Allen, ed., Before They Were Titans: Essays on the Early Works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy (Boston, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2015), 211–66. 28 He mentions doing so in his journal for July 8 and 9, 1854; elsewhere in his journal he complains about the vice of vanity in his own behavior. 29 Tolstoy, “Sevastopol in May,” 101–2. Thackeray wrote The Book of Snobs (where he lampoons English snobbery, much as Tolstoy here lampoons the Russian concern with being an “aristocrat”) and Vanity Fair. 30 Tolstoy wrote as follows to Afanasy Fet of August 31, 1879: “I now have a book to offer you which no one has yet read, and which I read the other day for the first time; and continue to read with exclamations of delight. I hope it will be to your taste, especially as it has much in common with Schopenhauer: it is the Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Wisdom. It would be difficult to find anything more modern; but if you read it, read it in Slavonic. I have a new Russian translation which is very bad.” Tolstoy’s Letters, 1:335. No doubt, Tolstoy was familiar with the gist of Ecclesiastes and with key passages and images before this reading. However, what he writes here makes it seem as though he had been studying it seriously for the first time. Ecclesiastes figures prominently in Tolstoy’s A Confession (1882), which he worked on in 1879–80. 31 I draw on the characterization of Ecclesiastes found in James G. Williams, “Proverbs and Ecclesiastes,” The Literary Guide to the Bible, ed. Robert Alter and Frank Kermode (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), 263–82. 32 Jack P. Rawlins, Thackeray’s Novels: A Fiction That Is True (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974), 213. Tolstoy’s Sevastopol tales include passages reminiscent of the Ecclesiastes-inspired passage below, on the vanity of earthly pursuits in the face of death (from chap. 61 of Vanity Fair): “Perhaps as he [Amelia’s father] was lying awake then, his life may have passed before him—his early hopeful struggles, his manly successes and prosperity, his downfall in his declining years, and his present helpless condition—no chance of revenge against Fortune, which had had the better of him—neither name nor money to bequeath—a spent-out, bootless life of defeat and disappointment, and the end here! Which, I wonder, brother reader, is the better lot, to die prosperous and famous, or poor and disappointed? To have, and to be forced to yield; or to sink out of life, having played and lost the game? That must be a strange feeling, when a day of our life comes, and we say,

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33 34 35




39 40

‘To-morrow, success or failure won’t matter much: and the sun will rise, and all the myriads of mankind go to their work or their pleasure as usual, but I shall be out of the turmoil.’” Ibid., 215. Tolstoy, “Sevastopol in May,” 1:131–32. Two copies of Pilgrim’s Progress were in the Yasnaya Polyana library. Blagoi notes that Tolstoy’s doctor, Dushan Makovitsky, records a 1904 conversation about some Czech mystical text, which Tolstoy disparaged saying that it was “allegory” like Bunyan’s “Journey.” (That Tolstoy claims not to like something is often a sure sign that it had an impact on his creative consciousness.) In regard to Tolstoy’s familiarity with Pushkin’s “The Wanderer,” scholars have not found direct references, but consider it safe to assume that he would have known this important work of Pushkin. See D. D. Blagoi, “Dzhon Ben’ian, Pushkin i Lev Tolstoy” [ John Bunyan, Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy] in Ot Kantermira do nashikh dnei [From Kantemir to the Modern Times] (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1972), 334–65. See D. D. Blagoi, “Dzhon Ben’ian, Puskin i Lev Tolstoi” [ John Bunyan, Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy], in Pushkin: Issledovaniia i materialy [Pushkin: Research and Materials], Vol. 4 (Moscow, The Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1962), 50–74. See also the recent scholarship of Piotr Kozdrin and Gennady Kos′iakov of Omsk State University. They find Bunyanesque motifs in works of fiction as well as Tolstoy’s A Confession and What Then Must We Do. Inessa Medzhibovskaya writes: “The significant changes that Pushkin made to Bunyan’s tale—especially involving the search for meaning and how his family’s reaction affects the conduct of the search—influenced Tolstoy in terms of the structure of part 8 of Anna Karenina and ‘The Memoir of a Madman,’ which conform to the scheme of conversion outlined by Pushkin.” Tolstoy and the Religious Culture of His Time: A Biography of a Long Conversion, 1845–1887 (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2008), 20. In Luke 3:14, when soldiers ask him the question, Jesus ends his directives to them by telling them to do violence to no man; this passage is one of those Tolstoy may have had in mind in “Sevastopol in May” when he asks how those professing to be followers of Christ kill one another. On the centrality for Bunyan of Bible-reading to faith, see Dayton Haskin, “The Burden of Interpretation in The Pilgrim’s Progress,” Studies in Philology 79 (1982): 256–78. Grabichevsky provides a synoptic version of Pushkin’s poem and Bunyan’s original. In a note, he comments on the bookishness of Bunyan’s Christian who is “always reading a book, presumably the Bible.” In analyzing changes Pushkin makes, Grabichevsky comments on the fact that Pushkin’s wanderer has no book: although he notes that Pushkin could be following a translation (in which the hero was without a book), he believes that Pushkin made a conscious choice in taking the book/Bible out of the wanderer’s hands— and putting it in that of the “youth” who replaces Bunyan’s “evangelist.” Insofar as he sees it as a c­ onscious choice, Grabichevsky suggests that Pushkin wanted to mute the allegorical dimension and thus it made sense to replace “Evangelist” with a youth with a book/Bible.



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41 42


44 45 46 47

48 49

See A. Grabichevsky, “‘Strannik’ Pushkina i ego otnoshenie k angliiskomu podlinniku” [Pushkin’s “Wanderer” and Its Relationship to the English Source] in Pushkin i ego sovremenniki: Materialy i issledovania [Pushkin and His Contemporaries: Sources and Researches], no. 19–20 (Petrograd: Tipografiia imperatorskoi akademii nauk, 1914), 45–47. William James, Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1963), 149–58 and 184–88. On its “preachiness,” see James Michael Holquist, “Resurrection and Remembering: The Metaphor of Literacy in Late Tolstoi,” Canadian-American Slavic Studies 12, no. 4 (Winter 1978): 549; In “Predislovie (Voskresenie L. Tolstogo)” [Introduction to Tolstoy’s Resurrection] in Literaturno-kriticheskie stat′i [Literary Criticism] (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1986), 120, Bakhtin calls the novel “socio-ideological.” E.g., in David Copperfield he incorporates (almost as a digression) a visit to a model prison, to show how short it falls of its mission: his critique of the prison system, scathing as it is, is mild and targeted, compared to what Tolstoy subjects us to in Resurrection. Rosenberg, “Resurrection and Little Dorrit: Tolstoy and Dickens Reconsidered,” Studies in the Novel 17 (1985): 27–37. Ibid., 31. Hugh McLean, “Resurrection,” in The Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy, ed. Donna Tussing Orwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 110. The ending of Resurrection also recalls “take it and read” moments at the end of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Demons. Nekhliudov’s act of picking up the Bible in Siberia recalls Raskolnikov’s resurrection in prison camp in Siberia: at the epilogue’s end, during Easter season, he takes out from under his pillow and, presumably, reads the Bible that Sonya, at his request, had given him. Dostoevsky also ends Demons with Stepan Trofimovich setting off on a pilgrimage and taking up and reading—and being moved by—the Bible that he gets from an itinerant Bible-seller, the widowed sister of mercy from Sevastopol. These scenes may, if only remotely, show that Dostoevsky too was inspired by his reading of English [proto-]novels. The Dostoevskian analogue in Notes from a Dead House is Goryanchikov teaching Aley, the Cherkassian Muslim, to read from his Russian New Testament. Tolstoy, famously, was excommunicated in the aftermath of the publication of this novel. On what grounds? His signature device of defamiliarization, set to work in the Communion scene, is thought to have been in part, at least, to blame. And then there is Toporov, in the lampoon of Pobedonostsev, Procurator of the Holy Synod. But perhaps, in fact, this unorthodox mode of individual Bible-reading, smacking as it did within the Russian context of evangelical Protestantism (even if Tolstoy’s Nekhliudov’s theology was not evangelical) and plagiarized from English novels, was another factor that damned him in the eyes of the Church.


Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects” Miran Bozovic

It is possible to read the rest of Tolstoy’s life as a heroic attempt to live as Jesus Christ told his followers that they should live. . . . But it is also possible to read the next thirty years as an extraordinary demonstration of the fact that the Sermon on the Mount is an unlivable ethic, a counsel of craziness which, if followed to its relentless conclusion as Tolstoy tried to follow it, it will lead to the reverse of peace and harmony and spiritual calm which are normally thought of as the concomitants of the religious quest. Tolstoy’s religion is ultimately the most searching criticism of Christianity which there is. He shows that it does not work. —A. N. Wilson1


n this essay, I will discuss Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata (1889) and try to shed light on the moral system of its infamous hero, Pozdnyshev, and particularly on his notion of women as “something dangerous to people.”2 At one point, Pozdnyshev says that he finds the presence of women—good-­ looking and, as a rule, elegantly dressed women—utterly terrifying. He sees in them a threat to himself and society in general, and his immediate reaction upon seeing a good-looking woman is to call the police to protect him from the peril and remove “the dangerous object” (21). If one pictures Pozdnyshev alarmed at the sight of a woman screaming in panic, “Look, a pretty woman! Ah, what horror! Quick, someone call the police!” it is perhaps not hard to see


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why this seemingly wildly disproportionate reaction to a perfectly ordinary everyday s­ ituation was frequently met with ridicule and derision. Rather than in Tolstoy, such an exaggeratedly intense reaction could perhaps be expected to occur in the anarchic comedies of the Marx Brothers. It is this reaction that makes even Tolstoy’s greatest admirers occasionally a little embarrassed for him. I shall try to show that this reaction on the part of the clearly mentally unstable Pozdnyshev, as excessive as it may seem, is in no way out of place and that, unlike his morbid and delusional jealousy, it should still be considered part of his ethics rather than part of his pathology. Furthermore, this reaction is by no means unique to Pozdnyshev. In fact, he has a long line of illustrious ­predecessors whose r­eactions at the sight of a beautiful woman seem to have been no less intense than his own. I shall not discuss, however, how Pozdnyshev’s radical and ­idiosyncratic views on food and music fit into his moral system because these ­connections seem less clear. The novella, one of Tolstoy’s darkest pieces of writing, is a rigorously ­structured, perhaps at times somewhat slow-paced, yet a maddeningly tense, and gripping tale. With this tale, Tolstoy practically invented noir fiction. It is not only a woman as Pozdnyshev sees her, that is, a woman in an elegant evening dress who brings ruin to the man who comes near her, foreshadows the femme fatale, one of the key characters of mid-twentieth-century noir ­literature and films. It is also the setting and the haunting nocturnal atmosphere, which ­unmistakably evoke the noir universe. The entire story unfolds on a night train where, in the oppressive and suffocating enclosure of a railway carriage, a stranger begins his narration by confessing that he has murdered his wife. Then, in the course of the journey, he goes on to recount, until dawn, the series of events that i­ nexorably led to the fateful act. Given how compulsive his storytelling is, the reader is left with the impression that this is very probably not the first time, and almost certainly not the last, that Pozdnyshev has recounted his story. It appears as if he has been condemned for the rest of his life to change from train to train, endlessly repeating his dark secret to fellow passengers. A mere page or two into the story, it becomes clear that, just like the ­notorious Raymond Chandler’s streets, Tolstoy’s compact microcosm of the railway ­carriage is “dark with something more than night.”3 *** While discussing his beloved topics of the spread of shamelessness among Christians and the impurity of their morals in his justly celebrated Pensées diverses sur la comète (1682), Pierre Bayle quotes, with unconcealed ­enthusiasm,

Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects”

someone as saying that the Turks rightly mock the alleged s­trictness of the Christian religion in prohibiting polygamy and in its opposition to men satisfying their sexual needs outside marriage, since there are not a few among the Christians who break these religion precepts by their impure and dissolute conduct.4 In support of this, the Turks refer to the existence of the so-called “places of debauchery,” that is, the brothels of Venice and Naples, where, they say, shamelessness is openly treated as a commodity and therefore an object of trade. What the Turks find hard to understand is that brothels are not only ­tolerated but encouraged by the authorities in order to prevent “a greater evil,” that is, to avoid putting the chastity of honorable women at risk. What baffles the Turks, then, is the paradoxical attitude that debauchery is being ­encouraged for the sake of chastity, and vice for the sake of virtue. In what follows, Bayle cites an even more striking example such as that of German clergymen who were allowed by the church authorities to keep concubines, provided that they paid annual dues to their superiors.5 Greed was thought to be the sole motive for this “outrageous indulgence,” but Bayle says that this was most probably not the case. It was rather that by ensuring themselves easy access to the sexual services of kept concubines, the clergymen sought to preserve the chastity of all other, that is, “decent women,” to which they would otherwise constantly lay siege. For the easier it was for clergymen to satisfy their sexual needs with concubines, the less likely they were to prey on honorable women. Here, Bayle quickly adds, not without malice, that this example neatly shows just how ineffective religion is in restraining our passions: “Indeed, here you see the Christian religion is so little capable of moderating incontinence that it was seen to be forced to sacrifice to it a portion of the women in order to save the rest, and to avoid a greater crime.”6 Less than half a century later, this utilitarian economy of vice will be brought to its logical conclusion by Bernard Mandeville, who already in his The Fable of the Bees (1714) toyed with idea that even “Incontinence” can ­function in the service of “the Preservation of Chastity”7 or, from the o­ pposite viewpoint, that even virtuous women can act, although unintentionally and unknowingly, in the interest of prostitutes. Later, Mandeville will devote an entire volume to this “seeming Paradox”— the anonymously published pamphlet A Modest Defence of Publick Stews: Or, an Essay upon Whoring (1724). In this satirical piece, he develops and defends the idea of state-sponsored and state-regulated prostitution in so-called “Publick Stews,” or brothels. By providing a safe, organized, and supervised ­environment for men to encounter the prostitutes, these establishments were



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meant ­primarily to preserve the chastity of married women. Mandeville’s arguments display the same logic as the one identified by Bayle. For both of them the ­chastity of a smaller number of the women is sacrificed in order to preserve that of the greater number. Or in Mandeville’s words (most probably meant not only for rhetorical effect), the encouraging of what he calls “Publick Whoring,” or an organized, well-ordered, and controlled debauchery, will not only reduce and limit the unwanted, harmful consequences of this vice, such as sexually ­transmitted diseases, but also will lessen “the Quantity of Whoring in general.”8 The “incontinent” men who will be able to satisfy their needs with no difficulty in state-run brothels are likely to leave the “honorable” single or married women alone; encouraging prostitution will result in a proportional decrease in “the Tide of private Lewdness.”9 It is in this context that Mandeville devises one of his notorious “Syllogisms”: the only way to preserve female chastity—which the women themselves are apparently unable to preserve—is to deter men from besieging it; the only way to deter men from besieging female chastity is to carry out the project of “Publick Stews”; therefore, the project of “Publick Stews” is the only way to preserve female chastity.10 On the one hand, Mandeville has much to say about how to satisfy young men’s passions “with as little Expence of Female Virtue as possible,” in so just a measure “that the Modesty of one Woman may not be sacrific’d more than is absolutely necessary for the Preservation of the rest.”11 On the other hand, he has far less to say about how a prostitute must feel about herself and her state-designated role of “Publick Courtezan”—a woman who “atones for the Loss of her own Chastity, by being a Means to preserve that of others.”12 He has even less, if anything, to say as to why it is only women who lose their c­ hastity at “Publick Whoring,” whereas engaging in the same activity ­apparently leaves the virtue of men intact. This is also reflected in his choice of words: a man who has never been to a brothel is called by Mandeville “a chaste unexperienc’d Man,”13 whereas the frequent visitor of the same establishment is designated simply as “the experienc’d Man.” Thus, Mandeville’s “Paradox” is perhaps more complex than he would be willing to admit: “Publick Stews,” obviously, p­ reserve not only the chastity of all other women (those not taking part in whoring) but in an inexplicable way also the chastity of men engaging in the same activity. In the above cases of pre- and extramarital satisfaction of sexual needs it is men who, as a rule, satisfy their needs in this manner. A brilliant story about extramarital satisfaction of sexual needs, in which a woman seeks to satisfy her needs in this manner, can be found in Diderot’s Jacques le Fataliste

Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects”

(written between 1765 and 1780). Mandeville’s “Publick Whoring” preserves the chastity of that “part of Womankind” not engaged in debauchery at the expense of the women who actively participate in these activities. It is sacrificing the chastity of “one part of Womankind” and making them courtesans that keeps the chastity of the other part of women from being besieged by men. This is why Mandeville’s paradox, as he himself realized, is merely a “seeming” one. In Diderot, however, one finds a different picture. It is not just that in Diderot it is men who appear in place of courtesans or concubines, while a woman is the one satisfying her sexual needs. It is also that the men with whom the heroine satisfies her needs are not “a Means” for preserving the chastity of that greater part of men who—as a result of the former men’s having “sacrificed” their chastity—are themselves safe from the heroine’s preying upon them. On the ­contrary, in Diderot’s story, it is the men engaging in adultery who are blameless and meritorious, while the integrity of those not engaging in adultery is questionable precisely for this reason. The character of this woman who repeatedly yields to her inconstant nature and does not even try to conceal her extramarital relations is presented by Diderot as one of the most stunning examples of “the difference between goodness and morality.” Although she could not be said to have morals, yet at the same time one had to admit that “it would have been difficult to find anyone who was more honest.”14 Faced with her “innumerable conquests,” her husband wisely observes that “it would have been as absurd for him to try to stop his wife taking lovers as it would be to prevent her quenching her thirst.”15 As it emerges from her description of an individual’s suitability to become her lover, the heroine’s approach to adultery is essentially an aesthetic one. Firmly believing that not just anyone is suitable for the role of her lover, the heroine never becomes involved with stupid or wicked men but only with talented or honest ones—“her favors were a reward for talent or probity”—who were selected so carefully that the mere fact that an individual was her lover was in itself considered a sufficient guarantee that he was “a man of integrity.” For his part, her husband forgave her for her numerous adulterous liaisons because of the “good taste” she showed in choosing her lovers. With his story about this extraordinary character, Diderot did for adultery that which a good half-century later Thomas de Quincey would do for murder, that is, he elevates it to an art form, and its title might well have read On Adultery Considered as One of the Fine Arts. Furthermore, he portrayed the institution of marriage, which endures not simply in spite of but, to an important extent, because of a whole series of extramarital romantic liaisons of one of the spouses. Moreover, the sexual promiscuity of one of the spouses does not



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cause a ­scandal but is met with public approval. If the deceived husband earns not ridicule but respect, it is because of his sympathetic acceptance of his wife’s inconstancy as something natural. An affair with her is not viewed as a stain on a man’s reputation but rather as a sure sign of his moral excellence. Conversely, it is the one with whom she refuses to have an affair that is considered morally questionable. In short, to engage in impure and sinful activities with her serves as the ultimate guarantor of one’s moral purity. Here, engaging in vice not only leaves the virtue intact, as was the case in Mandeville, but to an important extent also contributes to its greatness. *** For Mandeville, “Publick Whoring” is not an enemy of the institution of marriage but rather its previously unsuspected ally. In his view, “the experienc’d Man,” the one who used to be a frequent visitor to brothels, will make a better husband and will better fulfill the goals and purposes of marriage than “a chaste unexperienc’d Man,” the one who has been “perfectly chaste” before marriage.16 Although acquiring the required “Experience” by frequenting brothels before marriage is beneficial, it would be “dangerous” to continue to do so after entering into marriage. Thus, besides preventing “the debauching of modest Women” to the greatest possible extent, “Publick Stews” are also an anteroom to marriage, wherein, however, chastity must reign. It is in this kind of society, that is, in a society that embodies Mandeville’s “Paradox,” that Pozdnyshev seems to live. In this society, there is a prevalent belief that depravity is “good for one’s health” (14). Consequently, the government not only does nothing to eradicate depravity but even actively encourages it by organizing “proper, efficient depravity” (14). The government “oversees the correct operation of houses of ill repute” and, with the help of medical doctors, ensures “the safety of debauchery.” In his youth, Pozdnyshev, by his own admission, used to visit brothels regularly acquiring the required “Experience,” which later, in marriage, evidently proved to be beneficial, just as Mandeville expected, since after getting married he has “never been unfaithful” to his wife (63). In short, everything seems to have run smoothly, in complete accordance with Mandeville’s fantasy of “Publick Whoring”—and yet something goes ­horribly wrong. Pozdnyshev summarizes what went wrong as follows: his first “fall” in a brothel—which occurred not because of his succumbing to the charms of any one woman in particular but simply because society considered depravity to be “a good thing” (14)—has forever destroyed his relationship with women. In a

Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects”

word, the moment he lost his innocence in a brothel, he became a “­fornicator” who will never be able to have “simple, clear, pure relations with a woman” (15), and that, he says, is what has brought him to ruin. For him, ­“natural,” “simple,” and “pure” relations with women, the loss of which he mourns, are “­ brotherly relations” (15), that is, absolute chastity or complete sexual ­abstinence. If total sexual abstinence is the only natural and pure relation with a woman, this means that intra-marital sexual activity, too, counts as ­debauchery, or “Whoring.” Thus, Pozdnyshev would most likely be glad to agree with Daniel Defoe, who in his work Conjugal Lewdness: Or, Matrimonial Whoredom (1727) says that even a husband can “make a Whore of his Wife,” namely, by treating her “merely as a Woman.”17 As a fornicator incapable of “brotherly relations” with women, Pozdnyshev treated every woman—­including his own wife—“merely as a Woman,” while his married life was an embodiment of “Matrimonial Whoredom.” If ever there was a book that Pozdnyshev kept in his bedside cabinet, this, one suspects, must have been it. In the moral system of Pozdnyshev, there is no chastity any more, not even among monogamous married women, precisely there where in Mandeville’s view it could still be found. For Pozdnyshev, that which Mandeville called “Female Virtue” simply no longer exists; there are no “honorable” or “decent” women any more. Accordingly, in his eyes, all distinction is lost between that which Bayle called “places of debauchery” on the one hand, and the world inhabited by women whose chastity was guarded and preserved by brothels on the other. The whole world is one giant “place of debauchery” in which there is simply no room left for chastity. Not only the lives of the unfortunate women who were forced into prostitution, according to Pozdnyshev, but the life of women from the highest ranks of society, too, is nothing other than “one unceasing brothel.” In Pozdnyshev’s view, then, all women are prostitutes; it is just that some are “short-term prostitutes” and the others “long-term prostitutes,” and while the former are “usually despised,” the latter are “well respected” (18). Pozdnyshev articulates the underlying reasons for this bleak worldview by saying that just as, on the one hand, “a man needs a woman’s body and ­everything that shows it off in the most alluring light” (18), so, on the other hand, the women are well aware of this. “That’s why those vile sweaters exist, those bustles worn on their behinds, those bare shoulders, arms, and almost bare breasts” (18), Pozdnyshev goes on to add, barely suppressing his rage. In order to attract and keep the attention of men, all women—experienced coquettes as well as innocent young women, women who live in brothels as well as those from high society—make use of the same means: they all “wear the



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same outfits, the same fashions, prefer the same perfumes, have the same bare arms, shoulders, breasts, and tight-fitting dresses” (18). In this respect, “there’s no difference at all” between them, observes Pozdnyshev. Shamelessness is all around us (18). Incidentally, in characterizing women’s sweaters as “vile” Pozdnyshev, no doubt, remembers the fateful moment when he let himself be ensnared by his then girlfriend. He describes the crucial moment when he realized that the girl he was seeing was worthy of becoming his wife with these words: the thought that “she was the one” dawned on him one evening as he was sitting next to her in the moonlight “admiring her shapely figure, her tight-fitting sweater, and her curls” (16). He returned home, as it were “in ecstasy,” and proposed to her the next day. Yet, now, in retrospect, he can see that what at the time seemed to be a sublime moment of love was in fact merely “that her sweater suited her so well, as did her curls” (18) One of the things about Pozdnyshev that immediately captures the reader’s attention, besides the strange inarticulate guttural sounds he occasionally emits, is his frequent references to women’s dress style. These references—first and foremost those to the cut of a dress—are simply too numerous to be ignored. Besides the already mentioned “vile sweaters,” Pozdnyshev most often alludes to elegant, low-cut evening dresses and ball gowns that reveal women’s shoulders and arms, and, to some extent, breasts. It is primarily these features—“bare shoulders, arms and almost bare breasts”—that give women “enormous power” over men (21). By using these “means,” women ­cunningly act on men’s sensuality and ensnare them in their traps. According to Pozdnyshev, women have turned themselves into such efficient “­ instruments for affecting our sensuality” (21) that men cannot even speak with them ­without exposing themselves to danger: “As soon as a man approaches a woman, he goes into a trance and loses his head” (21). Now that Pozdnyshev has come to see through their ruse, the sight of a woman in low-cut evening dress or ball gown fills him with terror; he sees in her “something dangerous to people, something illicit.” His ­immediate reaction upon seeing a woman is to call the police to protect him from the imminent, menacing threat and remove “the dangerous object” (21). On the face of it, Pozdnyshev’s view of every good-looking woman as ­nothing less than a “dangerous object” may seem exaggerated. At first, it may not be entirely clear how one can be “simply terrified” at the sight of a good-looking woman to the extent that he wants to call the police; it is unclear how a woman, merely through her external appearance, can pose a threat not only to social stability but to the very existence of society. In order better to see how

Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects”

Pozdnyshev’s views on women’s dress style fit into his moral system, it may be helpful to look briefly at a similar but slightly more complex example, found in Diderot’s short dialogue Entretien d’un philosophe avec la maréchale de *** (1774). This example can perhaps help us understand Pozdnyshev’s irresistible impulse to call the police upon seeing a good-looking woman. Diderot’s ­example, moreover, shows that Pozdnyshev’s wondering at the s­ urvival of a society that allows such a dress style is not entirely unfounded. In this w ­ onderfully clever dialogue dealing with the relationship between ­religion and morality, Diderot portrays, besides the two main interlocutors, “the Philosopher,” that is, Diderot himself, and “the Maréchale” of the title—an intriguing minor ­character of a “pious and beautiful neighbor,”18 whom he used to run into on the stairs of the house where they both lived. Through this character Diderot tries to show that the morality derived from the Sermon on the Mount is virtually impracticable, since one can offend gravely against the spirit of the Gospel even with one’s dress style. Her throat and bosom were “as perfect as it is possible for such things to be,”19 says Diderot, not even trying to conceal his lust. She was “a very beautiful woman” and “very religious,” yet she was “not unaware of her beauty” and she was “a modest woman,” yet it did not displease her to see that people noticed her “perfect” throat and bosom. That is why “she was not in the habit of concealing that throat and bosom . . . as completely as she might”20 but used to wear rather low-cut dresses. Diderot used to run into her on the stairs almost every day and is appalled at this. What bothers him is not the impure thoughts that arise in him at the sight of her. Diderot would probably be the last person to fight off such thoughts, but not only lustful thoughts—he would most probably not refrain from the act itself either, that is, from adultery. In several places, Diderot ­develops a ­perfectly decent philosophical theory deduced from the premises of his m ­ aterialism, according to which the constancy or fidelity that lovers usually swear to one another is impossible, and inconstancy, or infidelity, is inevitable. A sage capable of theoretically justifying an infidelity is probably the last person to disapprove of adultery, let alone of the thought of it. Rather, what bothers Diderot is that in his neighbor’s moral system, derived from the Sermon on the Mount, the thought of adultery is as sinful as the act of adultery itself, and that therefore anyone who looked at her with desire will be punished as severely as if he had actually committed adultery with her. That bothers him not so much because he is thinking such impure thoughts. It also bothers him because of her since she does not seem to see the obvious implication that Christ’s equating inner thoughts with the external action has



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for her who, through her ­appearance, which she does not even try to conceal, inspires such thoughts in him. So, if the thought itself is sinful, and Diderot who desired her will be damned for his impure thoughts, “what will be the fate of the woman who incites all those who come near her to commit that crime?”21 By this question Diderot made his “beautiful neighbor” feel a little embarrassed, but not for long. When he ran into her the next day, she was “dressed as usual,” despite the fact that in doing so she risked eternal damnation—as much her own as that of those around her. Rather than about himself, who is thinking impure thoughts, Diderot is concerned about the woman who through her external appearance inspires such thoughts in him. In this regard, he is not so much concerned about her supposed postmortem fate, as he is concerned about her inconsistent attitude: while as “a Christian” and “a deeply religious woman” she swears by the morals of the Sermon on the Mount, she nevertheless wears a low-cut dress showing off her “perfect” breasts, although in doing so she condemns men who come near her to perdition. Furthermore, even though she could, by a simple change in her dress style—for example, by wearing a shapeless dress closely buttoned up to the neck—save a number of men from perdition, she nevertheless refuses to do so. This is what makes Diderot wonder, rhetorically, whether there are in fact any Christians. To this question he answers with feigned resignation that he, at least, has “never seen any.”22 In a like situation, Pozdnyshev is concerned primarily about himself and his fate. When Pozdnyshev says that a man cannot interact with a beautiful woman without losing his head, what he probably means is that at the sight of her “bare shoulders, arms and almost bare breasts” his thoughts escape his control and he finds himself involuntarily thinking impure thoughts. Since Pozdnyshev, unlike Diderot, accepts the morals of the Sermon on the Mount, his main concern is, not surprisingly, his own eternal damnation brought about by the thoughts that arise in his mind upon interacting with a scantily-clad woman. As these thoughts arise in his mind not necessarily by his own volition but even against his will, there is apparently not much he could do to reestablish the spirit of the Gospel in the case of the encounter with a beautiful woman. In contrast, even the smallest effort on the part of the woman, such as simply changing her clothes, would go a long way towards restoring the spirit of the Gospel in the given situation. For Pozdnyshev, good-looking women wearing low-cut dresses are simply an incitement to “adultery in the heart” and therefore “something dangerous to people.” The threat that women pose to himself and society in general is all the more imminent and fatal, since in his view

Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects”

Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount that anyone who looks at a woman to desire her “hath already committed adultery with her in his heart,” relate “not only to other men’s wives, but precisely—and above all—to one’s own wife” (26). Thus, not only women whom he encountered only occasionally and by chance but “above all” his own wife, that is, the woman he saw every day, must have been a “­ dangerous object” for him. In the strict moral system of Pozdnyshev, chastity is possible only if a husband’s relationship with his wife is “brotherly,” only if the couple is committed to complete sexual abstinence. All sexually active married couples could be said to indulge in whoring and repeatedly commit adultery, even though they are completely faithful to each other. Furthermore, in Pozdnyshev’s eyes, a husband can commit adultery “in his heart,” even though he never looks at any other woman and desire her—it suffices for him to look at and desire his own wife. Is it any wonder, then, that he is “simply terrified” at the sight of a woman? It is in the light of the moral principles of the Sermon on the Mount that what at first seemed a crazy, pathological rage at women’s mere existence, turns out to be a well-founded concern about one’s own fate. *** Pozdnyshev is by no means the only one to perceive women as “dangerous objects.” There were a number of people before him whose reactions upon seeing—or even merely upon learning of someone else’s seeing—a beautiful woman seems to have been no less intense than his own, even though these women did not seem to want anything to do with them and most likely ignored them completely. For example, in the biography of Pascal by his elder sister Gilberte Périer, we read that her brother had such a high regard for “purity” (la pureté)—both his own and that of others—that he was constantly on guard not to jeopardize it in any way. “It is unbelievable how strict he was in this respect,” writes Périer admiringly, and gives, by way of example, the following incident: when one day upon returning home she said that she had seen “a beautiful woman” (une belle femme), her brother became angry at her and forbade her to speak of such things “in front of lackeys and young people,” because of the “thoughts” that these words—which she considered perfectly innocent— might give rise to in their minds.23 Even when the conversation was about morally indisputable things, such as charity, Pascal often feared that the conversation “might put him at risk.”24 In order not to have to renounce all conversation, he put on for such occasions “an iron belt full of spikes,” which he wore under the garment next to his skin, and whenever, in the course of conversation,



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“some thought of vanity (pensée de vanité) occurred to him or he took some pleasure in the place where he found himself,” he immediately pressed hard with his elbow against the belt, driving the spikes deeper into his flesh, “and thus reminded himself of his duty.”25 Apart from Pascal, we know of some other men, mostly Jesuit priests, who at the sight of or in conversation with a beautiful woman assumed a like ­attitude of pathological distrust and excessive caution. These Jesuits are listed as instances of exemplary “chastity” by Bayle in remark C of his Dictionary article “Mariana.” One of them, Father Gil, took such great pains to avoid looking at any woman that up until his death at the age of seventy-three he “knew not any woman by sight”; at the same time, he was grateful to God for endowing him with “bad sight,” which enabled him to remain chaste for his whole life.26 Another Jesuit, Father Costerus, prided himself on the fact that “his chastity was never overcome by any irregular motion nor by any obscene imagination.”27 Yet another Jesuit, Father Spiga, who died at the age of seventy-four without ever having laid eyes on a woman, was said to be unable to tell his own nieces apart by sight, although he acted as their confessor. Some of the Jesuits even refrained from reading books for fear that they might give rise to impure thoughts; the rare authors they did read, such as Tibullus, whom they read because of his fine Latin, they read only while praying to God all the while to protect them from the impure passions and desires that this poet’s verses about love might have inspired in them. In addition to these stratagems, which made it possible for them to remain chaste, they also had other, more radical methods at hand by means of which they were able to “avoid the danger of incontinence, and resist all its attacks”: some of them carried a special “herb” under their clothes—presumably with prickly leaves, a sort of herbal equivalent of Pascal’s iron belt—which was said to mortify their nature to such an extent that “they could safely converse with women.”28 Both Pascal and Bayle’s Jesuits, like Pozdnyshev, appear to see women as “dangerous objects.” Just like Pozdnyshev, so Pascal and the Jesuits could not converse with women without exposing themselves to the danger stemming from the thoughts that the latter, through their appearance, inspire in them. Finally, they all seem to act strictly in accordance with the belief that the thought of adultery leads to damnation as inevitably as the act of adultery itself. Unlike Pozdnyshev, whose preferred course of action was to call the police to protect him from the peril and remove “the dangerous object,” Pascal and the Jesuits adopted various strategies whereby they sought either to prevent

Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects”

impure thoughts from arising in their mind or, if they did arise, chase them away. Pascal and the Jesuits would most likely be said by Diderot to be the rare true Christians who would surely know how to preserve their chastity in the situation where he himself is assailed by lustful thoughts. Besides the women as “dangerous objects,” there existed also a woman who appears to be their exact opposite. Upon approaching her, no one seems to have lost their head; at the sight of her, no one was assailed by impure thoughts. On the contrary, she was said to fill everyone around her with chastity. So, even though Pascal did not press with his elbow against the iron belt and remind himself of his duty; even though the Jesuits did not turn their gaze away or ­mortify their nature with the help of the said herb; even though Pozdnyshev did not call the police—upon encountering this woman, they would all preserve their chastity. While the women that Pascal, the Jesuits, and Pozdnyshev had to deal with seem to incite all those who come near them to commit adultery with them in their hearts, this woman, by contrast, converts all those around her to chastity. This was a woman who, quite literally, seemed to be an embodiment of the spirit of the Gospel. The woman in question is the seventeenth-century French-Flemish theologian and prophetess, Antoinette Bourignon, renowned during her lifetime for her “surprising chastity,”29 as Bayle puts it in his Dictionary article devoted to her. In one of the extensive remarks in this article, Bayle closely examines her extraordinary “gift of chastity and continence.” Bourignon was supposed to be so abundantly endowed with chastity that not only had she herself never had any impure thoughts—not even involuntary ones—but, moreover, she inspired chastity in those around her. While trying to find an adequate and as precise a name as possible for her exceptional gift, Bayle, ever the pedant, first says that in Scholastic terms her chastity should perhaps be called “transitive” rather than “immanent,” since its “effects were diffused outwardly, and did not terminate in her person.”30 He adds that in similar cases some authors find it preferable to use the term “penetrative” instead of “transitive,” and goes on to quote an unnamed Carthusian monk who coined the expression “­penetrative virginity” to characterize the virginity of the Holy Virgin because it spreads itself outward to others who, at the sight of her, “though she was so beautiful, had none but chaste thoughts.”31 How exactly did Bourignon inspire chastity in those around her? Where did her exceptional power come from? Just where exactly her “gift of chastity and continence” stemmed from becomes clear the moment reader makes the connection between Bayle’s observation, made in passing, with regard to the



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Holy Virgin’s “penetrative virginity”—that nature could achieve the same effect by itself, that is, without the help of grace: “a certain degree of ugliness would be sufficient for that”32—and a detail from Bourignon’s b­ iography, quoted by Bayle in the article, saying that at birth she was “so deformed, that it was debated for some days in the family whether she should not be stifled as a monster.”33 While the Holy Virgin’s “penetrative virginity” was clearly ­miraculous or supernatural, for she inspired people around her with chastity despite her beauty, the “gift of chastity and continence” spread around by Bourignon must have been the effect of nature itself: she must have been so unattractive or repulsive that her appearance did not inspire lust in anyone, or that at the sight of her no one was assailed by impure thoughts. That is why Bayle finds n­ either of the two expressions—that is, neither “transitive” nor “penetrative”—­accurate enough to describe Bourignon’s gift; the effect the prophetess had on those around her can be adequately captured only by another expression, that is, “gift of infrigidation.”34 This expression, at last, satisfactorily describes the effect the prophetess actually had on others: she rendered everyone who came near her cold, unresponsive, insensible or, in a word, frigid. In addition to the unmistakable irony, what one senses in Bayle’s discussion of Bourignon’s “gift of infrigidation” is essentially a feeling of pity and deep sympathy for those women who, by their mere appearance, “mortify all the desires of the men that look upon them,” the women, who “need only show themselves to make men chaste,”35 the women who are painfully aware that in the men around them all lustful thoughts are gone the moment they lay eyes on them. The examples of Diderot’s neighbor with her barely concealed bosom and Pozdnyshev’s women showing off their “bare shoulders, arms and almost bare breasts” suggest that the moral principles of the Sermon on the Mount are most often almost impossible to follow, since one can violate the spirit of the Gospel— and thus earn eternal damnation for oneself and for others—by even something as banal as dress style. Here, the implicit criticism of Christianity would doubtlessly run along these lines: In what kind of a r­ eligion does one less button unfastened at the neck suffice to separate eternal damnation from salvation? On the other hand, the examples of Pascal, Bayle’s Jesuits and Bourignon show just how utterly extreme must the circumstances be in order for the self-same moral principles to be met. A man’s interaction with a woman could unfold in the full spirit of the Gospel only if the female role were filled with a woman such as Antoinette Bourignon or, alternatively, if the male part were given to men such as Pascal or Bayle’s Jesuits. Surely even Diderot and Pozdnyshev could

Tolstoy and Diderot on Women as “Dangerous Objects”

converse with a woman possessed of such a “gift of ­infrigidation,” as Bourignon was said to have, without losing their heads and exposing themselves to danger, that is, without running the risk of eternal p­ erdition on account of the thoughts arising in their minds on that occasion. So, Pascal and Bayle’s Jesuits should unquestionably be able “safely” to converse with such women as Diderot’s neighbor and Pozdnyshev’s women in revealing clothing, without their chastity being “overcome by any irregular motion” or “obscene imagination,” while the women themselves could, upon e­ ncountering such men as Pascal and Bayle’s Jesuits, continue unperturbedly to show off their breasts, without thereby bringing perdition upon their fellow men. *** Diderot concludes the episode about his “pious and beautiful neighbor” by asking the question: “What if twenty thousand of the people now living in Paris suddenly took it into their heads to behave exactly as they are told to in the Sermon on the Mount?”36 In that case, he goes on to answer, not only would we see “a great deal less of several beautiful bosoms,” but there would also be “so many madmen that the Lieutenant of Police wouldn’t know what to do with them—there wouldn’t be room in the madhouses for even half of them.”37 In Diderot’s eyes, Pozdnyshev would probably rank among the latter. Since Pozdnyshev, unlike most of the others, perceived even his own wife as an instrument of eternal damnation, it must have been all the harder for him to observe Christ’s words regarding the “adultery in the heart,” and perhaps that is why he must have been a step closer to madness than others. Although still at large, he appears to be condemned to roam the earth forever, compulsively recounting his own tragic life history to anyone who would listen to him.

ENDNOTES   1 A. N. Wilson, Tolstoy (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001), 300–1.   2 Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata, in “The Kreutzer Sonata” Variations: Lev Tolstoy’s Novella and Counterstories by Sofiya Tolstaya and Lev Lvovich Tolstoy, trans. Michael R. Katz (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 21. Subsequent references to this work will be given in parentheses in the body of the text.   3 Raymond Chandler, Introduction, in Pearls Are a Nuisance (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 7.   4 See Pierre Bayle, Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet, trans. Robert C. Bartlett (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000), 203.   5 Ibid., 204.  6 Ibid.



Miran Bozovic   7 Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees: Or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits, 3rd ed. (London: J. Tonson, 1724), 94.  8 Bernard Mandeville, A Modest Defence of Publick Stews: Or, An Essay Upon Whoring (London: A. Moore, 1724), 66.   9 Ibid., 65. 10 Ibid., 50–51. 11 Ibid., 62. 12 Ibid., 64–65. 13 Ibid., 36. 14 Denis Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist, trans. David Coward (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 214. 15 Ibid. 16 Mandeville, A Modest Defence, 39. 17 Daniel Defoe, Conjugal Lewdness: Or, Matrimonial Whoredom (London: T. Warner, 1727), 65. 18 Denis Diderot, “Conversation with a Christian Lady,” in Selected Writings, trans. Derek Coltman (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 259. 19 Ibid., 258. 20 Ibid., 259. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid., 258. 23 Madame Périer, La Vie de M. Pascal (Amsterdam: Abraham Wolfgang, 1684), 31–32. 24 Ibid., 22. 25 Ibid. 26 Pierre Bayle, An Historical and Critical Dictionary, 4 vols. (London: Hunt and Clarke, 1826), 2:193–94. 27 Ibid., 2:194. 28 Ibid., 2:195, 194. 29 Bayle, Dictionary, 1:245. 30 Ibid., 246. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid., 245. 34 Ibid., 246. 35 Ibid., 247. 36 Diderot, “Conversation,” 260. 37 Ibid.


Tolstoy’s Divine Madness— An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata Predrag Cicovacki Whom God loves, him He tries. —Leo Tolstoy1


 he Kreutzer Sonata (1889) was probably Tolstoy’s most confrontational work. In Russia (and the United States), its publication and d­ istribution were banned immediately. Because of its views on sex and marriage this novella was labeled as “immoral,” and its literary value was disputed. These criticisms have never subsided. In 2009, the reputed Tolstoy scholar and the translator of War and Peace and Resurrection, Anthony Briggs, wrote that The Kreutzer Sonata goes to “absurd extremes,” and is “the world’s worst story about the evils of sex, and one that would no longer be given shelf-room had it been written by ­anybody else.”2 Another admired literary critic, George Steiner, had ­commented more modestly that, in The Kreutzer Sonata, “the elements of articulate morality have become too massive to be absorbed into the narrative structure.”3 I contend that such criticisms are unfounded. The form of Tolstoy’s work is not arbitrary and does not stand on its own but is closely related to the content and the symbolism of the novel. Like Beethoven’s sonata for which it was named (Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 9, in A Major, Op. 47),4 Tolstoy’s novella is an extraordinary work of art, a disturbing work whose form, content, and symbolism we have not yet properly learned to appreciate.


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FORM Never in his late works in general, and least of all in The Kreutzer Sonata in ­particular, does Tolstoy neglect artistic form in pursuit of a moral cause. What he does is to experiment with form, in the hope of bringing it to a closer, simpler, and more organic relationship to what he then saw as the vital function of art. The published version of The Kreutzer Sonata was the ninth draft of the story. Tolstoy considers storytelling to be the most natural form of art: we are all storytellers, and in this sense all of us are literary artists. The simplest form of storytelling is a form of confession. According to one of Tolstoy’s earliest and most important critics, Merezhkovsky, “the artistic work of Leo Tolstoy is at bottom nothing else than one tremendous diary, kept for fifty years, one ­endless, explicit confession.”5 The Kreutzer Sonata also has the form of a confession. During a long night journey on a train, the main character confesses how out of jealousy he killed his wife. Confession is a voluntary admission that something has gone wrong. To confess means not to accuse others for what we are responsible and not to cover up the truth about ourselves. In the most famous work published under the name “Confessions,” that of St. Augustine, man is portrayed as a riddle unto himself because of the rift between body and soul. While Dostoevsky’s confessional work, Notes from the Underground, continues in this tradition, Tolstoy’s main influence is not Augustine but Rousseau. Of all of Rousseau’s works, his Confessions impacted Tolstoy the most, “thundering through his brain like an earthquake.”6 Unlike in Augustine’s and Dostoevsky’s works, in Rousseau’s Confessions, the self— and the nature of man in general—is not a mystery. Rousseau celebrates the independence of an autonomous individual and focuses on the rift between an individual and society. Pozdnyshev, Tolstoy’s main character in The Kreutzer Sonata, also sees the ultimate cause of his crime in society, rather than in his own divided nature. The divided, hypocritical nature of society, which preaches one set of values and lives by another, is the final source of Pozdnyshev’s moral degradation and his slip into madness. The first draft of Tolstoy’s work was called “A Confession of a Madman.” Nevertheless, this work is not just a confession, just as it is not merely a ­philosophical and moralistic treatise. The work has a literary introduction, with a few peripheral characters setting up the scene for Pozdnyshev’s narration. The main character is described as dressed in a traditional Russian way, with an embroidered shirt, while his “opponent,” the violinist Trukhaсhevsky, wears

Tolstoy’s Divine Madness—An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata

the latest Parisian fashion. Although the story for the most part consists of the main character’s narration, Tolstoy does not miss the opportunity to mention “his cough, or laugh, almost like a sob.” The narrator makes tea, too strong for a normal person, “as strong as his passion.” Nor does Tolstoy forget to make us laugh every once in a while, although he is dead serious about his ­subject-­matter. In the fury of his jealousy, Pozdnyshev wants to kill the man who he believes is his wife’s lover, but he changes his mind because he has no boots on—having taken them off to better overhear a conversation between his wife and her ­suspected lover. In one of the culminating scenes of The Kreutzer Sonata when Pozdnyshev breaks into a room with a dagger, determined to avenge his pride and kill, he makes the following confession: “I wanted to run after him, but I remembered that it is ridiculous to run after one’s wife’s lover in one’s socks; and I did not wish to be ridiculous but terrible.” He adds: “In spite of the fearful frenzy I was in, I was all the time aware of the impression I might produce on others, and was even partly guided by that impression.”7 Augustinian and Dostoevskian struggle of the sinful flesh with the ­God-given soul is here replaced by an individual’s struggle to liberate oneself from the dreadful influence of one’s society. Pozdnyshev does not succeed in this: not only is he aware even in the moment of frenzy of what others may think of him, he acts in a way in which society expects a deceived husband to act. Then, this same society rewards him for being its faithful member: despite the fact that, in the eyes of God, murder is considered the worst crime a human being can commit, society sticks to its values and frees a husband who had every reason to suspect that his wife was not faithful to him. Tolstoy uses the confessional form not only as a narrative device but as an instrument of mockery. Let us also not overlook that Tolstoy does change the title of his work, from “A Confession of a Madman” to “The Kreutzer Sonata.” Later, we will consider what this reference to Beethoven’s sonata symbolizes in this context. For now, let us focus on Tolstoy’s attempt to call attention to the connection between his story and the art form of music in general, and sonata in particular. From the artist’s diary and the testimony of various witnesses, we know that Tolstoy decided to write this story in 1887, after the performance of Beethoven’s sonata in his Moscow home (when I. Liasota played the violin part, with Tolstoy’s son Sergei at the piano). Tolstoy declared to those present that, when finished, his story should be read aloud by one person. Indeed, if we pay more attention to the narrative form, Pozdnyshev’s confession reduces us, the audience, to ­listeners, just as the performance of music does. As Merezhkovsky observed,



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the hero is “reduced” to “a mere plaintive voice and a pair of eyes, glowing with feverish, half-crazy fire.”8 As we would sit in the semi-darkness of a concert hall, Pozdnyshev and his listener are sitting in the semi-darkness of the moving train, advancing in regular, rhythmic motions through the darkness of the night. The confessional form that Tolstoy uses in this work is a combination of storytelling and music. A closer look at the structural ordering of Tolstoy’s work reveals that it also has the form of a sonata. This musical form usually consists of three (sometimes four) movements. After a brief introduction, it normally ­ ­follows the ­fast-­slow-fast tempo. Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata contains a similar ­structure. The first two sections present an introduction to the story. The first ­“movement” consists of sections III-XII, the second of sections XIII-XVIII, and the final one of sections XIX-XXVIII.9 The first “movement” covers the period in the hero’s life before his marriage. It deals with the excitement of youth, with emphasis on his loss of innocence and subsequent courting of his future wife. The second “movement” covers the married life of Pozdnyshev. It describes his bittersweet honeymoon, the subsequent begetting and rearing of children, the growing rift between spouses, and the beginning of the husband’s jealousy. The last “movement,” which is expected to bring a resolution of the tensions developed in the previous two parts, increases the tempo again and culminates in the murder of Pozdnyshev’s wife and his “awakening.” And, just as we think that we will come out of the semi-darkness of the journey through the night and break into the light, Tolstoy surprises us. Where we end up at the end of the story is not in light but in complete darkness, yet to be (somehow) dispelled. “Had I then known what I know now, everything would be different,” confesses Pozdnyshev. “Nothing would have induced me to marry her. . . . I should not have married at all” (233). We expect Pozdnyshev to say that nothing would have induced him to murder his wife. However, Tolstoy draws us deeper into the content of his story: the physical murder is just a visible manifestation of the true, psychological and spiritual murder that occurred earlier and was merely disguised by the socially approved form of marriage. As Pozdnyshev puts it: “They asked me at the trial with what and how I killed her. Fools! They thought I killed her with a knife” (183–84). Tolstoy’s narrative form, his combination of confessional storytelling and music, does not allow for a resolution of the tension—as long as the source of the tension is not removed. The socially approved forms of life pull us deeper and deeper into the darkness of immorality and decadence. It is this originally

Tolstoy’s Divine Madness—An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata

designed form of The Kreutzer Sonata that prompted such a sensitive reader like Anton Chekhov to proclaim: “It is hardly possible to find anything of equal importance in conception and beauty of execution. Apart from its artistic merits which are in places amazing, we should be grateful for the story alone, for it stimulates thought extremely.”10 A similar view was voiced by Romain Rolland: “In the power of its effects, in passionate concentration, in the brutal vividness of its impressions, and in fullness and maturity of form, nothing Tolstoy has written equals The Kreutzer Sonata.”11

CONTENT Even more than its artistic form, the content of The Kreutzer Sonata angered its critics. To quote Briggs again, this novella “is a shrill indictment of human sexuality. . . [in which Tolstoy] insists that sex is at the root of all human misery, and it should be done away with—even if it means the extinction of the human ­species.  .  .  . A work of absurdity, insulting to the intelligence and artistically inept, The Kreutzer Sonata is among the worst things ever to come from Tolstoy’s pen, and it deserves nothing more than oblivion.”12 Harsh judgments, no doubt. To see whether they are justified, we need to look at the novella itself to get a closer understanding of what it is about. In doing so, it is essential not to overlook that the primary role of the narrator is to raise questions rather than to offer answers. If so, let us look at the questions raised. Pozdnyshev questions sex, because it focuses on carnality rather than on spiritual love, or it focuses on exploitation, rather than on a spiritual union. He ­questions the institution of marriage, which is based more on custom and ­utility rather than on any ideal. Is marriage still the best way of structuring social life, or has it outlived its traditional function? He questions the hypocrisy of the ­civilization that insists that we give up sex with our bodies but not with our minds and hearts. He questions passions and agitations, like those provoked by music, because we do not have a clear—or even good—answer to the questions: Passions for what? Agitations for what? Finally, all the questions raised in the novella culminate in the one that is of central significance for its author: “But why live?” (183). That this difference between asking questions and answering them was very important for Tolstoy himself, we can see from the following quote: “In nearly all the letters, congratulations, and addresses [for his eightieth birthday], the same thing is repeated—it has simply become a truism—that I have destroyed ­religious delusions and opened the way for the search after truth. If it is true, it is just what I wanted and tried to do all my life, and this is very dear to me.”13



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For Tolstoy’s main character, sex is certainly as much of a symptom as it is the cause of the social malaise. What really matters for Pozdnyshev is all the energy that goes toward sexual satisfaction, all the deceptions and lies, all the dehumanization of other human beings so that they may serve as mere objects of our sensual gratification. What bothers Pozdnyshev is that the pursuit of self-gratification, together with other lies and deceptions sanctioned by society, turns us away from more lofty goals, from the pursuit of the goals toward which humanity should be directed. The disastrous consequences of our obsession with sensual gratification are not limited only to the treatment of other people as instruments, objects and things. They also spawn jealousy and crimes, like the one committed by Pozdnyshev. Such consequences, Pozdnyshev comes to believe, can be ­eliminated only with the abstinence from sex, only with complete celibacy. Although this proposal continues to provoke severe criticisms, it is by no means new. In many religious and spiritual traditions, celibacy has traditionally been seen as the most direct path of purification and the way toward God. In the Matthew Gospel, which Tolstoy quotes before the text of The Kreutzer Sonata, Jesus calls his followers to chastity, and nowhere in the New Testament is this call repudiated. As Aylmer Maude points out, the lessons of the New Testament with regard to sex and marriage are the following: 1. A married man should not divorce his wife to take another woman. 2. It is wrong to look at a woman as an object of desire. 3. For the unmarried it is better not to marry and be chaste.14 All three points are consistent with what Pozdnyshev advocates as a result of his unfortunate experiences. Regardless of what we think of Pozdnyshev’s call to chastity, it is important to distinguish an effect from a cause, a s­ ymptom of a disease from what leads to it. The central motive of the third “movement” of The Kreutzer Sonata, just like that of a musical sonata, is a constant ­yearning for a resolution. This is what Pozdnyshev hears in the dialogue of piano and violin during the performance of Beethoven’s piece, and this yearning is what he attempts to bring to materialization in his married life. In the rage of ­jealousy, Pozdnyshev “resolves” the tension by killing his wife. In the r­ eflective semi-darkness of the train-journey, one year later, he advocates celibacy. What he thereby wants to accomplish is not a return to the Augustinian ­suppression of the flesh. His proposal is far more radical. If the soul is as ­poisoned as the flesh, let it go to hell as well! Dostoevsky’s madman, the man

Tolstoy’s Divine Madness—An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata

from the underground, selfishly exclaims: “Well, so far as I’m concerned, blow the world so long as I can have my cup of tea.”15 In Tolstoy, even a madman wants to go to heaven; even he is striving toward the highest; even he wants to endear himself to God. Only he does not know how to do it. In the section of The Kreutzer Sonata that precedes the murder, the conductor enters the train compartment and puts out the candle because dawn is approaching. The confession of a madman is almost over and the tension of the narrative is at its highest point. As he and his listener are awaiting the light of a new day, the suffering man may soon be (temporarily) relieved of his psychological burden when his story is over. Only—in contrast to Beethoven’s piece—hope is not restored at the end of this confession, at the end of this “sonata.” Instead of hope, there is a fall into an even deeper madness, more bloodshed, and further deprivation. Yes, Pozdnyshev is aware that celibacy would lead to the extinction of the human race. He answers our concerns with an unpleasant, rarely directly confronted question: And why should the human race continue to exist?

SYMBOLISM To what extent are the views expressed by Tolstoy’s character also those of his author? A. N. Wilson is right to claim that “it is a gross oversimplification to think that Pozdnyshev is Tolstoy.” But he goes too far when he adds, immediately after, that, “On the contrary, [Pozdnyshev] is the greatest indictment of the Tolstoyan view of men and women that was ever imagined.”16 It is closer to truth to say that there must be some overlap between the views of the author and his main character. The key question is: To what extent? In the Epilogue, written after the publication of The Kreutzer Sonata met fierce resistance, Tolstoy writes: Many, very many people will regard these thoughts as strange and even contradictory. They really are contradictory, but not among themselves. These thoughts are contradictory to our whole life, and involuntarily the doubt arises who is right: these thoughts, or the lives of millions of people and my own? I experienced the same feelings in the highest degree, as I arrived at the convictions which I am expounding here: I had not in the least expected that the progress of my thoughts would bring me to what it has. I was terrified at my deductions and wished not to believe them, but it was impossible not to believe. However much these deductions c­ ontradict



Predrag Cicovacki the whole structure of our life, however much they contradict that which I thought and expressed before, I was compelled to acknowledge them.17

Tolstoy may have forgotten that Pierre Bezukhov had already entertained such thoughts in War and Peace.18 There, however, they were not of central importance and represented only of the stages in Pierre’s development. In Resurrection, the novel that in many ways is a continuation and further elaboration of the topics presented in The Kreutzer Sonata, Tolstoy makes the main character, Nekhliudov, repeatedly wonder: “Am I out of my mind, because I see things that other people don’t see, or are they out of their minds, the ones who are doing what I am seeing?” Nekhliudov could not quite make up his mind: “Yet these people (and there are so many of them) have been doing those amazing and horrifying things with such serene assurance, not only that this is unavoidable, but that they are performing an essential and useful public service, that it is hard to imagine that they are all out of their minds.” He couldn’t accept that he was out of his mind because he knew his thinking was so clearly ordered. This is why he was in a state of constant perplexity.19

Most of those surrounding Tolstoy dispelled their perplexities once and for all. In connection with his overall behavior and thoughts, the passages like these quoted above led them to conclude that he, Tolstoy, was mad. His own brother often claimed that Tolstoy “was a great writer, but he went crazy . . . he was absolutely an insane individual.” His wife, Sofia Andreevna, similarly ­proclaimed: “No one knows Lyovochka [diminutive form for Leo] but me. I am the only one who knows him. He is a sick and abnormal person.”20 Fortunately, not everyone was of the same opinion. Clifton Fadiman, for instance, spoke of Tolstoy’s “abnormal normality.”21 Maksim Gorky was among those most sympathetic. He saw in Tolstoy “an old magician . . . who knows the beginnings and ends of things, and reflects on the end of the stones, the grasses of the earth, of the waters of the sea, and on everything from moon to sun. The sea is part of his soul, and everything about him comes from him and out of him.”22 Before deciding this question of madness, let us reconsider the meaning of the words “madness” and “mad.” When we look at a dictionary, it is ­striking how “madness” can cover a vast variety of states: insanity, craziness, lunacy, mania, rage, frenzy, or just distractedness. Similarly, “to be mad” has even more synonyms: mentally ill, insane, crazy; frenzied; wildly excited; frantic; showing or

Tolstoy’s Divine Madness—An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata

resulting from lack of reason; foolish and rash; senseless; unwise; or blindly and foolishly enthusiastic or fond; infatuated, etc. Let us thus not assume that madness must mean only one thing or refer to a single state of affairs. In fact, we can recognize four kinds of madness in Tolstoy’s work: 1. Madness of a sick man—in The Kreutzer Sonata, Pozdnyshev characterizes himself as “something of a madman” at the end of the novel (sec. xxviii). (That is why The Kreutzer Sonata was initially entitled, “A Confession of a Madman.”) 2. Madness of the normal man—of “normal” people and their “normal” ways of life—which Tolstoy’s character exposes and criticizes in The Kreutzer Sonata, and which Tolstoy relentlessly denounced and attacked in all of his later works. (E.g., in Resurrection, Nekhliudov comes to the realization that, “These people accept as a law something that is not a law, and they fail to acknowledge the urgent, eternal and immutable law that God Himself has inscribed in men’s hearts.”23) 3. Madness of a “holy fool” (yurodivyi). Holy fools in Russia were those who voluntarily relinquished all material comfort and lived like vagabonds. They deliberately challenged social conventions, unafraid to speak the truth and expose the falsehood of the commonly accepted way of life, while also willingly accepting humiliations and insults in order to conquer pride and achieve greater meekness. Tolstoy admired holy fools since his childhood, and to the end of his days was hoping to become one of them. (During his work on The Kreutzer Sonata, in August of 1889, Tolstoy wrote in his diary: “I need to be a holy fool in my writing too.”24) 4. Divine madness—Tolstoy accepts the “eternal and immutable law that God Himself has inscribed in men’s hearts,” yet he could not overlook, for instance, that it is said in the Gospels that one must love one’s neighbor, and even one’s enemy. A view like that, although in contradiction with our normal views, would exert influence on him, without him being able to understand how or why. To clarify this last kind of madness, the least understood, yet the most ­important, let us turn to music and what it symbolized for Tolstoy. Mousikos is something belonging to the Muses—a gift from the Muses—and it has always ­puzzled the aestheticians whether music is the lowest of all fine arts, or the highest and the purest. Tolstoy thinks that it could be both. In the words of Thomas Mann,



Predrag Cicovacki Tolstoy’s attitude toward music . . . is most instructive. When he met Berthold Auerbach in Dresden, that not too profound moralist told him that music is an irresponsible enjoyment, and added that irresponsible enjoyment is the first step toward immorality. Tolstoy, in his journal, made this clever and abominable phrase his own. His hatred and fear of music had the same moral and social basis as his hatred and fear of Shakespeare. We are told that at the sound of music he grew pale and his face became drawn with an expression very much like horror. Notwithstanding, he was never able to live without music. In his earlier years he even founded a musical society. Before beginning work he habitually seated himself at the piano—that means a good deal. And in Moscow, when he sat beside Tchaikovsky and listened to the composer’s Quartet in D major, he began to sob at the andante, before everybody. No, unmusical he was not. Music loved him, even though he, great moralizing infant that he was, felt that he ought not to return her love.25

Music loved Tolstoy, yet he trembled in its presence. He knew that music, like all forms of art, is able to communicate. Yet, what does music ­communicate? And does music communicate it properly? What if music does not ­communicate clearly? What does music communicate, for example, when it agitates without showing us where this agitation should lead? These are the concerns expressed by Pozdnyshev: They played Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata.  .  .  . It is a terrible thing, that sonata. And especially that part [the first movement] . . . Music makes me forget myself, my real position; it transports me to some other position not my own. Under the influence of music it seems to me that I feel what I do not really feel, that I understand what I do not understand, that I can do what I cannot do (214).

This may be the key moment in the entire novella. Pozdnyshev ­recognizes the ennobling force of music—as did Tolstoy. While he is listening to Beethoven’s divine music, there is no room for jealousy, and he even sees his wife as transfigured—not perhaps in the way he recognizes her after he stabs her, but certainly as different from the annoying woman with whom he has been fighting for years over the children, their nursing and upbringing, their sex life. . . . Music elevates them both, and yet, he fears music, as did Tolstoy. Pozdnyshev fears music because while listening to music, his will, his ­reasoning, even his life, are not his own. While listening to music, he feels in power of

Tolstoy’s Divine Madness—An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata

some other, perhaps a higher but certainly more powerful and uncontrollable force. He is not himself. He is transposed to participate in some other form of life, in something that is beyond his control.26 That is precisely why his fear of music is so powerful, perhaps even more powerful than in the case of a strong sexual infatuation, and why the novella is entitled “The Kreutzer Sonata.” Our entire moral life is premised on us having control over our choices and actions. It is promised on our ability to make rational decisions as to what we, as rational beings, should do, and then act accordingly, but musical infatuation, perhaps even more strongly than sexual infatuation, deprives us of the control of our reasoning ability and of our actions. Pozdnyshev may not have been sophisticated enough to understand the significance of this point, but Tolstoy certainly knew what was at stake. He also knew that this loss of control over our own rationality and moral choices has both a bad side and a good side. It is what made Pozdnyshev a murderer and Beethoven (as well as Tolstoy) an outstanding artist. Put differently, despite making some outrageous statements about Beethoven (“he is growing deaf, he cannot hear and is beginning to write totally contrived, unfinished and therefore often meaningless, musically incomprehensible works”27), Tolstoy realizes that music is a kind of magic, a m ­ ystery that can connect us with the highest and the lowest realms of being. He senses that music can intertwine two kinds of madness: the sublime m ­ adness of a musical genius (Beethoven), and the ridiculous madness of a man who m ­ urders his wife in blind passion. He also knows that, at its best, music is a divine manifestation of the human soul. In this regard, Tolstoy’s true predecessor in the mysteries of divine madness (and love) is Plato, especially in the Phaedrus. This dialogue is the apology of Eros, just as the dialogue Apology is the apology of Socrates. In the Phaedrus, Socrates distinguishes between four forms of divine madness (inspiration): 1. 2. 3. 4.

Prophetic (Apollo), Mystical (Dionysus), Poetic (the Muses), Erotic (Aphrodite).28

Plato may have been the first to argue that love is a kind of madness and that madness can be a gift from god. Furthermore, he claims that this gift from god is finer than self-control needed for morality, which is of a merely human origin. The madness of love is the best of the four kinds of divine madness,



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because this kind of madness can lead to a new discovery of philosophical truth. It can lead to the heights that moderation, ordinary reasoning, and the normal way of life cannot even fathom.29 According to Dudley Young’s ­interpretation, In the Phaedrus Plato recognizes that most of us are not up to the higher ­calling, and offers a limited blessing to those lovers who ­occasionally submit to “their full desire” so long as “their minds are not wholly set ­thereupon” (256c). This is more than he allows either in the earlier Symposium or the later Laws. But what is truly remarkable in the Phaedrus is that even those who would seek the ultimate blessing of wisdom must pass through the divine madness of erotic love. The agonizing ­temptations of s­exuality cannot be avoided by the aspiring philosopher, lover of wisdom, for it is only in renouncing the all-too-human desire to possess and therefore devalue the beauty of the loved-one that the gods allow the chosen few access to the central mystery—that human fulfillment can be possessed only by those who sacrifice their desire to possess it. And this, according to Plato, is the life truly worth living, where the energies for love and war are reconciled at last in the generative perception of beauty.30

Iris Murdoch, among others noticing profound similarities between Plato and Tolstoy, points out that both have ambivalent feelings about sex and hate obscurities and pretensions in art. Murdoch calls Plato and Tolstoy “two great puritans” who had a fear of art, and to an extent a fear of pleasure.31 For both of them, there are two kinds of art, and although they may be equally needed, they cannot be equally esteemed—one kind of art simply gives pleasure and comfort to people, while the other teaches them. For Tolstoy, as for Plato, art per se, or art in the highest sense, is not the transmission of just any feeling but only of the highest feelings—the feelings flowing from religious perception. In Tolstoy’s words, “art is a human activity having for its purpose the t­ ransmission to other of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.”32 For both Tolstoy and Plato, the way toward the highest and best f­ eelings to which men have risen leads through the renunciation of sexual desire, through c­ hastity. This call to chastity, which sounds so “absurd” and “insulting to our i­ntelligence,” appears definitely as a sign of madness, and it cannot but look like madness of a sick kind as long as it is not understood that chastity is not a goal but a means. It is but a symbol of our search for something higher—a higher form of p­ ersonal devotion that should lead to a humane resolution of the tensions of the common life, rather than to jealousy and murder.

Tolstoy’s Divine Madness—An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata

This is the true difference between Tolstoy and his hero Pozdnyshev; this is the key difference between madness as sickness and madness as divine ­inspiration that so many critics of the great Russian author have missed. Pozdnyshev’s madness leads to violence and dehumanization, to the murder of his wife and his own spiritual death. Nonetheless, his society—our society, our advanced civilization—can accept, excuse, and tolerate this horrible event! So, we are quick to denounce as “absurdity, insulting to the intelligence,” Tolstoy’s divine inspiration, his attempt to redirect us toward the highest and the best. Yet, what is it that Tolstoy proposes? What is it that he attempts to teach us? One of those lessons concerns a higher form of love, a loftier goal than what we find in sex and marriage as is usually understood. In our age, marriage is more of a utility than an ideal: “The principal cause of family unhappiness is that people are brought up to think that marriage brings happiness.” Yet, insists Tolstoy, it is just the opposite: “Man survives earthquakes, ­epidemics, terrible illnesses, and every kind of spiritual suffering, but always the most p­ oignant tragedy was, is, and even will be the tragedy of the bedroom.”33 As opposed to sex and marriage, which so dominate our way of thinking and our social behavior, Tolstoy wants to redirect us to the spiritual love as it is revealed in the Gospels. In his words, “Christ never laid down rules of c­ onduct. He establishes no institutions, not even that of marriage.”34 Jesus, Tolstoy ­constantly reiterates, is not focused on the institutions but sees as his mission the promotion of love: “Love is the essential faculty of the human soul. We love not because it is our interest to do so but because love is the essence of who we are, because we cannot but love.”35 Indeed, Tolstoy insists that, “Love is the manifestation within oneself of God.”36 Why can’t Pozdnyshev see this? Why does he never come out of the semi-darkness of his distorted world to see the light of love? For this reason: “You need courage and boldness for faith and for love. . . . One has to love even more, then love will become faith. When you love a woman, she is the best in the world, and that is already faith; an unbeliever cannot love.” 37 Pozdnyshev has neither courage nor boldness for faith and for love. Nor does our age, so proud of its achievements, and yet so poor in faith and love. Is this not the reason why Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata appears as “absurd” to us and as “insulting our intelligence?” Is this not the reason why we do not recognize that Tolstoy’s divine madness issues a challenge to us all to abandon the madness of our “normal” ways of life and become more loving and more humane?



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ENDNOTES   1 Alexander B. Goldenveitzer, Talks with Tolstoy, trans. S. S. Koteliansky and Virginia Woolf (New York: Horizon Press, 1969), 189.   2 Anthony Briggs, Introduction to Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection, trans. A. Briggs (New York: Penguin, 2009), xvi. In his book, Tolstoy (New York: Norton, 1988), 384, A. N. Wilson reverses the question: if we were to read The Kreutzer Sonata without knowing its author, would we suspect that Tolstoy wrote it?   3 George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), 283.   4 Beethoven named the sonata after the French virtuoso, Rudolphe Kreutzer, who he met and befriended in 1798 in Vienna. The sonata was first performed on May 24, 1803, in Vienna, with the Englishman G. P. Bridgetower playing the violin and Beethoven at the piano.   5 Quoted from Thomas Mann, “Goethe and Tolstoy” (1922), in Essays of Three Decades, trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 100.   6 Quoted from Anthony Briggs, Brief Lives: Leo Tolstoy (London: Hesperus Press, 2010), 19.  7 Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata, in The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories, trans. Aylmer Maude (New York: Signet Classic, 1960), 228. Further reference to this text only will be given in the text of the paper in parentheses.   8 Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Tolstoy as Man and Artist (New York: Scholarly Press, 1970), 150.   9 For further discussion of this idea, see Dorothy Green, “The Kreutzer Sonata: Tolstoy and Beethoven,” in Tolstoy’s Short Fiction, ed. and trans. Michael R. Katz (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), 443–44. For valuable discussion of the connection between literature and music, see Rosamund Bartlett, “Sonata Form in Chekhov’s ‘The Black Monk,’” in Intersections and Transpositions: Russian Music, Literature and Society, ed. A. B. Wachtel (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1988), 58–72. See also the following two articles by Bartlett: “Shostakovich and Chekhov,” in Shostakovich in Context, ed. R. Bartlett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 199–218; and “Tchaikovsky, Chekhov and the Russian Elegy,” in Tchaikovsky and his World, ed. Leslie Kearney (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 300–18. 10 Quoted from Ernest J. Simmons’ “Introduction” to Leo Tolstoy, Short Novels (New York: The Modern Library, 1966), 2:xv. For Chekhov’s “second” thoughts about this work, see Rosamund Bartlett, Tolstoy: A Russian Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), 329–30. 11 Romain Rolland, Tolstoy, trans. Bernard Maill (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1991), 225. 12 Briggs, Leo Tolstoy, 85–86. In What Is Art?, written about the same time as The Kreutzer Sonata, Tolstoy also discusses his deepening concern about sex and societal “erotic mania”; see What Is Art?, trans. R. Pevear and L. Volokhonsky (New York: Penguin, 1995), 61–63, 143–44. 13 Goldenveitzer, Talks with Tolstoy, 203. 14 Aylmer Maude, The Life of Tolstoy: Later Years, 2. vols. (London: Constable, 1910), 2: 389.

Tolstoy’s Divine Madness—An Analysis of The Kreutzer Sonata 15 Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, sec. ix. Quoted from Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 370. 16 Wilson, Tolstoy, 385. Wilson is equally wrong to insist that The Kreutzer Sonata is not about sex, but that it is intended as a murder story. On the occasion of the controversy that The Kreutzer Sonata had created, then the sixty-three-year-old Tolstoy wrote in his diary (October 30, 1891): “Whether I explained properly or not why the greatest sexual continence is necessary, I don’t know. But I do know for certain that copulation is an abomination which can only be thought of without revulsion under the influence of sexual desire. Even in order to have children you wouldn’t do this to a woman you love. I’m writing this at a time when I’m possessed myself by sexual desire, against which I can’t fight.” Quoted from Wilson, ibid., 390–91. 17 For the Epilogue of The Kreutzer Sonata, see “The Kreutzer Sonata” Variations: Lev Tolstoy’s Novella and Counterstories by Sofiya Tolstaya and Lev Lvovich Tolstoy, ed. and trans. Michael R. Katz (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 297–308. 18 See, for instance, War and Peace, bk. V, chap. 1. 19 Tolstoy, Resurrection, 471. 20 Ivan Bunin, The Liberation of Tolstoy: A Tale of Two Writers, ed. and trans. Vladimir T. Khmelkov (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2001), 71, 98. 21 Clifton Fadiman, Foreword to War and Peace, trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1942), xxviii. 22 Quoted from Critical Essays on Tolstoy, ed. Edward Wasiolek (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986), 29. 23 Tolstoy, Resurrection, 401. 24 Quoted from Bartlett, Tolstoy: A Russian Life, 333. 25 Mann, “Goethe and Tolstoy,” 116–17. See also Alexandra Tolstaya, “Tolstoy and Music,” Russian Review 17 (1958): 258–62. 26 For further discussion of this point, see Tolstoy, What Is Art?, sections VII (especially page 41) and VII (especially 52–53). 27 Ibid., 97. Rolland offers the most satisfactory answer to the question of why “should Tolstoy have chosen Beethoven, the purest, the chastest of all?—Because he was the most powerful. Tolstoy had early loved his music, and he always loved it. . . . Tolstoy forgets one thing: the mediocrity and the lack of vitality in the majority who make or listen to music. Music cannot be dangerous to those who feel nothing. The spectacle of the Opera-house during a performance of Salomé is quite enough to assure us of the immunity of the public to the more perverse emotions evoked by the art of sounds. To be in danger one must be, like Tolstoy, abounding in life. The truth is that in spite of his injustice where Beethoven was concerned, Tolstoy felt his music more deeply than the majority of those who now exalt him. He, at least, knew the frenzied passions, the savage violence, which mutter through the art of the ‘deaf old man,’ but of which the orchestras and the virtuosi of to-day are innocent. Beethoven would perhaps have preferred the hatred of Tolstoy to the enthusiasm of his admirers.” Rolland, Tolstoy, 229, 233.



Predrag Cicovacki 28 Plato, Phaedrus, 265ab. For a historical overview of the connection between arts and madness, see Ilya Vinitsky, “Madness in Western Literature and the Arts,” The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health, ed. G. Eghigian (New York: Routledge, 2017), 153–71. 29 Plato, Phaedrus, 244a. See also Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 201–17. 30 Dudley Young, Origins of the Sacred: The Ecstasies of Love and War (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 204–5. 31 Iris Murdoch, Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, ed. Peter Conradi (London: Penguin, 1997), 247, 400. 32 Ibid., 211. 33 Quoted from Simmons, “Introduction,” xiii. 34 Tolstoy, Spiritual Writings, ed. Charles E. More (Maryknol, NY: Orbis, 2006), 159. 35 Ibid., 191. 36 Ibid., 144. 37 Quoted from Critical Essays on Tolstoy, ed. Wasiolek, 31.


The Kreutzer Sonata, Sexual Morality, and Music Alexandra Smith


eo Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata, published more than a century ago,   continues to attract attention from critics who interpret the use of Ludwig van Beethoven’s music in this work in a variety of ways. While some scholars see Beethoven’s presence in Tolstoy’s works as a signifier of the unconscious, others argue that in The Kreutzer Sonata Beethoven’s sonata for piano and violin functions as a structural principle of the narrative to ensure a dialogue between the two signifying systems: the musical and the verbal. Several scholars have become interested in eroticism as embodied by the plot lines of both narratives, and linked Tolstoy’s interpretation of Beethoven to the notion of modern marriage discussed in Tolstoy’s novella, in relation to the new vision of sex and marriage after the 1861 Emancipation Manifesto. Following the social reforms of the 1860s, the emergence of a new kind of sexual discourse, connected with hygiene, medicine, education, criminality and demographic issues, became visible both in literature and in the media.1 The present article will focus on Tolstoy’s reception of Beethoven and will argue that Tolstoy’s novella reflects the change in Russian attitudes to sex and marriage, and to the performance of Beethoven’s music in private and public spaces. I will discuss Tolstoy’s close bond with Beethoven in the context of the reception of his music in Russia in the 1830s–1900s. I will then analyze how Tolstoy’s understanding of Beethoven changed at the end of the 1880s and how the use of Beethoven’s music in The Kreutzer Sonata created new emotional communities. Not only did these communities convert to new truths through the act of collective reading and public discussions of Tolstoy’s novella before its actual


Alexandra Smith

publication, they also contributed to the new understanding of the interrelationship between modernity and performance.

THE CHANGING ATTITUDES TO SEXUALITY AND MARRIAGE IN RUSSIA Maria Zalambani highlights the controversial treatment of sexuality and ­marriage in Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata and explains that the novella was p­ ublished for the first time in 1891 in the thirteenth volume of Tolstoy’s collected works in accordance with the wishes of Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya (née Bers, 1844– 1919), Tolstoy’s devoted wife of nearly fifty years. Tolstoy’s idea to publish it initially in the literary journal Nedelia (Week) without censors’ approval did not work out because he continued editing his novella. Yet, as Zalambani points out, the manuscript of the eighth version of the novella was circulated privately among Russian intellectuals. It triggered numerous d­ iscussions about modernity and family life.2 The version of the novella that was submitted for a volume dedicated to Tolstoy’s friend Sergey Yuriev, p­ ublished in 1888, was not approved by the censors. Sofia Tolstaya’s attempt to publish it as part of Tolstoy’s Collected Works was not approved by the censors either. As a result of her personal meeting with Tsar Alexander III in April 1891, Russian officials allowed her to publish it only as part of the Collected Works. The ban was lifted in 1900. Many representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church were opposed to Tolstoy’s novella. Aleksandr Gusev, a Professor of the Kazan Theological Academy, attacked it as a dangerous work advocating birth control through abstinence.3 Likewise, Peter Ulf Møller links Tolstoy’s views on sexuality to a c­ hanging perception of marriage in Europe. He examined Tolstoy’s novella in the c­ ontext of Russian literary debates on sexuality in the 1890s and compared Russian views on modern marriage to the Scandinavian vision of sexual ­morality in the 1880s–90s. According to Møller, Russian and Scandinavian writers were ­preoccupied with such themes as the notion of the animal in Man, the Christian responses to Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution, and the nature of modern marriage.4 Møller also discusses the impact of Tolstoy’s novella on the Russian ­reading public. He refers to Nikolai Mikhailovsky’s March 1890 article in which he describes how Tolstoy’s unpublished manuscript was copied and distributed widely from hand to hand, contributing to an unprecedented rise in interest in Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 9 (the Kreutzer Sonata). According

The Kreutzer Sonata, Sexual Morality, and Music 

to Møller’s study, the popularity of Tolstoy’s novella in its u­ npublished form led also to the boost in the sales of the sheet music of Beethoven’s sonata and its enormous popularity among Russian musicians who performed it “at all ­kinds of chamber music concerts” all over Russia.5 This report also shows how, as early as 1890, the Russian audience was keen to engage in debates about hysteria, degenerated disorders and modern medical discourses about the effects of music on individuals with heightened sensitivity. In the text below I would like to focus on Tolstoy’s reception of Beethoven and link it to the popularity of Beethoven in Russia in the nineteenth century. It will be argued that Tolstoy’s reevaluation of Beethoven in The Kreutzer Sonata is shaped not only by contemporary debates about the modern family, s­ exuality and degeneration but also by Tolstoy’s own concerns about the crisis of s­ piritual values and the formation of emotional communities in modern times. The most representative account of the collective reading of Tolstoy’s novella comes from the memoirs of Russian Senator Anatolii Koni in which he recollects the effect of his illegal public reading of The Kreutzer Sonata. He writes how he had to stop now and then because he was overwhelmed by emotions. He goes on to say that listeners at his reading were infected by this strange work and that The Kreutzer Sonata should be recommended as “an obligatory reading for all young people at the threshold of life.”6 The prominent critic Nikolai Strakhov, who listened to Koni’s reading of Tolstoy’s work, did not have a chance to borrow one of the illegal copies of it, but he nevertheless reported to Tolstoy his impression of the novella. He praised Tolstoy thus: “You have not written anything stronger than this, nor anything darker.”7 As we can see from these examples, the illegal circulation of Tolstoy’s novella contributed to the formation of new emotional communities in Russia that brought together people who adhered to the same norms of emotional expression and value. Sofia Tolstaya also contributed to the growing debate on the value of her husband’s story for the formation of the vision of modern family life and sexual morality in Russia. She produced several copies of her husband’s work and wrote about the story in her letters, diary and autobiography. As Michael Katz points out, Sofia Tolstaya “disagreed markedly with Tolstoy’s ­emphases and conclusions at almost every turn; moreover, she was deeply e­ mbarrassed that the reading public had construed the story as a reflection of her own ­marriage to the famous writer.”8 In response to her husband’s novella, Tolstaya wrote two stories that were meant to challenge her husband’s views on family life and moral sexuality: “Whose Fault?” and “Song without Words.” In her second story, “Song without Words” (1898), she portrays a married woman



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(Sasha) who overcomes her grief, caused by the death of her mother, by playing music. She also falls in love with the performer and composer, who does not reciprocate her feelings. The heroine becomes deeply unhappy and confused. Subsequently, she goes mad and decides to live in a hospital for those who suffer from nervous diseases. Katz links Tolstaya’s story to contemporary debates about modern life, sexuality, and gender roles in Russia. He praises the story for a highly empathetic account of female psychology and goes on to say that: Madness in Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya’s story “Song without Words” includes a brief historical survey of Russian attitudes toward the malady. When the heroine feels the onset of mental disease, she retreats to a convent to seek spiritual consolation from an elder, but to no avail. The advice she receives there does not help her sort through her own motives or solve her dilemma. The traditional treatment in medieval Russia proves to be inadequate to meet the demands of modern life.9

By exploring the heroine’s compulsive fascination with music through the lens of a mad person, Tolstaya manages to expose the world of a Moscow composer and the masculine milieu of music conservatory as morally deficient. “It hints suggestively,” notes Katz, “at the clandestine unacknowledged relationships between teachers and students, calling attention to an element of homoerotic attraction.”10 It can be added to this observation that Tolstaya’s discussion of taboo subjects (such as homosexuality) and the association between music and mental problems, sheds light on the importance of literature in promoting a public debate on the role of music as a basis for national culture. Both authors express concerns about the view of music as a tool for self-improvement and for development of emotional sensitivity. Such a view was popular among nineteenth-century writers in Russia and in Europe. In a letter to John Sibree written on February 11, 1848, for example, George Eliot talks about her impressions of Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah and Bellini’s opera thus: “I agree with you as to the inherent superiority of music . . . painting and sculpture are but an idealizing of our actual existence. Music arches over this existence with another and diviner.”11 In her letter to Sarah Hennell, written in 1880, Eliot criticizes Mozart’s affinity with the Italian ‘sugared’ mindset, and refers to Schubert and Beethoven as being intellectually superior to the Italian idiom.12 As was the case in

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Victorian Britain, Russian authors saw German composers’ works as being important for the development of the intellectual and spiritual faculties as opposed to the Italian composers and those who composed music in the Italian mode of expression. This view is reflected in Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina in which Stepan (Stiva) Oblonsky, Anna’s brother, is presented as an immature person and womanizer influenced by Italian operas. According to Taruskin, the popularity of Italian opera in Russia began to wither away when Alexander III ceased to support it for nationalistic reasons. As Taruskin suggests, “The later sixties were a period of marked decline for the St. Petersburg Italian opera. The repertoire was ossifying, growing stale. There were no composers on the Italian horizon to compare with Verdi or his predecessors.”13 The far less expensive productions of Russian opera in the 1860s became more popular and more profitable than the Italian ones. According to Taruskin, the institutional means for maintaining productivity of music in Russia, including the Russian Musical Society and the first music conservatory, were established in the 1860s as a result of the “heroic labors” of Anton Rubinstein (1829–1894).14 Taruskin defines him as “a virtuoso of international fame and a composer of German schooling,” who saw “the future of Russian music in terms of professionalization under the sponsorship of the aristocracy and the imported teachers and virtuosos.”15 Such a vision of the development of Russian musical life caused a significant backlash led by Stasov and Balakiriev who were opposed to the German-dominated musical culture in Russia.16 Russian musicians, including Piotr Tchaikovsky, acquired their ­professional status only in the 1860s, and they often forged their Russian identity by engaging with German musical culture and sought a new post-­Beethovenian language of expression. Russian debates about musical culture and i­dentity in the 1860s–1880s often associated German music with seriousness and ­spirituality and presented Italian music as an embodiment of sensuality. A ­commitment of Russian performers to German instrumental music, as Taruskin affirms, can be explained by the popular belief that it was “the highest and the most philosophical of all the arts.”17 In contrast to the popular belief, Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata probes Russian readers and music lovers to ­reassess their views about the effect of music on their self-development and moral well-being. By presenting the character Pozdnyshev as a highly i­ ntelligent Russian aristocrat who becomes disturbed by incomprehensible emotion ­triggered by his wife’s and Trukhachevsky’s performance of Beethoven’s music, Tolstoy suggests that Pozdnyshev recognizes some quality in the music that reveal the mental state of the composer.



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Pozdnyshev’s interpretation of his wife’s appearance after the performance of Beethoven’s music as being erotically arousing and displaced from her domestic environment, reveals his fear that music can contribute to the moral corruption of members of all classes and destroy family ties. As Lisa Burrell explains succinctly, “Tolstoy responded negatively to Beethoven’s sonata form narrative because the moral struggle within its plot aroused feelings of guilt about his own sexual immorality.” She goes on to say: “Whatever Tolstoy’s interpretation of Beethoven’s narrative may have been, it is clear that Beethoven’s sonata could not have been understood to embody the educational function that Tolstoy promotes in his later works.”18

TOLSTOY’S NOVELLA AS A RESPONSE TO SCHOPENHAUER In addition to the issues pertinent to sexual morality and the use of music in domestic spaces, Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata highlights the negative qualities of individualism and the corresponding drive to renounce the individual self. Pozdnyshev’s allusion to Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) reveals his nihilistic mindset. He questions the meaning of life and evolutionary progress from the point of view of a modern thinker who has a utilitarian approach to life. Pozdnyshev says: “But why should we live? If life has no purpose, if it’s been given us for its own sake, then the Schopenhauers, as well as the Hartmanns, are perfectly right. And even if there is a purpose in life, it seems obvious that when that purpose is fulfilled life must come to an end.”19 The reference to Schopenhauer in this context indicates the popularity of his ideas among Russian educated elite. Tolstoy’s familiarity with the philosophy of Schopenhauer, whose 1818 treatise The Word as Will and Representation was translated by Tolstoy’s friend Afanasy Fet, is well known. Harry Walsh’s article argues convincingly that Schopenhauer’s On the Freedom of the Will serves as a source for the second epilogue of War and Peace.20 We should bear in mind, though, that some of Tolstoy’s ideas developed independently from Schopenhauer despite their affinity. Emily Shaw elucidates: Although it is clear that Tolstoy extensively read and reflected on Schopenhauer’s philosophy, evidence suggests that a natural degree of affinity existed between the two thinkers, resulting in Tolstoy’s independent arrival at some conclusions similar to Schopenhauer’s. It may be said that Tolstoy found in Schopenhauer an articulation of his own already

The Kreutzer Sonata, Sexual Morality, and Music  formed (or germinating) intuitions and metaphysical convictions. His influence was catalytic rather than generative, as Tolstoy did not simply adopt his ideas as new and uncharted information, but more precisely found in Schopenhauer’s philosophy a formulation for his own thoughts.21

Schopenhauer’s book The World as Will and Representation was published in Russia in 1881. The depiction of Pozdnyshev’s crime in The Kreutzer Sonata exemplifies vividly Shopenhauer’s vision of the one’s will as an embodiment of self-assertion and of the extension of the authority of one’s will through the denial of the same will appearing in another individual. For Schopenhauer the will, which he saw as the essence of all things, manifested itself as an impulse, exemplified by brute striving. Schopenhauer’s conception of music as a direct representation of the will is strongly felt in Pozdnyshev’s interpretation of the interior quality of Beethoven’s music. Pozdnyshev states: Take that Kreutzer Sonata, for example, take its first movement, the presto: Can one really allow it to be played in a drawing-room full of women in low-cut dresses? To be played, and then followed by a little light applause, and the eating of ice-cream, and talk about the latest society gossip? Such pieces should only be played on certain special, solemn, significant occasions when certain solemn actions have to be performed, actions that correspond to the nature of the music.22

Pozdnyshev claims that Beethoven’s sonata produces a shattering effect on him and that it generates a special feeling and energy that might be harmful for some people. It appears that he is especially responsive to the melodic structure of the sonata, which has a forward-looking effect upon him. Pozdnyshev describes it as a discovery of the new reality and a new awareness of life filled with new emotions and new possibilities. He feels liberated from his everyday life and customary perception of reality. The transcending effect created by his perception of Beethoven’s music appears to be contributing to Pozdnyshev’s crime. Arguably, Tolstoy’s novella poses a question about the validity of Schopenhauer’s beliefs. According to Schopenhauer, both aesthetic and ascetic experience liberate individuals from entrapment within the individual will. He also claims that music stands above all arts, providing “the innermost kernel preceding all form, or the heart of things.”23 Tolstoy goes further than



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Schopenhauer and brings to the fore the role of performance in the reception of ideas and emotions embedded in music. The novella suggests that Pozdnyshev might have been affected by Beethoven’s music differently if he were to listen to it in a music hall rather than in a domestic context. Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata illustrates well Richard Gustafson’s statement, suggesting that in his writings on art Tolstoy is always preoccupied with a musical event and that “Tolstoy’s art of infection is the art of a good performance.”24 According to Caryl Emerson, Tolstoy’s “fascination and discomfort with the ‘performative present’ left a deep mark on his literary work.”25 She interprets Tolstoy’s novella as an embodiment of Tolstoy’s anxiety of music. I would like to develop this point further and explore why Tolstoy felt anxious about the interior quality of Beethoven’s music. I would argue that Tolstoy’s views on Beethoven after 1880 were largely affected both by public discussions of Beethoven and by Tolstoy’s on-going engagement with the philosophy of Schopenhauer, with whom Tolstoy felt a special affinity. First of all, it is important to discuss briefly a few biographical details that explain why Tolstoy chose Beethoven’s Sonata, No. 9 for his novella. As Rosamund Bartlett points out, there were several factors that triggered the ­creation of Tolstoy’s novella. Partially, it was inspired by a letter sent to Tolstoy in February 1886 by a deeply distressed anonymous female admirer who was concerned with the inequality of men and women in Russia. She complained to Tolstoy about the ongoing misogynist behavior of Russian men towards women.26 Bartlett also suggests that Tolstoy was moved by the idea of a novella about a train passenger who boasted about his infidelity to his wife in front of other passengers. These events coincided with Tolstoy’s exposure to several performances of Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 9, Op. 47 (known also as the Kreutzer Sonata) in Moscow and in Yasnaya Polyana that took place in 1887. This sonata was performed by Tolstoy’s son Sergei and the family violin teacher Iulii Liasota. “Tolstoy certainly knew Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ very well,” writes Bartlett, “and it was one of relatively few opuses to feature on the list of his favorite musical works later compiled by Sergey.”27 As Bartlett points out, “it is the first of the sonata’s three movements which has the greatest parallel with the novella.”28 She explains Pozdnyshev’s response “to the frenzied dialogue between violin and piano in its central presto” as act of uncontrollable jealousy towards Pozdnyshev’s wife and her male violinist partner. Bartlett also thinks that Tolstoy’s was deeply affected by the marriage of his son Ilya, the birth of his son Ivan on March 31, 1888, and the birth of his granddaughter. According to Bartlett, Tolstoy felt ashamed for his inability to

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control his physical desire for his wife that led to the birth of Ivan, especially because his wife Sonya was reluctant to become pregnant again.29 Bartlett’s biography of Tolstoy also describes a book written by an American author Alice Bunker Stockham sent to Tolstoy by the author that made Tolstoy aware of recent debates on evolution in America. In her book Tokology: A Book for Every Woman, Stockham advocated the idea that continual pregnancies are harmful for women and that men should control their sexual urges. In November 1888, Tolstoy corresponded with Stockham and told her that the book was highly useful for mankind, not just female readers.30 Around the same time, in his letter to Chertkov, Tolstoy expressed his regrets for living for a long time like an animal.31 Tolstoy’s anxieties about his behavior took place at a time when Tolstoy largely reassessed Schopenhauer’s conception of the evil will and his pessimism. In the 1880s, he adopted a religious worldview that incorporated some ideas of Schopenhauer. As Sigrid Mauer concedes, Tolstoy’s religious outlook after 1880s comprised “those views of Schopenhauer which would fit, or which he could twist to fit.”32

TOLSTOY’S IMAGE OF BEETHOVEN Tolstoy’s interest in Beethoven was not unique in Russia. Beethoven was one of the most important German composers who influenced Russian musical culture. Beethoven’s music attracted considerable attention in Russia in the second half of the nineteenth century, not only from music lovers but also c­ritics. It would be useful therefore to juxtapose Tolstoy’s personal preferences for Beethoven’s music with the wider context of the reception of Beethoven in Russia. Such an approach would enable us to understand why Tolstoy’s novella contributed to the mass interest in Beethoven’s Violin Sonata, No. 9. In his 1908 article on Beethoven and Tolstoy the British author, journalist, poet and composer Charles Frederick Kenyon (1879–1926; who often published his works under the pseudonym Gerald Cumberland) describes his a­stonishment at a fact reported in Aylmer Maude’s biography of Tolstoy: Maude quotes Tchaikovsky’s statement suggesting that Tolstoy had doubts about Beethoven’s genius.33 Kenyon questions the validity of this information and asks his ­readers the following question: “How is it possible for a man of extraordinary ­intelligence, loving music, to deny the genius of Beethoven?”34 He then goes on to say: “For this there seems to be only one explanation: Tolstoy is not always intellectually honest. Beethoven’s works do not fit in with Tolstoy’s theory as to what constitutes great art; therefore, Beethoven has no genius whatever.”35



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He finds Tolstoy’s attitudes towards Beethoven contradictory in light of the fact that Tolstoy liked Beethoven’s work and often played it. Yet, while several accounts support the view that Tolstoy enjoyed listening to Beethoven’s music, some scholars draw on the evidence ­provided by Tolstoy’s family members to suggest that Tolstoy’s general reception of Beethoven’s music was complicated. “On the one hand he admired and was deeply moved by the composer’s work,” writes Janneke van de Stadt, “but, on the other, he saw it as the beginning of Western music’s steady decline.”36 Tolstoy’s daughter and secretary Alexandra (1884–1979) claims that her father was strongly ­influenced by music. “Music penetrated the deepest recesses of his soul,” affirms Tolstaya, “it stirred his whole being, it released in him embryonic thoughts and emotions of which he himself was not cognizant. Waves of delight, joy, fear of losing these seconds of almost divine uplift flooded him, suffocated him. He felt like crying and laughing at once and was filled with the strongest urge to create.”37 Tolstaya describes her father’s negative opinion about Beethoven, which he expressed privately in his conversations with different people, as well as in his treatise What Is Art?. She admits her perplexity of her father’s view that, despite a few compositions of Beethoven being really artful, many of his compositions were composed in haste. She emphasizes Tolstoy’s objection to the role of critics in promoting the image of Beethoven as a true genius and praising even Beethoven’s late works which, in Tolstoy’s view, were “artificial, unaccomplished and absurd.”38 In his memoirs, Tolstoy’s brother-in-law Stepan Bers recalls how Tolstoy was deeply affected by music and how he accompanied his elder sister’s singing. He also talks about Tolstoy’s fear of music as follows: “I have noticed that the sensations which music called forth in him were accompanied by a slight pallor of the face and an imperceptible grimace, which seemed to express fright.”39 Rolland thinks that Tolstoy reproaches Beethoven for his power. He writes: “Tolstoy is like Goethe listening to the C Minor Symphony. It troubles him, and he experiences the feeling of anger against the imperious master who can thus subject him to his will.”40 According to Rolland, Tolstoy’s fear of the unknown power of sounds grew stronger towards the end of his life. Although Rolland does not provide many examples to support his claim, it is worth considering several references to Beethoven’s music in Tolstoy’s work written before his novella The Kreutzer Sonata in order to identify the emergence of anxiety in Tolstoy’s reception of Beethoven. Commenting on

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Nikolenka’s responses to his mother’s performance of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique portrayed in Childhood, Emerson suggests that this episode “restores the sense of being loved” and illustrates how sincerity of artistic expression infects the listener with “unbroken transmission of feeling.”41 If we look at the passage from Childhood invoked in Emerson’s chapter on Tolstoy and music, we could see that the author also refers to his mother’s playing the second c­oncerto of the Irish composer, pianist and teacher, John Field (1782–1837), and m ­ entions that Nikolenka’s mother was his pupil. No description of the effect of this performance on Nikolenka is ­provided. The narrator just ­mentions Field’s Concerto No. 2 in A-flat Major and then goes on to say that: I dozed off, and light, luminous, limpid memories rose up in my ­imagination. Then she started to play Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique, and I ­recollected something sad, heavy and gloomy. Maman played those two pieces often, and I remember very well the feeling they evoked in me. It was like a recollection, but a recollection of what? You seemed to be ­recalling that had never existed.42

It appears that Field’s music made Nikolenka doze off and recollect ­something luminous and bright. The narrator lumps together the two pieces of music, although his ­description of Beethoven’s music as heavy, sad and gloomy appears to be very different from Field’s music. In both cases, the narrator emphasizes the ­elusive and suggestive nature of musical language that resists any verbalization. It is clear that the narrator reflects the thoughts of the adult author rather than the child portrayed in Childhood. Bearing in mind that Tolstoy’s parents died when he was very young, Tolstoy would have read about Field’s music lessons with his mother from her memoirs.43 Tolstoy also refers to Field in War and Peace (in vol. 2) in relation to Count Rostov’s house pianist Dimmler (who was a s­ uccessful piano player and a pupil of Field in real life). The portrayal of Dimmler is related to an episode in which he was asked to play Field’s nocturne, a favorite of Countess Rostov. Bearing in mind that the nocturne genre was invented around 1815, this episode erroneously mentions Field as an inventor of the nocturne around 1810. As Piggot points out, if Field had written any nocturnes in 1810 or earlier he would have called them romances.44 Given that Field’s name is not mentioned in another ­version of Childhood, it might be possible to suggest that Tolstoy wanted to



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present his mother as a pupil of Field either in order to differentiate himself from the musical tradition cultivated by his mother and her generation of music lovers or to highlight her exceptional qualities as a pianist, as she was taught by one of the best piano teachers in Europe. Piggot reports that by 1830 Field became a legend whose superiority among pianists was recognized by many leading composers and musicians, including Chopin, Elsner and Wieck, who saw him “as a leader of his profession.” Soon after the publication of his nocturnes and concertos in 1815, his reputation as a composer grew stronger, in addition to his fame as a brilliant pianist. Subsequently, his works became an essential part of the repertoire in Europe and in Russia.45 In the twentieth century Field’s piano concertos were largely forgotten and he became promoted as an inventor of the nocturne and a precursor of Chopin.46 There is a clear confusion between critics whether Field should be placed between Mozart and Beethoven as a representative of early Romantic practice or whether his ­concertos should be considered an example of a post-Beethovean progression.47 More importantly, it appears odd that Tolstoy’s mother would love playing both composers because Field’s attitude towards Beethoven’s music was negative: he defined Beethoven’s piano music as “German dishcloth.”48 In one of the versions of the aforementioned passage from Childhood ­translated by Aylmer Maude and published in England in 1927, Tolstoy describes his mother finishing playing Field’s music and then preparing ­herself in a serious manner to play Beethoven’s music by adjusting her dress and d­ rawing the candles nearer to the music stand. The narrator describes her facial expression and her gestures as something special: “By the care with which she did all this and the thoughtfully severe expression on her face, it seemed as if she was preparing for something very serious.”49 Nikolenka goes on to describe his impression of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique performed by his mother thus: “the familiar sounds of the piece Mama was playing produced on me a sweet impression and at the same time disturbed me.” As we can see from this comment Rolland’s aforementioned suggestion about Tolstoy’s a­ mbivalent attitude to Beethoven is already manifested in the draft version of Tolstoy’s Childhood. Furthermore, by using the figure of a young child as an interpreter of Beethoven’s music Tolstoy not only uncovers the complexity of Beethoven’s sonata, but also creates a sense of estrangement from it. It is worth looking at the mixture of emotions that Nikolenka experiences while listening to his mother’s performance in this version of Childhood. Firstly,

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he claims that despite knowing the whole sonata very well he was disturbed by it and he could not go to sleep. Nikolenka conveys his anxieties about the possibility of the performance of this piece that could add some new layers of interpretation to Beethoven’s sonata: What if it suddenly went not as I have expected? The restrained, m ­ ajestic, but agitated motif of the Introduction, which seems to fear to express itself, made me hold my breath. The more beautiful and more complex the musical phrase the stronger became the feeling of fear lest anything should disturb its beauty, and the stronger the feeling of delight when the phrase was harmoniously resolved.50

Commenting on allegro he says: “That part always surprised me; and the feeling of surprise was as strong as if I were hearing it for the first time.” The narrator suggests that listening to andante made him smile and dream of ­something light, transparent and joyful. He then confesses about being ­disturbed by the rondo in C: But the Rondo in C minor aroused me. ‘What is he speaking about? Where is he asking to go? What does he want?’ And one wishes it all to finish quicker, quicker, quicker; but when he had ceased to weep and to entreat I wanted still to hear the passionate expression of his suffering.51

As can be seen from Tolstoy’s rendering of Nikolenka’s emotions triggered by his mother’s performance of the Sonata Pathétique, the aesthetic pleasure arises from the array of emotions experienced by the narrator and comprises both joyful and sad sensations. The description of these sensations is similar to Schopenhauer’s belief that music expresses “not this or that particular and definitive pleasure, not this or that affliction, pain, sorrow, horror, gaiety . . . but joy, pain, sorrow, horror, gaiety . . . themselves, to a certain extent in the abstract, their essential nature.”52 Certainly, Tolstoy’s draft of Childhood differs significantly from the published version in which the reference to Nikolenka’s mother musical performance is laconic and elusive. There are various reasons for such a drastic change in Beethoven’s portrayal of Nikolenka’s experiences. It seems likely that Tolstoy’s account of Beethoven’s sonata in his aforementioned draft translated by Maude appeared to Tolstoy too tendentious during the final stage of his editing work. In his final version, Tolstoy presents Beethoven’s music as a m ­ anifestation of the



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absolute music that resists verbalization. Schopenhauer’s understanding of music in its a­ bsolute, universal form as a manifestation of the unconsciousness fits Tolstoy’s portrayal well in the final version of Childhood Nikolenka’s inability to describe the music he heard. He refers to it in general terms as “­something sad, heavy and gloomy.”53 Furthermore, he identifies the feeling that Beethoven’s music invoked in him as a recollection of something unknown and something that had never existed. The final version of Childhood presents music as something abstract rather than a specific embodiment of suffering and pain. The striking d­ ifference between the two versions suggests that during the final stage of ­editing Childhood Tolstoy developed a similar view to Schopenhauer’s belief that all emotion is a “modification of the will.”54 Implicitly, by expressing the will, music tends to convey human emotions. Nikolenka’s description of his m ­ other’s ­performance in the final version of Childhood is akin to Schopenhauer’s portrayal of the absolute music that “floats past us as a paradise familiar and yet eternally remote” because it “reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain.”55 To emphasize the experience of something remote and familiar, Tolstoy depicts Nikolenka’s state of mind as being dream-like and akin to the sensations experienced in one’s sleep. However, both versions of this passage contradict Daniel Rancour-Laferriere’s observation that Tolstoy was not capable of describing the effect of music on its listeners because he understood music’s “pre-verbal modes of functioning.”56 It can be argued instead, as Krystina Pomorska does, to think of Tolstoy’s profound interest in intuitive and unmediated forms of communication, including music.57 According to Martha Nussbaum’s study of emotions, not only music has deep connections to our emotional life, any analysis of emotional properties of the music should be grounded in the specifically musical properties of the work and take account of the experiences of listeners, “including the ways in which the music is ultimately experienced as about them and their emotional life.”58 Viewed in this light, Nikolenka’s association of his mother’s performance with something unknown and at the same time familiar, as described in both versions of Childhood, highlight his ability to think creatively and intuitively about the ideas embedded in Beethoven’s music. Given the fact that Nikolenka listened to Beethoven’s sonata performed by his mother on many occasions, the association between Beethoven’s music and spiritual maternity plays an important role in his emotional and spiritual development.

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Another example of the association between Beethoven’s music and spiritual maternity can be found in Tolstoy’s 1859 novella Family Happiness in which music enables Masha to progress from an innocent girl to devoted mother. According to Natalia Dame, in this novella “whereas Masha’s husband fails to control her sexual development, Tolstoy succeeds in narratively taming Masha’s sexuality through music and channeling her sexual desires into maternal.”59 Her first musical performance portrayed in the novella is related to Beethoven’s Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia (also known as Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2). The reader sees seventeen-year-old Masha playing this sonata for her father and her father’s friend Sergei Mikhailych, her future husband, who had asked her to play Beethoven’s sonata. Her performance has a powerful effect on Sergei Mikhailych and triggers her development into a desirable object. As their relationship progresses, Sergei Mikhailych and Masha are depicted as using music as a mode of communication for their desires. As Dame points out, the role of music in the novella is twofold: “The importance of Masha’s recital of Beethoven lies not only in her initial connection with Sergei Mikhailych through music, but also in Masha’s reconnection with her mother, whose untimely death plunged Masha into a state of depression and prevented her from playing piano.”60 By re-creating her pre-Oedipal bond with her mother through music, Masha undertakes a transition into a female performer who is regulated by a male narrative. In Dame’s opinion, Masha’s second performance of Beethoven’s Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia not only brings back memories about her first performance of this work for Sergei Mikailych but also marks Masha’s transition from a sexually attractive society lady to “an asexual mother” who acquires a new feeling of love for her children and the father of her children.61 She felt that it was a beginning of a different but otherwise happy life. The notion of happiness associated with musical performances of Beethoven and Mozart as depicted in Family Happiness appears to contradict Tolstoy’s own inconsistent treatment of Beethoven. One statement by Tolstoy about Beethoven reveals Tolstoy’s dissatisfaction with Beethoven: “I do not like him, not necessary dislike him, but he grabs you too strongly, and one does not need this: music should make one happy.”62 Yet Tolstoy’s use of musical sonatas in his novellas demonstrates his awareness of the expressive quality of the classical sonata form of an instrumental piece comprising two, three or four successive movements of d­ ifferent character enabling the performer to depict feelings without words. According to J. A. P. Schulz, the sonata enables the composer “to produce a monologue



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through tones of melancholy, grief, sorrow, tenderness, or delight and joy.” Alternatively, maintains Schulz, it could produce “a s­ ensitive dialogue solely through impassioned tones of similar or different qualities; or simply depict emotions [that are] violent, impetuous, and [sharply] c­ ontrasted, or light, gentle, fluent, and pleasing.”63 Beethoven’s sonatas were highly popular in the nineteenth century: they were appreciated for their richness, aesthetic ­excellence, and originality. It was felt that they could have been interpreted in a variety of ways and their scope for interpretative ­strategies enabled diverse a­ udiences to enjoy listening to them. In her study of the reception of Beethoven’s sonatas in Europe, Melissa Mann claims that by the mid-nineteenth century Beethoven’s sonatas had become an important part of the Western musical canon: “In the nineteenth century, critics and ­performers overwhelmingly focused on the ‘Pathetique,’ ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Tempest,’ ‘Waldstein,’ ‘Appassionata,’ ‘Lebewohl,’ and the five late sonatas; the remaining twenty-one received less attention in both concert halls and music literature.”64 Given the canonical reception of Beethoven’s sonatas in the nineteenth century, it would be possible to see Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata as an attempt to question the creation of national musical and literary canons through private musical performances of middle-class communities as well as by public performances. To a great extent, the Russian reception of Beethoven is similar to the reception of his works in Europe. In the 1840s Russian critics widely debated Beethoven’s late works and found them beyond comprehension, but in the second half of the nineteenth century they accepted his late style compositions. The established music critic Aleksandr Serov (1820–1871) saw Beethoven as a precursor of modern music, even of Wagner’s works. He wrote: “He took the symphony to its highest level but felt that, properly speaking, all instrumental music, its whole mass, is gravitating towards a union with human speech, with song.”65 Serov’s view of the organic nature of Beethoven’s music and its powerful effect on listeners that he associated with the ideals of the French revolution shed light on Tolstoy’s fascination with Beethoven. According to Skinner, Serov was not an ideologue but he “inadvertently set the stage for more politically driven interpretations”: the prevailing view of Beethoven in late imperial Russia and in Soviet times was related to the depiction of him as r­ evolutionary. “In the wake of the Russian Revolution,” writes Skinner, “the Communist regime in turn coopted this revisionist view, transforming Beethoven’s music into a propaganda weapon in the arsenal of one-party state and the composer himself into an icon of Soviet power.”66

The Kreutzer Sonata, Sexual Morality, and Music 

CONCLUSION As the present article has demonstrated, Tolstoy’s interpretation of Beethoven in The Kreutzer Sonata stems not only from Tolstoy’s long-standing engagement with Beethoven in his works and private correspondence and conversations, but also from the debates on modern family, moral sexuality and the construction of Russian national culture after the 1861 Emancipation Manifesto. The inner conflict manifested in some parts of Beethoven’s sonata, those displaying confrontational nature and related to gender roles, provided Tolstoy with an opportunity to trigger a public debate on the changing nature of modern life and family. Bearing in mind the popular association of the sonata form among music critics with its dialogue between feminine and masculine ideas,67 it can be argued that Tolstoy’s use of this form in his novella highlights the ongoing importance of this gendered-influenced interpretation for the contemporary discourse on male-female relationships in modern times.

ENDNOTES   1 This line of investigation can be found in Maria Zalambani, “Kreitserova sonata i zarozhdenie burzhuaznogo braka” [The Kreutzer Sonata and the Beginning of Bourgeois Marriage], Russian Literature 82 (2016): 103–37.   2 Ibid., 130.   3 A. Gusev, O brake i bezbrachii. Protiv “Kreitserovoi sonaty” i “Poslesloviia” k nei grafa L. Tolstogo [On Marriage and Unmarried State. Against “the Kreutzer Sonata” and Its Epilogue, Written by Count Leo Tolstoy] (Kazan: Tipografiia Imperatorskogo Universiteta, 1891), 102.   4 Peter Ulf Møller, Postlude to The Kreutzer Sonata: Tolstoy and the Debate on Sexual Morality in Russian Literature in the 1890s (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988), xi-xii.   5 Ibid., 100.   6 Quoted in English in ibid., 93.  7 Ibid.  8 Michael R. Katz, “‘Though This Be Madness’: Sofia Tolstaya’s Second Response to Kreutzer Sonata,” Tolstoy Studies Journal 25 (2013): 67.   9 Ibid., 69–70. 10 Ibid., 71. 11 Gordon S. Haight, ed. The George Eliot Letters, 9 vols. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1954–78), 1:247. 12 Haight, The George Eliot Letters, 7:344. 13 Richard Taruskin, Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essay (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), 208. 14 Ibid., xi.



Alexandra Smith 15 Ibid., 123. 16 Ibid., 124. 17 Ibid., 215. 18 Lisa M. Burrell, “Music, Narrative, and Sexual Morality in The Kreutzer Sonatas of Beethoven, Tolstoy, and Janacek” (PhD diss., University of Houston, 2002), 124. 19 Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata, in The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories, trans. David McDuff (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 53. 20 Harry Walsh, “Schopenhauer’s On the Freedom of the Will and the Epilogue to War and Peace,” Slavic and East European Review 57 (1979): 573–74. 21 Emily Shaw, “Creating a Moral Hero: Tolstoy, Schopenhauer, and the Problem of Self ” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010), 27. 22 Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata, 97. 23 Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 2 vols., trans. E. F. J. Payne (New York: Dover, 1969), 1:263. 24 Richard F. Gustafson, Leo Tolstoy: Resident and Stranger (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 374. 25 Caryl Emerson, “What Is Art? and the Anxiety of Music,” Russian Literature 50 (1996): 435. 26 Rosamund Bartlett, Tolstoy: A Russian Life (London: Profile Books, 2013), 324–25. 27 Ibid., 325. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid., 326. 30 Ibid., 327. 31 Ibid. 32 Sigrid Helga Maurer, “Schopenhauer in Russia: His Influence on Turgenev, Fet, and Tolstoy” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkley, 1967), 295. 33 Gerald Cumberland, “Tolstoy and Beethoven,” The Musical Standard 30 (1908): 279. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid. 36 Janneke van de Stadt, “Narrative, Music, and Performance: Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata and the Example of Beethoven,” Tolstoy’s Studies Journal 12 (2000): 67. 37 Alexandra Tolstaya, “Tolstoy and Music,” The Russian Review 17 (1958), 258–62. 38 Ibid., 259. 39 Quoted in Romain Rolland, “Tolstoy’s Attitude Towards Music,” The Review of Reviews 43 (1911): 483. 40 Ibid. 41 Caryl Emerson, “Tolstoy and Music,” in Anniversary Essays on Tolstoy, ed. D. T. Orwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 17. 42 Leo Tolstoy, Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, trans. Judson Rosengrant (London: Penguin Books, 2012), 38. 43 Patrick Piggott, The Life and Music of John Field, 1782–1837, Creator of the Nocturne (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1973), 262.

The Kreutzer Sonata, Sexual Morality, and Music  44 Ibid., xv. 45 Ibid., 101. 46 Julian Horton, “John Field and the Alternative Novella of Concerto First-Movement Form,” Music and Letters 92 (2011): 44. 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid., 50. 49 Aylmer Maude, “Tolstoy on the Sonata Pathétique,” The Sackbut 8 (1927): 109. 50 Ibid. 51 Ibid. 52 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 1:261. 53 Leo Tolstoy, Childhood. Boyhood. Youth, 38. 54 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 2:202. 55 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 1:264. 56 Daniel Rancour-Laferriere, Tolstoy on the Couch: Mysogyny, Masochism, and the Absent Mother (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 126. 57 Krystina Pomorska, Jakobsonian Poetics and Slavic Narrative: From Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), 64. 58 Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 251. 59 Natalia Dame, “The Search for Narrative Control: Music and Female Sexuality in Tolstoy’s Family Happiness and The Kreutzer Sonata,” Ulbandus Review 16 (2014): 167. 60 Ibid., 168. 61 Ibid., 169. 62 Quoted in ibid., 163. 63 Quoted in Yi-Shun Leung Jackson, “A Selective Study of Sonata-Fantasies in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century” (PhD diss., University of Cincinnati, 1990), 2. 64 Melissa Eliott Mann, “The Creation of a Canon: Patterns in Reception of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas” (PhD diss., University of Connecticut, 2003), 221. 65 Quoted in Frederick W. Skinner, “‘Triumph of the Organic’: Aleksandr Nikolaevich Serov and the Ninth Symphony,” The Beethoven Journal 21 (2006): 7. 66 Ibid., 9. 67 Maria Citron, Gender and the Musical Canon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 132–33.



A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy Diana Dukhanova


n 1905, Vasily Rozanov (1856–1919) made a trip to Yasnaya Polyana in hopes of finding a kindred spirit. A passionate advocate of the Russian family, Rozanov had been arguing for some years that the domestic and conjugal images that Leo Tolstoy portrayed in his novels were manifestations of the same “religion of the family” that Rozanov himself sought. The visit to Yasnaya Polyana held great significance in his quest for affirmation and cooperation for the revered novelist, whose moral authority across Europe could be deployed for the purposes of reviving the family. It was also significant, however, because Rozanov sought to assuage some doubts that had emerged in his analysis of Tolstoy’s genuine religious convictions. After all, in order to affirm that Tolstoy was a prophet of the “religion of the family,” Rozanov had to provide a radically different reading of The Kreutzer Sonata (1889) and Tolstoy’s new religious views from those which the author himself had explained. In Rozanov’s writings, Tolstoy appears alternately as a “prophet of the family,” representing an amalgam of pagan and Christian views, whose turn to celibacy is a sort of spiritual and philosophical experiment that negates nothing which came prior, or else as a defeated man whose pessimism over the possibility of renewing the Christian family led him to embrace asceticism. As Rozanov would discuss in “Paganism and Christianity at Yasnaya Polyana” (1910), he visited the estate to observe Tolstoy’s everyday life. Such an opportunity for the observation of Tolstoy in his element, Rozanov supposed, might elucidate for him the plot and message of The Kreutzer Sonata in light of Tolstoy’s earlier “family novels,” and help Rozanov to reconcile Tolstoy’s new ideas with his old.1 Rozanov’s views of Tolstoy were highly contingent, as we shall see, on his own

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

evolving ­relationship with Christianity. Rozanov’s growing pessimism regarding the possibility of a true “religion of the family” in Russian Orthodoxy corresponds to his shifting assessment of Tolstoy’s ideas and his turn to asceticism. Based on the importance that Rozanov attached to the sanctity of byt (everyday life), he developed an innovative explanation of The Kreutzer Sonata and Tolstoy’s later works in order to maintain his imagined fellowship with the writer. As opposed to formulating a doctrine of Tolstoyanism based on those “dead,” “false” teachings, Rozanov held that readers should seek the essence of religion in Tolstoy’s “illustrations” of domestic realities, which appeared in Anna Karenina and many of the other writings preceding The Kreutzer Sonata. Rozanov expected “true” literature to induce a physical reaction, even the desire to engage in sex and reproduce, as he hoped Tolstoy’s pre-Kreutzer Sonata work would inspire readers to do. Rozanov himself sought to observe in Tolstoy’s “lived Christianity” the same images of sanctified domestic family life that he had painted in Anna Karenina (1878) and War and Peace (1869), but some of the disquieting features that Rozanov found at Yasnaya Polyana planted seeds of doubt. In his 1908 article, “A Trip to Yasnaya Polyana,” Rozanov recounts that the atmosphere of the house surprised him.2 He was expecting to find “manifestations of family life” there, emanating from the presence of “a woman who gave birth to some fourteen children,” as well as a “garden of procreation next to the old patriarch,” but instead discovered a hermetic retreat. The trip reaffirms for Rozanov his dualistic image of Tolstoy, which splinters further after the author’s death. Rozanov’s writings on Tolstoy constitute a crucial, and understudied, component of the public discussion around marriage and sexuality in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century. The religious debates of that time period have engendered a growing body of research in the past fifteen years, perhaps most notably Olga Matich’s Erotic Utopia: The Decadent Imagination in Russia’s Fin de Siècle (2005). However, this area demands additional study given that unresolved questions regarding marriage, sexuality and the relationship of Church and society from the turn of the twentieth century remain current in the Russian Orthodox Church today. While many early twentieth-century churchmen viewed Tolstoy as a dangerous sectarian and an enemy of Christian matrimony, some lay religious thinkers deployed Tolstoy’s oeuvre in their own theories redeeming sexuality and the body, seeking solutions to the evident lack of positive discourse about matrimonial sexuality and of liturgical recognition of the events of family life. Lay religious thinkers often found such solutions in the dismissal of the radical



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break between Christianity and paganism that had long been central to the Church’s identity, particularly in Russia. Tolstoy’s novels provided images of this continuity: of sanctified flesh and the sanctified families in which the pagan and the Christian elements were joined together. Vasily Rozanov and Dmitry Merezhkovsky (1865–1941) were major contributors to this discourse, and I will provide a reading of the latter’s book, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (1902), for comparison.3 For Merezhkovsky and Rozanov, the continuity between paganism and Christianity was crucial to their respective visions of Russian religious awakening, and both found images of these visions in Tolstoy.4 The search for continuity with paganism was a symptom of a fundamental lack that confronted those who sought to go beyond the basic Christian teaching that intercourse was sinful but ­permissible for the conception of children within marriage. Most of these explorations of ­paganism, nevertheless, had Christian origins. In Judaism (1899), Rozanov writes of his and Merezhkovsky’s paganism, against which churchmen rail, claiming that “pagans,” such as they, simply seek to bring the flesh out of the “shadows” of ascetic Christianity into the light.5 For this project Tolstoy’s work is crucial. The claimed fellowship of Rozanov and Tolstoy appeared odd to their contemporaries who perceived Rozanov and Tolstoy as representatives of two extremes. This was the case, for example, during the meetings of the St. Petersburg Religio-Philosophical Society (1901–3); at one meeting, Archpriest Soletrinskii set up his speech by positioning Rozanov and Tolstoy at the pinnacles of the two extremes of lustful love and virginity.6 The theologian Mikhail Tareev, in the journal Bogoslvoskii vestnik (February 1905), accuses them of equating religion either with the destruction or improvement of ­marriage.7 Rozanov’s response, as captured in “On Two Points of View” (1900), is to draw attention to the novelist’s earlier work as the substance of his thought.8 Like him, Rozanov claimed that Tolstoy sought in his writings to bring light to the everyday life and psychology of the family, which were lacking from Russian ­literature and religion. Post-Kreutzer Sonata discourse around Tolstoy within the Russian Orthodox Church was linked to contemporary concerns about sectarianism and religious dissent. Tolstoy’s reading of the New Testament was largely described by churchmen as a manifestation of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, which now existed in Russia in various Castrate sects, while his condemnation of the institutional Church was for them of a piece with the heresy of the Dukhobors (spirit-warriors). In his order of censorship of The Kreutzer Sonata,

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

­ ber-Procurator of the Russian Orthodox Church, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, O noted that Tolstoy’s interpretation of the Gospel concerning the r­ elationship of the sexes was very close to those of heretical celibate sects such as the “Skoptsy” (castrates). It is no coincidence that the first publication to break the ecclesiastical silence on The Kreutzer Sonata, Archbishop Nikanor’s Discussion, was the composition of a cleric whose career in the Church had been particularly focused on maintaining the purity of Russian Christianity. Archbishop Nikanor of Odessa and Cherson (1826–1890) was the head of the journal Pravoslavnyi sobesednik, which focused on missionary activity and the battle against sectarianism. Although his Discussion on Christian Marriage violated censorship regulations against clerical discussions of Tolstoy’s composition, Nikanor produced the Discussion to fight against the novelist’s pernicious influence. “Since these heretical ideas could not be stopped administratively, the Church was obliged to reply,” wrote Nikanor.9 Since the novella is so widespread, he wrote, it is more constructive to provide a counterpoint than to hope that it never reaches the reader. Nikanor’s main arguments against Tolstoy, which were a collection of standard scriptural proof texts demonstrating the Church’s blessing of marriage and reproduction,10 provided the basis for all further discussion of the topic in the Church, as did his insistence (the rhetorical shift I referred to previously) that the celibate life is meant only for those with special spiritual gifts. Both in their “primitive” lifestyles and in their radical interpretation of the Gospels, sectarians posed a significant challenge to those who struggled to modernize the Church and assure those estranged that it was forgiving, moderate, and did not demand the rejection of society and the mortification of the flesh common among the Dukhobors and the Skoptsy. The Church was a humanistic institution, matrimonial apologists insisted, not a removed entity concerned only with the most virginal and pure. In the discussion of matrimonial theology, which appeared in the Church press following Archbishop Nikanor’s Discussion, a major shift can be noted in the ecclesiastical rhetoric concerning marriage and sexuality. There is, in many of these articles, monographs, and discussions between clergy and laity at the Religio-Philosophical Society a growing emphasis on the existence of two paths to salvation and the de-emphasis on monasticism as a spiritual imperative for the truly pious. Another shift was evidenced in the new focus on “condescension” of God for his allowing human beings to satisfy their physical needs within marriage—a line of thinking about matrimonial sexuality that was not common in earlier Russian theology, as medieval clerics had not accepted the idea of the conjugal



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debt or Augustine’s hermeneutics around the permissibility of using marriage as an outlet for otherwise forbidden passions. Ensuring that lay Christians understood the importance of matrimony and did not feel excluded from the Church was not only a question of d­ efending Church doctrine and preventing the defection of members. It was also a ­practical issue of national survival, a topic of great importance to Rozanov and one of the reasons behind his closeness with many members of the clergy. For some, at least, the obsessive focus on intercourse and the body represented less of a danger to the future than the celibacy, which Tolstoy preached, since the latter threatened the demise of the human race and of Russians in particular. Struzhentsov, in his Bogoslovskii vestnik article, expresses concern that Tolstoy had inspired a complete revulsion towards bodily love and marriage in so many Russians. Rozanov contested these accusations, or else attributed them to the “­misunderstanding” of Tolstoyans. His own reading of The Kreutzer Sonata ­bolstered his constructed image of Tolstoy as a prophet of the family— which was not his only reading of Tolstoy, as we will see—and endowed the novella with a pro-reproductive “hidden meaning” that negated Tolstoy’s own ­explanations and affirmed Rozanov’s theories. As he explains in “The Family as Religion,” The Kreutzer Sonata’s ascetic imperative is not representative of Tolstoy’s true beliefs, but is rather a sort of philosophical or spiritual experiment.11 In “On Writing and Writers,” he points to the fact that Tolstoy continued to father children after the publication of The Kreutzer Sonata, which served as proof that he transcended any dogmas that might be ascribed to him or the prohibitions against sex which he claimed to follow. His refusal to accept the “conversion” of Tolstoy, and his particular ­readings of the “family novels,” leads Rozanov to expect (or claim to expect) that the author will support his most controversial proposals. In “A Trip,” ­written well after The Kreutzer Sonata, Rozanov tells the reader that he came to Yasnaya Polyana to discuss with Tolstoy the latter’s potential in advocating free love—a marriage of free choice, requiring no Church permission. Rozanov himself considered the consummation of pure love holy in itself—this belief was the essence of his so-called paganism—and Tolstoy’s condemnation of the Church’s matrimonial ceremony (venchanie) as superficial seemed, for Rozanov, to correspond to his own rejection. The rejection of venchanie also had urgent humanitarian goals; free love was tied to Rozanov’s concern about high rates of infanticide due to fear of disgrace, and he begged his society to stop censuring “unsanctioned” unions.12 Rozanov views Pozdnishev’s horror

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

at the prevention of childbirth among society women as the articulation of a similar basic concern. Therefore, Rozanov intends to ask why Tolstoy did not let his daughters marry “as is,” that is, without venchanie, which would have ­provided Tolstoy with the chance to set a great moral example for all of Europe. Still, Rozanov implies that he ultimately did not bring up the topic in his ­conversation with Tolstoy, citing his own anxiety. It is a mysterious account of the visit, purposely obscuring Rozanov’s own doubts regarding his claims of ideological fellowship with the older writer. Rozanov references the visit again in “Questions of Family and Up­bring­ ing,” but here we observe a more serious concern with Tolstoy’s ­transfor­mation. During their discussion, Tolstoy and Rozanov come upon another c­ ontroversial proposal, a recurrent Rozanovian theme: the ­recommendation that each church allocate space for the consummation of marriages. Such a custom, which Rozanov derives from his studies of Egyptian and Hebrew religion, is necessary, in his view, for joining the sanctified space of the church with that of the conjugal bedchamber based on their shared essence. It is Tolstoy’s rejection of such ecclesiastical customs and the facilitation of married love, Rozanov writes, that eventually led him to write The Kreutzer Sonata, as the rejection is indicative of pessimism and doubt regarding the possibility of refocusing the Church towards the ­sanctification of the family. While Tolstoy still believes intercourse to be sinless when it occurs in an “ideal relationship,” Rozanov insists, Tolstoy is increasingly haunted by its actual implausibility. In an article written after Tolstoy’s death, “Paganism and Christianity at Yasnaya Polyana,” Rozanov portrays the estate as a family home that had outgrown its usefulness to Tolstoy, the “ascetic elder,” in his old age. This article is indicative of Rozanov’s own shifting Christology and demonstrates the contingency of his assessment of Tolstoy upon the direction of his own thought. His focus on the infant Christ of the Nativity, he had realized, did not negate the significance of the adult Christ’s Crucifixion, and his feelings of pessimism regarding the possibility of a “religion of the family” in the Russian Orthodox Church deepened. Here, then, Rozanov portrays Tolstoy’s “progression” not as a non-dogmatic, ­experiential exploration of faith but rather as a genuine victory of historical Christianity. Rozanov writes that a “miniature of the [historical] relationship between Christianity and paganism,” and the eventual triumph of Christianity, played out at Yasnaya Polyana. Tolstoy’s relationship with his wife, Sofia Andreevna, was the “pagan” period of his life, while the “triumph of Christianity” came in his old age. Here there is a definitive break, as final in



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Tolstoy’s life as in history, of the two principles between which Rozanov had been attempting to maintain continuity. While Rozanov comes to accept Tolstoy’s late beliefs as genuine, he still argues that the Church must remember Tolstoy particularly for his “religion of the family” and his positive descriptions of the Church in Anna Karenina. For the Church, he should remain an eternal son and a reformer of the family. In “Tolstoy Among the Greats of the World,” Rozanov writes that the Church ought to have allowed him to live the life of an elder in a monastery in his old age regardless of the excommunication.13 He had turned to the monastery when he became ill, but “fanatics” had prevented him from entering, as he writes in “At the Grave of Tolstoy.”14 Tolstoy’s funeral must be in the Church, as it would put an end to the “cult of Tolstoy,” showing the idea of a Tolstoyan religion distinct from Orthodoxy to be an error. Let us turn now to the two articles most important to Rozanov’s deployment of Tolstoy as a prophet of the Christian family. Besides, in these articles, entitled “From Grey Antiquity” and “Family as Religion,” Rozanov lays out his own alternative reading of Christianity as a “religion of reproduction.” The first, which is an essay about the religions of the Ancient Near East, explores the idea of Tolstoyan plots as manifestations of the religion of the family.15 The center of Rozanov’s focus in this and other essays on the same theme was Egypt, the civilization that was, for him, founded on the religious value of the family.16 Although he was part of a larger Russian and European trend during the late nineteenth century to “rediscover a cultural heritage in Egypt,” “Rozanov is distinguished among his contemporaries in that his exploitation of Egypt is a genuine attempt to look for a way to reform or restore Orthodoxy.”17 Levin’s religious transformation in Anna Karenina—an example, for Rozanov, of the way in which Christianity might resurrect the sanctification of the family based on the models provided in the religions of antiquity—is retold as the ascension to the innermost sanctum of the Babylonian temple. The temple, like the Egyptian pyramid, is a visual metaphor for the family, and one who ascends the temple finds increasingly small spaces mirroring a family home. The domestic spaces are open to intimates of the masters of the house, who are allowed “into the depths of their living space, where the rooms are smaller and darker.”18 Only the true friend is allowed into the bedroom’s anteroom, where children play and one’s wife is dressed down. In this “soul” of the house, we find an “image” [an icon]. In the bedroom, where even the friend cannot go, “there is always a ‘blessed image,’ that is, the image with which their parents blessed their marriage.”19 This inner sanctum of the house is the temple’s prototype, “lit up

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

to surround the life that is being made here.”20 Every home and family, writes Rozanov, “is to this day a Babylonian or an Egyptian temple in miniature.”21 Just as the Babylonian temple is not a removed repository for the soul, the Russian Orthodox temple must become subordinate to the family, claims Rozanov. It is essential that it is the Orthodox matrimonial bedroom that he offers as an example of a holy space modeled on the same principles as the Babylonian temple. Remarkable here too is Rozanov’s deft transformation of the inner sanctum of the Babylonian temple into the bedchamber of a Russian Orthodox family, as witnessed by the presence of the traditional icons. This speaks to the crucial historical continuity of a particular religious essence. In “From Grey Antiquity,” Rozanov begins his brief excursion on Anna Karenina’s character Levin, by recounting his premarital confession of impurity to Kitty. Levin seeks in Kitty a “pure, undefiled place,” something holy away from the brothels and prostitutes he is fleeing, in order to build a family. The brothel of Levin’s bachelorhood constitutes the “opposite pole” of the Church—yet, crucially, in his transformation from debauched bachelor to chaste married man, Levin is said to bring “the rhythm of sex” from the brothel into his holy marriage. In this sense, the transition from the heights of debauchery to the heights of chastity is necessary for the creation of a sanctified place in the Church for matrimonial intercourse.22 Throughout this excursion, Kitty’s virginal body is styled as the physical manifestation of the metaphorical “undefiled space” that Levin seeks in Christian marriage and domesticity. She is also a representation of the literal “undefiled space” at the apex of the Semitic temple, which is itself the image of the domestic bedchamber. Levin’s ascension is a representation of the sanctification of the body performed in marriage, wherein one can reach the heights of holiness only with a “blameless, beloved and loving, morally upstanding woman.” The apex of the temple is the space wherein the human being is closest to the divine, and Kitty’s body provides a pathway for Levin to purify his raw sexual passions rather than reject them. Levin’s marriage is explicitly linked to the idea of religious continuity and the preservation of the pagan spirit. The episode is crucial for Rozanov’s point that it is not the rejection of the animalistic, the physical, and the passionate that make for a sanctified Christian marriage, but rather the raising of these instincts to the spiritual heights that family life demands. The sexual drive of those who are pure and undefiled reaches for the “heavenly rhythm of marriage, its purity, and finally its holiness”. “Family as Religion” (1901) is the most developed of Rozanov’s articles, both explaining his idea of “Bethlehemic Christianity” and linking it



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to Tolstoy. It is the only article that clearly lays out the foundations of his reading of the New Testament based on Bethlehem, and Tolstoy’s novels are used to illustrate the possibilities that “Bethlehemic Christianity” holds for the family. His e­ xplanation of the contrast between the two Christianities is worth quoting at length: [I]f we move to Bethlehem, Golgotha will be seen in its true light—as suffering, as something inimical to Christ, as his words truly say. Death and the steps to it will be seen in their true light as steps of sin, rejection; and the sight of holiness, descending always down the steps of family labor, family “carrying of each other’s woes,” etc., will be seen as the “first holiness” and the very core of the human being. Christianity, read correctly, from beginning to end, from weeping over the grave and near the grave, becomes the deep cherubic song of marriage. It is both “the world made flesh” of the New Testament and the “two become one flesh” of the Old Testament. Only then can we see the truth of the words: “I came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. In the other case—‘it is better not to marry’—we have a break between the Old and the New Testament, with heavy consequences.”23

According to Rozanov, the whole of Tolstoy’s literary activity is the “pedagogy around the ‘family,’ the ‘cradle,’ the ‘Bethlehemic side of our being.’” He argues here also for remembering Tolstoy posthumously based on his earlier work—the Tolstoy who was “essentially a prophet of the Christian family” finally “corrupted” by foreign or sectarian thought. Tolstoy’s work is “illuminated by the light of the all the mangers of Bethlehem.”24 Rozanov describes Anna Karenina and War and Peace as “parallel novels” showing many corresponding domestic scenes. One such scene is a conversation between Dolly and Anna at Vronsky’s home, wherein Anna confesses to Dolly that she does not want children, and a conversation between Nikolai Rostov and his pregnant wife Marie, in which he tells her that he loves her not for her looks. Rozanov presents a contrast between what he sees as the truly sanctified matrimonial love of Nikolai and Marie and the “barren” adulterous affair of Anna and Vronsky. Although the conversation between Dolly and Anna begins lightly, as it deepens and the women begin to whisper, Anna tells Dolly why she cannot and does not want to give birth.25 The conversation, like the transformation of Levin, occurs in Rozanov’s description as a gradual progression into the intimate depths of human life; fittingly, the two

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

women retire to Anna’s bedchamber to share their most intimate secrets. After this conversation, Rozanov writes, Anna is “left to die” while Dolly is left to live her own “religion of the family.” Anna’s death, linked to the barrenness of her love, is discussed in later works of Rozanov as a sign of Tolstoy’s eventual turn against matrimony, of the pessimism around the possibility of the truly sanctified family life that he tries to present in that same novel. Meanwhile, the Oblonskys represent an example of the possibility of the sanctified family even in light of its internal strife. Rozanov again refers to the “parallelism” of Anna Karenina and War and Peace as he describes the domestic and religious activities of Dolly Oblonskaya and Natasha (Rostova) Bezukhova, whose homes are “tabernacles” from which a “light and breeze” of Christianity emanates. “Who cares about politics,” he asks, referring to Natasha’s lack of interest in her husband Pierre’s political opinions, in light of the “other world” that begins near the manger. Rozanov’s frequent reference to the “manger” and the association between the ordinary cradle and the manger of Christ—and the implied association between the devout mothers of the novels and the God-bearer in “Family as Religion”— highlights his reading of the Nativity as significant not only for the birth of the Savior as such, but for its sanctification of all human birth. Rozanov emphasizes that Christ was born, was an infant and had an earthly mother. It is God, after all, who gives children, as Rozanov reminds the reader with a reference to the barrenness of the biblical Rachel, and the manger or cradle is thus the manifestation of God’s greatest gift as well as of the connection between man and God through reproduction. Tolstoy’s devout mothers and wives, tending to their mangers, maintain the heart of the Christian family, which beats with the p­ rimordial essence of the divinity of reproduction.26 Rozanov’s own rejection of Christ and simultaneous understanding of the victory of Golgotha leaves a deep impression on his later readings of Tolstoy. Whereas in “The Family Question in Russia” Golgotha is a historical error that can be corrected with Bethlehem—and Tolstoy’s novels offer a script for such a correction—he gradually rejects the possibility of Bethlehem and begins to see Christ as the messenger of salvation through death, even as he continues to the end of his life to write of his own fraught relationship with a Jesus that was both “sweet” and “repellant.” The progression from the “family novels” to The Kreutzer Sonata is then characterized by Rozanov as a reflection of the progression from paganism to Christianity that took place both historically—and therefore according to an arc stretching towards the victory of Golgotha—and in Tolstoy’s own life, which begins with “pagan” family life and concludes with



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ascetic, monk-like Christianity. In this reading, the “family novels” contain the germ of the pathos of the ultimately doomed Russian family that finally finds its full expression in The Kreutzer Sonata. The Kreutzer Sonata has been deeply misunderstood, he writes, but it is “only a postscript” to the strange discussion between Dolly and Anna in the home of Vronsky, after which Dolly leaves with a feeling of fear, and Anna says: “I am unhappy! You have no right to judge me!” We can observe, in the latter part of the first decade of the twentieth century, a shift in Rozanov’s Christology as he struggles to reconcile Bethlehem and Golgotha, both being the inextricable components of the Gospels. In Fallen Leaves (1913), Rozanov claims to experience for the first time in his life a sense of doubt about his Bethlehamic reading, reflecting at length on the possibility that the New Testament completely displaces the Old.27 In “On Sweetest Jesus and the Sour Fruits of the World” (1908), he argues that the inevitable conflict between the modern world and contemporary Christianity comes from the imposition of an abstract spirituality.28 There is no organic, harmonious graduation, but a sudden and violent break, reflected in the New Testament. In “The Religion of Humiliation and Glory” (1911), Rozanov argues that the Church has rejected the Incarnation in favor of the Crucifixion.29 Already in “Family as Religion,” Rozanov locates the seed of the pathos regarding the state of the Russian family that eventually drives Tolstoy to Golgotha. Rozanov’s claims about Tolstoy always come with the specter of doubt. Although Tolstoy confidently portrays a religion of the family in Anna Karenina and War and Peace, writes Rozanov, The Kreutzer Sonata is a cry of desperation for that religion, a “longing for the family” that neither its critics nor even its author fully understand. The “deeply misunderstood” Kreutzer Sonata is only a “postscript” to the “strange discussion” between Dolly Oblonskaya and Anna Karenina at the home of Vronsky, wherein Anna reveals that she does not want to give birth. As we have already seen, following this conversation, Anna “is left to die” while Dolly is left to live the religion of the family.30 Similarly in “The Family Question in Russia,” Rozanov returns to this understanding of Anna’s death both as a foreshadowing of Tolstoy’s later ideas and as a symbol of the degradation of the Russian family, though here the blame shifts from Anna’s aversion to reproduction to the Church’s treatment of the family.31 Tolstoy’s “throwing” Anna under the train illustrates “the strange and dark fanaticism of society against unfortunate families.” In this article, Rozanov shifts his attention to the significance of Anna’s story in providing an illustration of “the apotheosis of the fruitless family” and the “torment and suffering” in the Russian family. The “weeping” of The Kreutzer Sonata is caused by the

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

fact that family exists in Russia in name only. In “From the Puzzles of Human Priorities,” he writes that The Kreutzer Sonata is a “cry of an i­ nconsolable soul” over the abuse of maternity in the world and the ­desecration of childhood and adolescence.32 The novella is a symptom of Tolstoy’s horror, later in life, at the decline of the Russian family, Rozanov argues. This horror caused him to question which of the images of family, birth, love, and faith that he had created in Anna Karenina and War and Peace truly constitute the essence of marriage. In “Tolstoy among the Greats of the World,” Rozanov details the way in which Tolstoy’s work, over the course of his life, shows the continuous history of paganism in relation to Christianity, the history of Christianity in relation to paganism, the meeting of the two, and their clash and battle. Again, Anna Karenina and War and Peace are crucial examples here. The bookends of the images of the “religion of the family” in these novels—the labor pains, the transformations of maidens to mothers, all the events that exist in a transitional period where the “first notches of Christianity” appear in paganism—are the paganism of the first breath of attraction between Vronsky and Anna and the army life of Nikolai Rostov on the one hand, and the last stage of the affair of Anna and Vronsky and the spiritual and intellectual fate of Levin (who condemns the entire affair as the “vanity of vanities”) on the other. These latter aspects of the novels are manifestations of the new “Christian spirit of Tolstoy,” which is resolutely ascetic. Here Tolstoy’s embrace of ascetic Christianity is taken at face value. In this framework, the first attraction of Vronsky to Anna—based only in passion— can be defined as purely pagan, while Kitty’s screams in childbearing recall the Nativity and the bridge that the Incarnation builds between the pagan and the Christian, but this Christian family is not the terminal point to which The Kreutzer Sonata is simply a pessimistic subscript. In this later reading, the space of continuity between the pagan and the Christian—Bethlehem—is only a temporary stage leading inevitably to the purely spiritual, bodiless victory of Golgotha. In order to provide some context for Rozanov’s reading of Tolstoy as a pagan, I will briefly examine Dmitry Merezhkovsky’s writings on the same topic, particularly expressed in his book, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (1902). In that monograph, like Rozanov, Merezhkovsky posits “two Tolstoys” —a pagan and a Christian, whose conversion spells the victory of “historical” Christianity. Merezhkovsky’s analysis of Tolstoy’s life and work rests on his understanding of the latter as an “unconscious pagan.”



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The founder of Russian Symbolism,33 a leading member of the St. Petersburg religious intelligentsia and a disciple of Nietzsche until his r­ ejection of the thinker’s nihilism in the late 1890s,34 Merezhkovsky’s “new religious synthesis” sought to counteract contemporary positivism and materialism with a faith founded on art and culture. Rozanov was a “fellow traveler” in Merezhkovsky’s circle of the so-called religious intelligentsia (the group of writers, artists, philosophers and other individuals involved in the public discussion of these questions) and one of the co-founders of the St. Petersburg Religio-Philosophical Society. He shared many of Merezhkovsky’s ideas about the continuity of paganism and Christianity, the sanctification of the flesh, and the need for Christianity to answer the questions and demands of the modern world. Yet the key differences in their readings of Tolstoy are emblematic of Rozanov’s desired role as a reformer of the Russian Orthodox Church rather than as a creator of a new religion. Unlike Rozanov, Merezhkovsky rejects the idea of the family as the religious center of human life. According to Merezhkovsky, this religion rejects any transcendental ideal, while reproduction is the “death of individuality.” There are significant overlaps between the theories of Merezhkovsky and Rozanov concerning “historical” versus “genuine” Christianity. Much like Rozanov, he blames “historical Christianity” for overemphasizing death and suffering, but rather than the Nativity, Merezhkovsky focuses on the Resurrection. The Resurrection demonstrated, for Merezhkovsky, Christ’s acceptance of the body, though he goes further than traditional doctrine in interpreting the Resurrection as a sign of the acceptance of sexual desire and worldly pleasure as well. Like Rozanov, Merezhkovsky argues that Christ did not advocate the rejection of the world. Also in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Merezhkovsky argues that historical Christianity has strengthened the endless opposition between the flesh and the spirit by privileging the latter, creating the same duality that had destroyed the pre-Christian world. In paganism, religion tried to exit that opposition by affirming the flesh in detriment to the spirit, and in Christianity, it is the other way around—the affirmation of the spirit to the detriment of the flesh. The resurrection of the flesh has been pushed aside as something unreachable. Just as for Rozanov, for Merezhkovsky “paganism” has a very particular definition, which has little to do with polytheism. Initially focused specifically on Greek and Roman paganism, though Egypt and the “Semitic religions” that were the cornerstone of Rozanov’s thought would also come to the forefront of his fiction and scholarship in the second decade of the twentieth century,35

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

Merezhkovsky reveres the Greeks for their unification of the animal and the divine—the fusion of body and soul—in their myths, which, he believes, ­contained the secrets of Christianity and points the way towards the “third age of the Spirit.”36 Paganism had, crucially, shown the way to resurrection through sex. Merezhkovsky connected the resurrection of Osiris by Isis, and of Tammuz by Ishtar, to the fact that Mary Magdalene had been the first to see Christ after his resurrection. This proved, he writes in “The Mystery of the Three” (1925), that Christ’s resurrection had been a “miracle of love,” and that human sexual love was the path to resurrection.37 In 1901, at the third meeting of the St. Petersburg Religio-Philosophical society, Merezhkovsky tells the assembled that “it must be understood once and for all” that paganism, “is not eternally opposed to Christianity,” but is rather something “pre-Christian” and unavoidable in the lead-up to Christianity.38 Christianity had simply to come into its own as an equal to Greco-Roman paganism by making itself an opposite in every last detail, separating itself violently from paganism through asceticism. More so than Rozanov, Merezhkovsky posits the existence of a “spontaneous and unconscious Tolstoy” as a contrast to “Tolstoy the thinker,” who was drawn to ascetic Christianity—that is, superficial historical Christianity, a concept similar to Rozanov’s Golgotha in the sense that it was removed from its reproductive essences. What Tolstoy feels and perceives is so much greater than his thought, he goes on; there are in him two separate, sometimes even opposing and inimical essences, like two people: a small thinker, or a false Christian—and a great pagan. In Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, he writes that Tolstoy has the soul of a “born pagan.”39 While his rational and conscious mind strove towards Christianity throughout his whole life, when Tolstoy speaks of Christianity, it is obvious that he is talking about something else. While “Tolstoy the thinker” reduces Christianity to absurdity, the unconscious Tolstoy—“Tolstoy the pagan”—manifests the sanctification of the flesh that is the promise of the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Tolstoy is closest to Christ not when he is thinking about Christ, but when he is thinking about what is animal. Without being aware of it himself, Merezhkovsky asserts, Tolstoy was a “full-blooded, pagan hedonist.” The primary examples of “Tolstoy the pagan” are to be found, for Merezhkovsky, in his little-studied early novel The Cossacks (1863). According to Merezhkovsky, Tolstoy’s “finest and most perfect creation” is the character of Uncle Yeroshka in The Cossacks. This character is a product of Tolstoy’s familial years—the “animal” years of ­reproduction and labor at Yasnaya Polyana, the same years, which were so deeply important to Rozanov, and which for Merezhkovsky represent Tolstoy’s most Christian



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period. These were the years when he composed War and Peace and Anna Karenina, reaching the height of his powers.40 Tolstoy, during this time, openly admits that he lives for his family. Even the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina were a “means of improving his material position.” For him “there was only one truth, that you must live in such a way as may be best for you and your family.” 41 Uncle Yeroshka is the incarnation of a “primitive philosophy” that Tolstoy follows during those years. Happiness, according to this philosophy, is to be one with Nature. The “family novels” are just as crucial to Merezhkovsky as they are to Rozanov in explaining Tolstoy’s theology of the flesh, though their readings are quite divergent. It is in these novels that Tolstoy is “most Christian” because he is “at his most pagan.” This paganism, and the continuity between paganism and Christianity, is also heavily contingent in Merezhkovsky on the “screams of the birthing women.” In her screams in War and Peace, Natasha Rostova achieves the union of body and spirit, but she has no intellect as she is engulfed in motherhood. As Tolstoy notes, Natasha “does not have her own words,” as her own husband marvels, and is not his intellectual equal, caring nothing for the affairs of the world. Natasha’s transformation, after becoming a wife and mother who “carries, bears, and feeds,” is totally animalistic. The space in which Natasha exists signifies the sanctified condition of the woman engulfed by the duties of family, but Merezhkovsky sees here a hint of Tolstoy’s later terror much like Rozanov’s location of the germ of Tolstoy’s pathos concerning the sanctified family in Anna Karenina. For Merezhkovsky, of course, this terror consists of being engulfed by the depersonalizing nature of reproduction. Merezhkovsky notes that in Tolstoy’s characterization, Natasha’s body is visible but not her soul; she has become a samka (female animal). It is for this that Tolstoy loves her in this novel, though pregnancy and its effect on women would become one of Tolstoy’s arguments for celibacy in and after The Kreutzer Sonata. Her image simply grows to its full, mature height, exhibiting the full extent of the “eternal feminine”—that which is, in Tolstoy’s view, eternally fruitful and mothering. Merezhkovsky gives a very similar analysis of the birth scene in Anna Karenina. The deaths of Anna and Kitty, writes Merezhkovsky, are juxtaposed because in death and in birth all the veils between flesh and blood are lifted. Yet again, Anna Karenina is in Merezhkovsky’s reading, a transitional text (like it is for Rozanov), containing the seed of the pathos of Golgotha alongside those aspects that glorify the flesh. When Kitty is at the threshold of death in labor, Levin feels terrible guilt knowing that he is at fault. Levin’s guilt, extrapolates

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

Merezhkovsky, comes from his enslavement to his passions, which for the late Tolstoy negate the Christian goals of goodness and love. Although Levin’s marriage to Kitty is a true Christian sacrament, what happens to Kitty after the ceremony is, as Pozdnyshev says, “shameful, disgusting, swinish,” and even “unnatural”—something like violence. Sooner or later, writes Merezhkovsky, we must either reject all blood, or sanctify blood fully. In this incomplete holiness of the flesh, of blood combination, arises the feeling of guilt that Levin and Pozdnyshev feel. In Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Merezhkovsky provides a deep reading of a birth to which Rozanov pays no attention in his analysis: Anna’s labor with her daughter, born out of wedlock to Vronsky. Karenin is called to her side, and in her delirium she tells him that there are two of her: the Anna who fell in love with Vronsky, and the Anna who loves him (Karenin). She dies, according to Merezhkovsky, because she cannot reconcile the truth that she loves both Karenin and Vronsky, the spirit and the flesh, and has no way of joining the two. Like Tolstoy, Anna is a split personality in Merezhkovsky’s description: Anna’s two selves are her Christian self, drawn to the light of holy death, and her pagan, or animal self. The Christian self loves her husband with a love that is almost foreign to sex. It is the Christian self that awakens in the depths of labor: “near the origins of the unborn orgiastic voluptuousness, an opposite or seemingly opposite origin of motherhood.” She is both a “Bacchante,” a mistress and criminal, and a “Madonna.” She is always her husband’s wife because she is the mother of his son. In order to tear apart this connection of blood and flesh, the entire thread of life must be torn apart, and truly, she does so, in killing herself. In their relationship, based not on physical love but on goodness, Anna and Karenin forget about the flesh. At least for a second, they were one soul— but not one flesh. It is the fleshless, spiritual love between Anna and her husband, writes Merezhkovsky, and not her passionate affair with Vronsky, that is the true act of adultery and defilement, because it is not based on true love, which includes the flesh. After his horrifying caresses Anna must feel somewhat like Sonya Marmeladova, he writes; she “betrayed herself.” It is toward Vronsky, and not her husband, that Anna has the love that makes possible the total union of one flesh to another that is accepted by God as the beginning of marriage. It seems that there is not, strictly speaking, adultery, because there is no marriage, a union based on true love and passion; there is only lawful fornication that is called marriage. Rozanov proposes something similar when he says that Tolstoy kills Anna and becomes an ascetic Christian himself, because he finally



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rejects the possibility of such true love existing on earth. In radically different ways, Merezhkovsky and Rozanov both locate in Anna’s affair with Vronsky the seeds of Tolstoy’s eventual despair at the innate sinfulness of the flesh, leading to his turn to asceticism. It is instructive, in conclusion, to briefly consider how Tolstoy might have reacted to these readings of his oeuvre. This comparison between Tolstoy’s own stated views and teachings and their varying interpretations by leading contemporary thinkers demonstrates the multiplicity of meaning—often exploitable for various philosophical and religious causes—that they found in his work. Owing to this multiplicity, Tolstoy’s work had a complex impact on the late nineteenth- and the early twentieth-century Russian religious thought beyond the literal acceptance of his promotion of celibacy. Ironically, the same enormous moral authority that gave him such wide-ranging religious influence did not allow Tolstoy to “control his message,” as it were. In Merezhkovsky’s case, Tolstoy certainly would have rejected the ­former’s negative evaluation of his religious journey towards asceticism and his idealization of Tolstoy as “the young pagan,” given Tolstoy’s violent rejection of his voluptuous youth. Yet, stripped of Merezhkovsky’s ­interpretation and inventive readings, such as that of Anna’s childbirth scene, the ­biographical narrative that he provides—that of a passionate, carnal husband and father who gradually rejects the physical world in favor of an increasingly bloodless metaphysics—does not deviate significantly either from Tolstoy’s own perception of his religious journey or from the development of moral teaching traceable through his fictional and non-fictional works. Merezhkovsky accepts Tolstoy’s own understanding of his religious evolution, but he provides an interpretation that privileges what Tolstoy himself seeks to suppress. Rozanov’s readings, on the other hand, were likely to baffle Tolstoy, given that the former routinely ascribes to him viewpoints that he himself never expressed while denying those which he specifically expounded. Tolstoy would likely have agreed that his “family novels” glorified the fecund family, the virtues of domestic life, and the sanctity of the ever-pregnant wife—an ideal he was advocating as late as 1886 with What Shall We Then Do? Yet he was unlikely to agree with Rozanov’s pro-family reading of The Kreutzer Sonata, let alone the frequent insistence on Tolstoy’s lifelong paganism. To the best of my knowledge, Tolstoy recorded no reflections of either of his encounters with the younger author or of the latter’s religious writings, l­ eaving us only with Rozanov’s accounts of their meetings. Rozanov’s ­willingness to ­disregard Tolstoy’s published words—for example, the ­unambiguous e­ pilogue to The Kreutzer Sonata—in service of his own philosophy renders these

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy

accounts unreliable sources of information about Tolstoy’s views. Even still, in his references to his conversation with Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana, Rozanov references Tolstoy’s rejection of his proposal to establish a “space of consummation” in churches for newlyweds and provides no conclusion to his planned conversation regarding free love—both topics on which he at least claimed to expect Tolstoy’s support. Even in his own attempts to deploy Tolstoy’s thought to bolster his ideas and recommendations for Church reform, then, Rozanov admits to or suggests disagreement, giving us an idea of Tolstoy’s true reactions. It is absurd that Tolstoy’s rejection of the sacrament of marriage would translate, especially in his post-Kreutzer Sonata years, to a support of free love or any of Rozanov’s other projects for improving Russian morals, all of which rested on the emancipation of what Tolstoy came to consider humanity’s greatest evil. As we have seen, however, Rozanov ascribes to Tolstoy’s oeuvre a significance that transcends Tolstoy’s own rational understanding. Despite the author’s unquestionable rejection of the continuity between paganism and Christianity, Tolstoy’s “family novels” and other works, as well as his biography, provide Merezhkovsky and Rozanov with vivid images illustrating their theories of this continuity. Where Merezhkovsky’s Tolstoy, a “born pagan,” flees to asceticism in fear of the all-consuming physicality of nature and Rozanov’s Tolstoy is distinguished by despair at the absence in the world of his own idealized familial images, both Tolstoys begin life as passionate (if unconscious) pagans who embrace the sanctity of the flesh. Tolstoy is here simultaneously pagan and Christian, a prophet of the family and an ascetic. While Tolstoy served as literal prophet for many Tolstoyans who accepted his reading of the Gospels and committed to practicing celibacy and living out his other teachings as a result—the dogmatization of Tolstoy that Rozanov renounced—the enormous extent of his moral authority, as well as the lifelong development of thought as expressed in his oeuvre, often lead to the deployment of his work in the service of philosophical and religious ideas completely contrary to his own. This phenomenon warrants further study, as it expands our understanding of the ways in which Tolstoy has been perceived as a religious teacher outside of the literal acceptance of The Kreutzer Sonata’s sermon.

ENDNOTES   1 V. V. Rozanov, “Iazychestvo i khristanstvo v Yasnoy Poliane: K ukhodu L. N. Tolstogo” [Paganism and Christianity at Yasnaya Polyana: On the Death of Leo Tolstoy], Russkoe slovo no. 254 (1910).



Diana Dukhanova   2 V. V. Rozanov, “Poezdka v Yasnuiu Polianu” [A trip to Yasnaya Polyana ], in L. N. Tolstoy: Pro et contra [Leo Tolstoy: Pro and Con] (St. Petersburg: Izd. Russkogo Khristianskogo Gumanitarnogo Instituta, 2000).   3 D. S. Merezhkovsky, Tolstoy i Dostoevsky [Tolstoy and Dostoevsky] (Moscow: Nauka, 2000).   4 A search for pagan roots that had started with the work of Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900), who had inspired the Russian Symbolists and God-Seekers to see in ancient mythology the tools for building a society that embodied the collective consciousness, became an indelible aspect of the early twentieth-century “God-seeking” and the movement for religious reform. See Adam Ure, Vasili Rozanov and the Creation: The Edenic Vision and the Rejection of Eschatology (New York: Continuum, 2011). Pagan myths came to be understood as signposts to the realization of a future Christianity.   5 V. V. Rozanov, Iudaizm [ Judaism] (Moscow: Respublika, 2009).   6 S. M. Polovinkina, ed., Zapiski Peterburgskikh Religiozno-Filosofskikh Sobranii, 1901–1903 [Proceedings of the St. Petersburg Religio-Philosophical Society Meetings, 1901–1903] (Moscow: Respublika, 2005).   7 M. M. Tareev, Dukh i plot′ [Spirit and Flesh], Bogoslvoskii vestnik, February 1905.   8 V. V. Rozanov, “O dvukh tochkakh zreniia” [On Two Points of View], Grazhdanin no. 4, January 16, 1900.  9 Nikanor (A. I. Brovkovich), Beseda vysokopreosveshchennogo Nikanora, arkhiepiskopa Khersonskogo i Odesskogo o khristianskom supruzhestve, protiv grafa L′va Tolstogo [Discussion of the Eminent Nikanor, Archpriest of Cherson and Odessa, on Christian Marriage, against Count Leo Tolstoy] (Odessa: E. I. Fesenko, 1894). 10 These include: Genesis 1:27–28, about the creation of man and woman; Genesis 2:24, about man and woman becoming one flesh; Matthew 19:13–15, about Jesus’s love for children; and Corinthians 6–7. 11 V. V. Rozanov, “Sem′ia kak religiia” [The Family as Religion], in V mire neiasnogo i nereshennogo [In the World of the Unclear and the Undecided] (St. Petersburg: Tip. M. Merkusheva, 1901). 12 In “Voprosy,” Rozanov calls the reader’s attention to the fact that Tolstoy’s “true” point of view on matrimonial sex, as related in a personal conversation between the two writers, is that “everything is holy in intercourse when there is love.” See Rozanov, V. V. “Questions of Family and Upbringing. (“On the topic of two new brochures by Mrs. N. Zharintseva”). [“Voprosy semji i vospitania. (Po povodu dvukh novykh brochur gospozhi N. Zharintsevoi”).] In Near the Soul of the People [Okolo narodnoi dushi. 1906–1908.] Collected essays under the editorship of A. N. Nikoliukin 50-60. Moscow: Respublika, 2003. Here Rozanov brings up the most contentious and ultimately unresolved issue of discussion between clergy and theologians and the religious intelligentsia at the turn of the twentieth century—the sinfulness of matrimonial intercourse. While most “matrimonial apologists” maintained the traditional teaching that called matrimonial intercourse a “forgiven sin” redeemed by childbirth—an act that could not be separated from its post-lapsarian connotations—some churchmen had begun to argue that intercourse between devout, loving spouses was holy in and of itself.

A Prophet of the Family: Vasily Rozanov Reads Tolstoy 13 V. V. Rozanov, “Tolstoy mezhdu velikimi mira” [Tolstoy Among the Greats of the World], Russkoe slovo no. 199, August 28, 1908. 14 V. V. Rozanov, “Pered grobom Tolstogo” [At the Grave of Tolstoy], in Sobranie sochinenii [Collected Works], vol. 20 (Moscow: Respublika, 2005). 15 V. V. Rozanov, “Iz sedoi drevnosti” [From Grey Antiquity], in Religia i kul′tura [Religion and Culture] (St. Petersburg: P. Pertsov, 1899). 16 Rozanov began his serious study of Egypt via the collections of the Hermitage and the Imperial Museum of Egyptology. See Ure, Vasili Rozanov and the Creation, 15. He had access to the Russian versions of works by leading Egyptologists of his time, including James Henry Breasted, Karl Richard Lepsius, and Gaston Maspero. He also studied the work of Russian Egyptologists, including Vladimir Golenishchev and Boris Turaev. Ibid., 106. 17 Ibid., 108. 18 Rozanov, “Iz sedoi drevnosti,” 43. 19 Ibid., 44. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 Rozanov, “Iz sedoi drevnosti,” 43. 23 Rozanov, “Sem′ia kak religiia,” 80. 24 Ibid. 25 In typical fashion, Rozanov ignores the fact that Anna does eventually bear Vronsky’s child, though for Merezhkovsky this event is crucial to his own interpretation of Tolstoy’s novels as examples of the “sanctified family” in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. 26 Ibid., “Sem′ia kak religiia,” 75. 27 V. V. Rozanov, Opavshie list′ia [Fallen Leaves] (Moscow: Kniga po trebovaniiu, 1913). 28 V. V. Rozanov, “O Sladchaishem Iisuse i gor′kikh mira” [On Sweetest Jesus and the Sour Fruits of the World], in Temnyi lik: metafizika khristianstva [An Obscure Image: Christian Metaphysics] (St. Petersburg: Weissberg i Gershunin, 1911). 29 V. V. Rozanov, Religiia unizheniia i torzhestva [The Religion of Humiliation and Glory], in Terror protiv russkogo natsionalizma: Stat′i i ocherki 1911 [Terror against Russian Nationalism: Articles and Sketches, 1911] (Moscow: Respublika 2005). 30 Rozanov, “Sem′ia kak religiia,” 75. 31 Rozanov, Semeinyi vopros v Rossii [The Family Question in Russia] (Moscow: Respublika, 2004). 32 Rozanov, “Iz zagadok chelovecheskoi prirody” [From the Puzzles of Human Nature], in V mire neyasnogo i nereshennogo [In World of the Uncertain and the Unsolved] (Moscow: Respublika, 1995). 33 Merezhkovsky’s second book of poetry, Simvoly [Symbols], 1892 (inspired by the French Symbolists), and his lecture, “O prichinakh upadka i o novykh techeniiakh sovremennoi russkoi literatury” [On the Causes of the Decline and on the New Trends in Contemporary Russian Literature], later that year, are considered the “foundational documents” of Russian symbolism and the turn to the seeking of religion through art among the “aesthetic



Diana Dukhanova intelligentsia.” The poetry of Symbols mixes pagan and Christian themes and a marked Nietzschean influence, expressing the hope for a new faith that would restore human unity and propel humankind to greatness. 34 In the years following his renunciation of Nietzsche (1899–1905), Merezhkovsky worked to find a faith that would inspire both life and art and to unite art and religion in a new synthesis based on an interpretation of Christianity, which included paganism. In 1900 he, along with his wife Zinaida Gippius, and Dmitry Filosofov, began their work on the creation of a new Christianity based on the Second Coming. Called “The Third Testament,” this was a religion based on the tenets of love and resurrection, and would uncover what the New Testament obscured. The key to his search was the combination of the principles of paganism and Christianity; indeed, the coming together of the thesis and antithesis of flesh and spirit was a dialectical inevitability. 35 Over the course of the first decade of the twentieth century, under the influence of Rozanov’s work on Egyptian and Babylonian religion as well as by increasing archaeological discoveries in Egypt and Asia Minor, he became more interested in the “Semitic religions,” proclaiming the holiness of the “phallic” religions of pre-Christian antiquity. See C. H. Bedford, “Dmitry Merezhkovsky, The Third Testament and the Third Humanity,” The Slavonic and East European Review 42 (1963): 150. 36 Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, “Nietzsche in Russia: The Case of Merezhkovsky,” Slavic Review 33 (1974): 429–52. 37 D. S. Merezhkovsky, Taina triokh: Egipet i Vavilon [The Mystery of the Three: Egypt and Babylon] (Moscow: Respublika, 1999). 38 Polovinkina, Zapiski, 55. 39 Merezhkovsky, Tolstoy i Dostoevsky, 44. 40 Ibid., 22. 41 Ibid., 25.


The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Death and Authentic Life Božidar Kante


olstoy’s novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, is a literary work that has attracted the attention not only of literary theorists but of other theorists as well, particularly philosophers. One of the reasons for this interest undoubtedly lies in the fact that the theme of death is in the foreground of the work. This has been one of the eternal themes of philosophy since antiquity.

HEIDEGGER’S CONCEPTION OF DAS MAN One philosopher who explicitly refers to the discussion and idea of death portrayed in this novella is Martin Heidegger in his famous work Being and Time. Section 51 of this work, entitled Being-toward-Death and the Everydayness of Da-sein, cites Tolstoy as having portrayed “in his story The Death of Ivan Ilyich the phenomenon of the disruption and collapse of this ‘one dies.’”1 In this ­section Heidegger considers the idea of the average being-toward-death, whose actions are limited by the structures of everydayness developed earlier. In being-toward-death, Da-sein is related to itself as an eminent potentiality-­ of-being; but the self of everydayness is the “they” [das Man] that is constituted in public interpretedness, which expresses itself in idle talk. In what way, then, does everyday Da-sein interpret its being-toward-death? The essential question is: “how is the ‘they’ related in an understanding way to its own-most nonrelational possibility not-to-be-bypassed of Da-sein?”2 The publicness of everyday being-with-one-another “knows” death as a constantly occurring event, as a “case of death.” People die all around us: near or far, known and unknown. These events are best summed up and expressed


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by the phrase “one dies,” which is supposed to mean: it is true, in the end one dies, but in my case, this is transferred into some dim future and does not affect me. Only other people around me die. A more detailed reflection on the phrase “one dies” reveals to us the true nature of everyday being-towarddeath. Death is understood in this phrase as an indeterminate something that first has to show up from somewhere, but that right now is not yet present and therefore no threat. Death as it were only affects this “they” but not me, myself. I am not threatened and am safe. I can tell myself: never me but someone else; and this someone else is nobody. Death is somehow loose in space and time, drifting and roaming without belonging to anyone in particular. Dying, which should in essence be my own and unique, is thus changed into a public event that happens to people. Death is portrayed as something always already “real,” and thus veils, and closes off its character of possibility in our own life and the fact that it is nonrelational and cannot-be-bypassed, in other words that it can only be in relation to me myself and no one else; and that my death cannot be bypassed by the death of anyone else: “With such ambiguity, Da-sein puts itself in the position of losing itself in the ‘they’ with regard to an eminent potentiality-of-being that belongs to its own self. The ‘they’ justifies and aggravates the temptation of covering over for itself its own-most beingtoward-death.”3 In everydayness we conceal from ourselves the true nature of death, and so, in being-with-one-another, close family and also others often try to convince the dying person that all will end well and that he or she will escape death and return again to the tranquil everyday existence. This “concern” has the intention of offering some comfort to the dying person and helping him or her to veil their own-most nonrelational possibility. A general tranquillization about death is thus offered, both for the dying person and for the comforter. Publicness is not made uneasy by the death event and continues its carefree existence. All of the above, as treated from the point of view of the philosopher, is very well illustrated and summarized by Tolstoy’s novella. Right at the start of the novella we come across almost literally identical formulations regarding the view of death as we find in Being and Time. At the news of the death of Ivan Ilyich, the machinery of everydayness is set off in his acquaintances. His colleagues begin to wonder whether this death will lead to changes or promotions at work for them or people they know. “Apart from the considerations prompted by this death—the changes of post and possible permutations at work that were its probable consequences—the fact of a near acquaintance dying evoked in everyone who heard about it the happy feeling that he is dead,

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Death and Authentic Life

not I.”4 In short, others die, but not me: he has died, but I go on living. It then occurs to his acquaintances that certain obligations now await them, which seemliness requires them to fulfill: visiting the widow, expressing their condolences to her and attending the funeral service. The following passage describes Piotr Ivanovich’s train of thought on meeting his late acquaintance’s widow: “Three days of appalling suffering, and death. Why, it could happen to me, too, at any time, even now,” he thought. For a moment he was terrified. But, he hardly knew how, the usual thoughts promptly came to his aid— that this had happened to Ivan Ilyich, not himself; that this neither could nor should happen to him. . . . Piotr Ivanovich grew calm and started eliciting the facts of Ivan Ilyich’s decease with interest, as though death were an experience proper only to Ivan Ilyich and not in the least to himself.5

In most respects Ivan Ilyich’s life was a simple and commonplace one. As an examining magistrate he was decent and comme il faut, and careful to keep his official duties separate from his personal life. He never abused his power; on the contrary, he tried to soften the way it was expressed, but the consciousness of this power and the possibility of softening it “constituted the main interest and pleasure of his new post.” His private life also remained strictly within the bounds of propriety: “Ivan Ilyich even began to think that, far from wedlock upsetting his light, pleasant, gay manner of life, his marriage would actually intensify this congenial state of affairs—always respectable and popularly respected, the qualities Ivan Ilyich thought natural to life in general.”6 He believed that everything should remain within the bounds of propriety, which is the way of life that is approved by society. Yet it is precisely this belief in propriety in both official and private life that retains him within the context of “they”—in other words, of routine and an automaton-like life. He asked no more of family life than “the conveniences which it was able to provide— “dinner at home, a housewife, a bed, and, above all that propriety of external forms required by public opinion.”7 This propriety is constantly in his mind whether in connection with his official life or with regard to private life: His aim increasingly was to free himself from these unpleasantnesses, to give them a character of harmless propriety, and he achieved this by spending less and less time with his family. When that was impossible, he tried to protect himself by having outsiders present. The main thing was that Ivan Ilyich had his work. All his interest in life was focused in his



Božidar Kante work. And this interest absorbed him . . . [so] that, all in all, Ivan Ilyich’s life continued to pass as he thought it should: pleasantly and properly.8

In short, Ivan Ilyich does not have a life of his own. Instead, life happens to him, coming to him from outside, from a place over which he has no control, but this “outside” controls him and regulates the course of his life. He is an object and is not his own master; his individuality has been taken from him because he is a member of the “herd” and in this herd he seeks safe shelter, so that there is no need for him to assume individual responsibility. He is actually anonymous and subject to the dictates, customs and propriety of the society in which he lives. He is deprived of the personal note and is a typical example of an individual who has been voluntarily deprived of subjectness. Yet he himself is not aware of this, since he deludes himself that he is living a full life and believes in his own subjectness. In the lives of the “they,” the fact that someone dies is greeted with untroubled indifference. The creation of such exalted indifference alienates Da-sein from its own-most nonrelational potentiality-of-being. In reality, the life of the “they” is an inauthentically understood and veiling evasion of being-towarddeath. By transforming itself into a daily occurring case of death in others, death assures me that I am nevertheless still alive: Even in average everydayness, Da-sein is constantly concerned with its own-most nonrelational potentiality-of being not-to-be-bypassed, if only in the mode of taking care of things in a mode of untroubled indifference toward the most extreme possibility of its existence.9

For the most part, everyday Da-sein covers over its own-most nonrelational possibility of being, so Da-sein as a fact is untrue. “They” say that it is certain that death comes. “They” overlook the fact that in order to be able to be aware of death, Da-sein must always be aware of its own-most nonrelational ­potentiality-of-being. Saying that death is certain merely creates the illusion that Da-sein is aware of its own death. Cases of death are only empirically certain, and they do not bear with themselves the apodictical certainty, which we can approach in some theoretical fields. Since these cases of death remain within empirical certainty, Da-sein can have no awareness of what death is like. Death within the “they” is thus postponed to some later time, and thus it covers over one characteristic of the certainty of death: the fact that it is “possible at any moment.” “They” adjourn death to the indefiniteness of its when: “But c­ overing

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Death and Authentic Life

over this indefiniteness also covers over certainty. Thus the ­own-most character of the possibility of death gets covered over: a possibility that is ­certain, and yet indefinite, that is, possible at any moment.”10 Idle talk (the phrase is not used pejoratively here), curiosity and ambiguity characterize the way in which Da-sein is its “they,” the disclosedness of being-in-the-world in an everyday way. In “them” and in the connectedness of their being, a basic kind of the being of everdayness reveals itself, which we call the entanglement of Da-sein. This term, which does not express any negative value judgment, means that Da-sein is initially and for the most part thrown into an already provided and offered surrounding world, which Da-sein itself cannot choose. It simply surrenders and succumbs to this world, which mostly has the character of being lost in the publicness of the “they.” If Da-sein is thrown to or has fallen prey to a surrounding world, which it has not chosen, this indicates that it has forgotten itself as an authentic potentiality-of-being-itself, of being in itself: “Inauthenticity does not mean anything like no-longer-being-in-the-world, but rather it constitutes precisely a distinctive kind of being-in-the-world which is completely taken in by the ‘world’ and the Mitda-sein of the others in the ‘they.’”11 Entanglement does not mean that Da-sein is factual beingin-the-world. It has not fallen prey to some being which it first runs into in the course of its being, or perhaps does not, but it has fallen prey to the world which itself belongs to its being. The world to which it has fallen prey is inseparable from Da-sein, it is its existential determination. Falling prey to the world is nothing other than the potentiality-to-be-in-the-world, but in the manner of inauthenticity.

SARTRE, BAD FAITH AND INAUTHENTICITY Heidegger’s theme of the “they” and the veiled nature of existential potentialities, if life only progresses within its frameworks, is continued by Sartre in his seminal work Being and Nothingness, although with slightly altered form and content. Sartre’s treatment introduces, instead of the concept of “they,” a new concept that he calls bad faith (mauvaise foi), which is inextricably tied up with Sartre’s conception of radical freedom. On introducing the concept of bad faith in the second chapter, he points out that the human being can adopt negative attitudes with respect to itself. Earlier, in the introduction, Sartre defines consciousness as “a being such that in its being, its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.”12 Consciousness is a being, the



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nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being. It constitutes itself in its own flesh as the nihilation of possibility that another human reality projects as its possibility. It arises in the world as a Not, like the Not that the slave first apprehends in relation to the master. This negative attitude, which is essential to human reality and which is such consciousness, instead of directing its negation outward, turning toward itself is bad faith. Bad faith is frequently identified with error or falsehood. Where does the difference between the two lies, however? The essence of the lie is that the liar is in complete possession of the truth he is hiding from others. The ideal description of the liar would be a cynical consciousness, affirming truth within himself, denying it in his words, and denying that negation as such. Bad faith appears to have the same structure as error, but what changes the whole story is the fact that in the case of bad faith it is I myself from whom I am hiding the truth. Here, then, the difference between liar and deceived falls away: “bad faith on the contrary implies in essence the unity of a single consciousness.”13 Bad faith can become autonomous and durable: Even though the existence of bad faith is very precarious, and though it belongs to the kind of psychic structures which we might call “metastable,” it presents nonetheless an autonomous and durable form. It can even be the normal aspect of life for a very great number of people. A person can live in bad faith, which does not mean that he does not have abrupt awakenings to cynicism or good faith, but which implies a constant and particular style of life. Our embarrassment then appears extreme since we can neither reject nor comprehend bad faith.14

Sartre offers a number of patterns of bad faith and asks: What must be the being of man if he is to be capable of bad faith? Take the example of a woman who has consented to go out with a particular man for the first time. When the man takes her hand, she still has not decided what to do or how she should respond to his sexual intentions: The young woman leaves her hand there, but she does not notice that she is leaving it.  .  .  . [T]he hand rests inert between the warm hands of her companion—neither consenting nor resisting—a thing. . . . She has disarmed the actions of her companion by reducing them to being only what they are; that is, to existing in the mode of the in-itself. . . . [S] he realizes herself as not being her own body, and she contemplates it

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Death and Authentic Life as though from above as a passive object to which events can happen but which can neither provoke them nor avoid them because all its possibilities are outside of it.15

All Sartre’s examples of bad faith are patterns of the consciousness of human subjectivity in the mode of being an object, of being in the self. This consciousness is conceived as the project of being-for-the-self. In Sartre’s examples, bad faith shows a choice: not at some reflective, voluntary level, but at the pre-reflective level as a “spontaneous determination of our being.”16 Bad faith is a case where freedom fails to receive confirmation. What Sartre denies is the explanatory self-sufficiency of the ordinary conception of the agent as a practical reasoner. Bad faith displays the groundlessness in rationality of human action per se: “[T]he ‘paradoxicality’ which characterizes self-­deception is really a feature which underlines all human action; beyond ordinary psychology we discover a ‘paradoxicality,’ that of freedom in the form of the fundamental project, of freedom negating itself, which ordinary psychology cannot make intelligible.”17 Freedom goes beyond reason. My original choice is prior to all logic and is a kind of pre-logical synthesis. It should, accordingly, be no surprise that our psychology includes bad faith, since freedom has a structure of its own, which is broader than and independent of that of reason. Yet because we rely on reason’s explanatory self-sufficiency, the self-deception that is connected to bad faith seems unaccountable. Sartre tries to show that irrationality is a kind of immanent characteristic of the self-conscious being. Thus, surrendering to irrational motivations is at the very heart of the self-conscious rational being. So, we have two philosophical models—Heidegger’s, which is based on the everydayness and routine of the “they,” and Sartre’s, which in place of the “they” introduces the concept of bad faith and links it to self-deception and lies. Both models are capable of explaining and interpreting Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Although both could offer a successful interpretation, it is nevertheless worth asking whether there is any difference between them and, if so, what that difference is. The starting point of both models seeks a justification and motivation in a broader metaphysical and ontological picture of the world, in the case of Heidegger, and in metaphysical frameworks, in the case of Sartre. There is one point that they have in common: the fact that both seek psychological explanations for the topics in question. In Heidegger’s case, escape from the everydayness of the “they” is enabled by anxiety (Angst) as that mood that has no intentional object when we feel



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uneasy without knowing what we are uneasy about. Anxiety about something opens up space of authenticity where being is revealed as something that is mine alone and my own-most, which means that it confirms my radical isolation or individuation. In anxiety I freely choose myself. It is anxiety for the freedom to choose oneself. In anxiety there is the radical freedom of one’s own being. Anxiety should by no means be viewed as a pathological state; it is a positive mood. One cannot flee anxiety, and anxiety must be allowed so that our existence can become doubtful in the “they,” since only thus is the royal way to the possibility of genuine being opened to us. Freedom is not something available to us like every other object in the world. Instead, we reach it through anxiety and conscience. In Heidegger, the path to freedom or the realization that everyday life in the “they” is not true, authentic life is long, winding and complicated. In Sartre, too, man is thrown into the world, although Sartre conceives man as a radically free being who always has a way out of even the most desperate and apparently hopeless situation. Authenticity, in Sartre, seems to be compatible with a wide variety of life choices. Human reality is always torn between what it is not (its future as possibility) and what it is (its past as facticity). Authenticity means never being reconciled with one’s current state; otherwise, one remains responsible for sustaining it, because choosing to remain the way one is would, of course, constitute the most striking form of self-­deception or bad faith. It means a flight from the concomitant responsibility of choosing to maintain such a way of life. Given the fundamental division of the human situation into facticity and transcendence, bad faith or inauthenticity can assume two principal forms: one that denies freedom, which is connected to transcendence (“I can’t do anything about it”), and the other that ignores the factual dimension of every situation (“I can do anything by just wishing it”). The former is the more prevalent form of self-deception, while the latter is typical of fantasists who have no contact with reality. In short, Sartre sometimes talks as though any choice could be authentic so long as it is lived with a clear awareness of its contingency and responsibility. This Sartre’s model appears to be more realistic and acceptable, above all, because irrationality is inextricably rooted in the self-conscious subject. The subject knows to some extent that it is deceiving itself with a given course of action, yet it complacently surrenders to this self-deception and deliberately ignores the choice or alternative it has before it. The important thing in Sartre is the defense of the view that as subjects we are, as it were, condemned to freedom. The subject has various possibilities available to it, but instead,

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Death and Authentic Life

chooses the easiest and least effortful solution and believes in good faith that this is the best of all possible lives. In the case of Ivan Ilyich, it is possible to identify self-deception in the following fragment: In fact, however, the effect was the same as in the homes of all those people who are not quite rich enough, who want to look like the rich, and consequently look only like each other: damasks, mahogany, flowers, carpets and bronzes, dark wood-stain and high polish—everything that people of a certain kind do to be like all other people of that certain kind. What he had was so similar to the norm that it did not even strike you, but to him everything seemed in some way extraordinary.18

In other words, fixtures and furnishings that are identical to those of other families, yet in Ivan’s opinion they are something extraordinary and unique. There are also passages in the novella that seem to support Heidegger’s solution. One of these reads as follows: “In the country, without work, Ivan Ilyich experienced not only boredom but unbearable melancholy for the first time. He decided that living like this was impossible. It was ­essential to take some decisive action.”19 This unbearable melancholy opens his eyes for the first time quite suddenly: he cannot continue like this; life in the “they” leads nowhere and is merely running on the spot and adapting to others. It is also possible to live another way, but such a new way of life requires decisive action.

CONCLUSION OF THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH Even as Ivan Ilyich lies helpless in bed and the hour of his death comes ever nearer, when he ponders on why such a terrible fate has befallen him, he is still convinced that death cannot happen to him, that it is more the fate of others. His model for this reflection was a syllogism from a logic textbook: “Caius is a man; men are mortal; therefore Caius is mortal.” This syllogism had always seemed to him to be correct, but only in relation to Caius and in no way to himself: There was Caius the man, man in general, and that was quite fair—but he was not Caius and not man in general. He was always quite, quite different from all other beings. He was little Vanya with Mamma, with Papa, with Mitya and Volodya. . . . Naturally Caius was mortal, and it was right for him



Božidar Kante to die, but for me, Vanya, Ivan Ilyich, with all my feelings and thoughts— for me it is another matter. And it cannot be right for me to die.20

With the progression of his illness and the deterioration of his condition, a worm of doubt nevertheless starts eating into Ivan’s thoughts about the suitability and correctness of his life, and he makes a surprising about-turn in his view of his past life. What until recently had seemed impossible, namely, that he had not lived his life in a suitable and correct manner, now seemed to him that it could be true. Now some of his former actions appeared to him in a new light: perhaps his barely perceptible attempts to resist his superiors were in fact correct and everything else was wrong: And his work, and the construction of his life, and his family, and those social and professional interests—all of them might be not the right thing. He tried to defend all these things to himself. And suddenly felt all the ­feebleness of what he was defending. And there was nothing to defend.21

As he continues to reflect, his thoughts are such that they could have been put in his mouth by Sartre himself: In the morning, when he saw the footman, and then his wife, and then his daughter, and then the doctor—their every movement and every word confirmed for him the dreadful truth that had come to him in the night. He saw himself in them, everything he had lived by, and saw clearly that all of it was not the right thing, all of it was a dreadful, vast lie heaped over life and death.22

Thus, Ivan’s view of life and death in those moments when the sand in the hourglass is inexorably flowing into the lower half and no one will turn the glass over again, not even God, combines Heidegger’s “they” and Sartre’s model of bad faith. He is filled with the bitter realization that—both in private life and in his official life—he has deceived himself and submitted to the demands of being-with-one-another in a community, and that he has lived as society expected and required him to live. The change that Ivan Ilyich experiences in the final hours of his life could and must be characterized as follows: 1. Death is for me the own-most possibility of existence. In the possibility of and openness towards death, my Da-sein brings itself back

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Death and Authentic Life

to itself from its lostness in the “they.” Death is revealed as the most authentic possibility. 2. Death is a nonrelational possibility and touches my Da-sein in its authenticity. This means that it unbinds me and separates me from every relation with others. I can substitute no one in death, and neither can others substitute me. The relation with death is for me unique, one-off, unrepeatable, one alone—my death is mine alone, my own. This relation with the self cannot be treated like the relation between two links. 3. Death as a possibility not-to-be-bypassed. Death is the unsurpassable (place, end) possibility of existence. Death is, in a way, the furthest reach of existence as a possibility-of-being; it is the extreme, highest and unsurpassable able-to-be. At the same time, it is also a limitation or boundary for all other existential possibilities. Yet this should not be understood in a negative sense. Quite the opposite: here we must agree with Heidegger, who understands and explains this extreme range of possibility represented by the possibility of death as the “space” that enables every other possibility of existence. The extreme possibility frees Da-sein for its possibilities, which as such are marked by an end (death), and are thus final possibilities: In this way we answer the question of the possibility of a whole Da-sein. Existential wholeness lies in the acceptance of death as a possibility (not in the “realization” of death). In this, our Da-sein is whole because it takes place as a genuine and authentic being-toward-death, but at the same time frees Da-sein to choose the possibilities of its own being. As may be seen, wholeness is truly only understood in connection with death.23

We could perhaps summarize Ivan Ilyich’s realization at the end of his life by paraphrasing the declaration of Malraux’s protagonist Perken from The Royal Way: “There is no . . . death. . . . [T]here is only . . . I . . . who will die.”

ENDNOTES   1 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press 1996), 409n12.   2 Ibid., 234.  3 Ibid.



Božidar Kante   4 Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, section I; quoted from Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Master and Man, trans. Ann Pasternak Slater (New York: The Modern Library, 2004).   5 Ibid., sec. I.   6 Ibid., sec. II.  7 Ibid.  8 Ibid.  9 Heidegger, Being and Time, 235. 10 Ibid., 239. 11 Ibid., 240. 12 Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), 47. 13 Ibid., 49. 14 Ibid., 50. 15 Ibid., 55–56. 16 Ibid., 68. 17 Sebastian Gardner, Sartre’s Being and Nothingness: A Reader Guide (London: Continuum, 2009), 176. 18 Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, sec. III; emphasis added. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid., sec. VI. 21 Ibid., sec. XI. 22 Ibid. 23 Branko Klun, “Skrb, smrt in vest,” Phainomena 8 (1999): 194.


Tolstoy’s Spiritual Nonviolence Robert L. Holmes The establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth is a cooperative enterprise between God and man. —Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan1


sing as a springboard a fragment from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, which says “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” Isaiah Berlin suggests that writers can be broken down into hedgehogs who are governed by a single comprehensive vision and foxes whose thought flies off in many directions.2 According to Berlin, Plato, Hegel and Dostoevsky were hedgehogs, while Aristotle, Goethe and Joyce were foxes. Berlin thinks Tolstoy was a fox who thought of himself—confusedly, in Berlin’s judgment— as a hedgehog. That judgment in itself is interesting if relatively unimportant, but the conclusion Berlin draws from his reflections on this question is devastating. He says: Tolstoy began with a view of human life and history which contradicted all his knowledge, all his gifts, all his inclinations, and which in consequence, he could scarcely be said to have embraced in the sense of ­practicing it, either as a writer or as a man. From this, in his old age, he passed into a form of life in which he tried to resolve the glaring contradiction between what he believed about men and events, and what he thought he believed  .  .  . and he died in agony, oppressed by the burden of his ­intellectual i­ nfallibility and his sense of perpetual moral error, the greatest


Robert L. Holmes of those who can neither reconcile, nor leave unreconciled, the conflict of what there is with what there ought to be . . . the most tragic of the great writers, a desperate old man, beyond human aid, wandering self-blinded at Colonus.3

I shall leave it to others to decide whether Berlin’s conclusions outstrip the evidence for them. They derive mainly from Tolstoy’s fiction in the 1860s, particularly the philosophy of history implicit in War and Peace, with little attention to his religious and philosophical work after 1870. They are typical of contemporary dismissals of Tolstoy’s later work, however, such as the judgment that The Kreutzer Sonata (1889) “is a bad book . . . not because it is the work of a nutty Christian ascetic, but because its nutty Christian asceticism has stamped out everything generous . . . in Tolstoy’s imagination.”4 Without trying to psychoanalyze Tolstoy as Berlin does, and without taking up directly the dismissal of his later thought as that of a desiccated crank, I shall sketch a different picture of Tolstoy, not so much of the man personally as of his spiritual and philosophical insights that in my judgment warrant placing him among history’s profoundest thinkers.

QUEST FOR TRUTH Central to Tolstoy is the quest for truth, which in his view must be pursued through reason. While disciplines like history or science also embody a dedication to truth, they are limited to disclosing only certain of its dimensions. History studies the evolution of humankind in its social, political and economic dimensions, with particular emphasis on war. Science explores the nature of the physical world and the laws governing its operation. Neither can answer the question: What is the meaning of life? This is the question Tolstoy confronts, and in so doing he is as much an existentialist as Dostoevsky and, after him, Sartre. If there is a singular meaning to life, to know it would require a comprehensive grasp of the ultimate origin and reality of all things, and this cannot be had—Tolstoy acknowledges that—but we may distinguish the question of the meaning of life from the question of what makes life meaningful. It is one thing to try to learn whether there is a point to human life, by whomever it is lived and however long or short it may be, and if so, what it is. It is another to try to understand why some lives are meaningful and others not in the particular contexts in which they occur. Here there is a fact to be explained, whereas in the first case there may not be. Some people lead meaningful lives without knowing

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the meaning of life, and they do so even if there should be nothing that can be called the meaning of life. Tolstoy thought this was true of the peasants of his day, who made up the vast part of the Russian population during his lifetime. Tolstoy thought the lives of the peasants were meaningful partly because of their connection to nature, a connection lost by those who spend their lives in cities and who live according to what Tolstoy calls the teachings of the world. Tolstoy writes: [C]onsider the life of people who live according to the teaching of the world: the more they achieve success according to the world’s teaching the more are they deprived of this condition of happiness. The higher they climb in the scale of worldly fortune the less do they see of the light of the sun, of the fields and the woods, and of wild or domestic animals. Many of them . . . live on to old age . . . never seeing the fields and the woods except from a carriage or a railway train, and not only without having sown or planted anything, or fed or reared cows, horses, or hens, but without even having an idea of how those animals are born, grow, and live. These people only see textiles, stone, and wood shaped by human toil, and that not by the light of the sun but by artificial light.5

Even more importantly, what made the lives of peasants meaningful was their faith, which seemed to fortify them from birth to death. It is this faith that Tolstoy sets about to try to understand. In so doing, he is led to conclude that the Church has distorted the core of that faith, the teachings of Jesus, and that only when those teachings are properly understood can one lead a fully meaningful life. There are similarities here between Tolstoy’s thought and that of Taoism, which came to influence him in his later life. According to Taoism, human nature is basically good but is led astray by the accretion of destructive beliefs and practices. Those need only to be peeled away in order for people’s basic goodness to reemerge. In like fashion, Tolstoy thinks that what he believes to be the falsehoods and incomprehensibilities of the Church need only be discarded to allow the light to shine on the true message of Jesus’s teachings. In short, Tolstoy’s quest for truth cannot be understood apart from his critique of the Christian Church and its rendering of the teachings of Jesus. For this reason, I shall begin with the thought of two major Christian ­thinkers, St. Augustine, an early Catholic bishop, and Reinhold Niebuhr, a ­twentieth-­century protestant theologian, both of whom illustrate how the



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Church both before and after Tolstoy reinterprets the teachings of Jesus in such a way as to conform them to antecedent social, political and moral values. This, it should be said in advance, does not show the teachings of Jesus to be true, that being for Tolstoy another matter. It shows only how he believes their distortions must be cleared away if one is to start with firm footing in assessing their truth. Finally, I will take up the most difficult issue of all in exploring what Tolstoy thinks must be done to verify that those teachings are true.

AUGUSTINE Confronted by critics who blamed pacifistic Christianity for many of the ills besetting the Roman Empire, Augustine (354–430) set about to show that Christianity was compatible with the acceptance of obligations to the State, including participation in war.6 His monumental work, The City of God, was a product of this effort. Its embryonic just war theory, augmented and refined by philosophers and theologians alike, stands to this day as the widely accepted perspective from which to evaluate the morality of war. In this, Augustine completed the work begun by Constantine the Great—a convert to Christianity— of uprooting the pacifism of the early Christians and setting mainstream Christianity on the militaristic course it maintains to this day. As Augustine’s biographer, Peter Brown, writes, The traditional pagans had accused the Christians of withdrawing from public affairs and of being potential pacifists. Augustine’s life as a bishop had been a continual refutation of the charge. He knew what it was to wield power with the support of the Imperial administration. Far from abandoning civil society, he had maintained what he believed to be its true basis, the Catholic religion; and in his dealings with heresy, lawlessness and immorality, he had shown not a trace of pacifism.7

In addition, Augustine mobilized all of his powers of intellect and influence to counteract what he saw as a heretical emphasis on reason and a challenge to the belief in original sin. Pelagius, a British monk who migrated to Rome at roughly the same time as Augustine, represented both of these perceived threats. To deny original sin, as he did, was in Augustine’s view to open the door to thinking that human beings are capable of perfecting themselves in the absence of baptism and divine grace. Obedience to God, Pelagius stressed, was possible as a freely chosen act by individuals who had considerable c­ ontrol

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of their own lives and perhaps even of their ultimate fate. If this was true, then human goodness, reason and motivation had a central role to play in the Christian life. Individuals were not, as Augustine held, completely dependent upon God. Predestination, as preached by Augustine in his later years, was also undermined. Deeds, Pelagius taught, as did Tolstoy after him, were essential to salvation, a conceptual impossibility if it was predetermined who would be saved.8 Reason was the faculty, for Pelagius, as it was to be for Tolstoy, which endowed humankind with the potential to lead good lives. Augustine, for all his reliance on reason to construct arguments against his adversaries, did not concede to reason such a potential. The confidence Pelagius had in human capacities rationally cultivated in obedience to God placed him in Augustine’s crosshairs. After his long-standing critique of Manichaeism and Donatism, Augustine launched a full-sale attack on Pelagianism and succeeded in having its teachings declared heretical in a Council at Carthage in 418. But this was only part of Augustine’s program. There remained the teachings of Jesus themselves. These were dealt with by Augustine in his polemic against Faustus, the Manichaean, long before Pelagius was perceived as a threat. In a key passage, Augustine writes: If it is supposed that God could not enjoin warfare, because in after times it was said by the Lord Jesus Christ, “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but if any one strike thee on the right cheek, turn to him the left also,” the answer is, that what is here required is not a bodily action, but an inward disposition. The sacred seat of virtue is the heart.9

Early Christians had understood the teachings of Jesus to preclude war and violence even though those teachings do not deal specifically with those topics. They also took them to preclude elevating the coercive demands of the State to the level of obligations for Christians. The violence of war, police action, the judgments of law courts and the imposition of punishment seemed incompatible with those teachings. Augustine uproots that view by interiorizing the teachings of Jesus. He interprets them to refer not to bodily actions— that is, actual conduct—but to the state of one’s soul. It is one’s motivation10 and intentions that count, not what one actually does. The sacred seat of virtue, as he says, is the heart. This provides the keystone to Augustine’s justification of war, his denial of human capacity to live well unaided by divine grace and his



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insistence on near absolute obedience to the State, all of which Tolstoy is later to challenge. Remove this keystone, and the whole of the Augustinian edifice collapses.

NIEBUHR Reinhold Niebuhr (1882–1971) was a latter-day Augustinian in his e­ mphasis on the sinfulness of man and his attitude toward war. Just as Augustine, a former Manichean, turned with a vengeance upon Manichaeism after his conversion, Niebuhr, a former pacifist, turned with vehemence against pacifism after becoming convinced of the justifiability of war.11 Augustine was led to justify war by the demands of the State in the face of threats against Rome. Niebuhr was drawn to justify the violence of the State by World War II, which represented for him a needed chastisement of a democratic world grown too comfortable and complacent. Among other things, the sacrifices of war would “greatly reduce the inequalities of the economic system.” Niebuhr writes: Moralists may find this trait of human nature, its grudging concessions, its unwillingness to repent except under chastisement, abhorrent, and they may dream of another kind of history than the actual history of man. But if they would find evidences in it of his same reluctance and would learn to appreciate the tragic elements in history as manifestations of divine judgment, without which man would remain in the stupor of sin. . . . It must be observed . . . that while a long war may be the only discipline that will bring a democratic world completely to its senses, it is also possible that too long a war would make the burdens too grievous to bear.12

Enough war, but not too much—war in moderation, one might say—was the Niebuhrian formula for counteracting the sinfulness of the democratic world. But it is in his treatment of the teachings of Jesus that Niebuhr contrasts most sharply with Tolstoy. In a 1932 essay, he contended that the “ethic of Jesus was, to begin with a personal ethic . . . an individual ethic in the sense that his chief interest was in the quality of life of an individual.”13 In this it is contrasted with a social ethics designed to deal with the problems of society, states and international affairs. Groups, in this latter sense, were ineluctably governed by egoism, as Niebuhr argued in Moral Man and Immoral Society. The ethic of

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Jesus represented a perfectionism “which we can neither disavow nor perfectly achieve. . . . Valuable as this kind of perfectionism is, it certainly offers no basis for a social ethic that deals responsibly with a growing society.”14 In his later writing, Niebuhr is even more forceful in this interpretation and contrasts it with the Tolstoyan view. In a passage reminiscent of Augustine’s rebuttal of Faustus, he writes in: Men are enjoined [by the ethic of Jesus] to “love their enemies,” to ­“forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven,” to resist [not] evil, to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, to bless them that curse you and to do good to them that hate you. . . . The modern pulpit would be saved from much sentimentality if the thousands of sermons which are annually preached on these texts would contain some suggestion of the impossibility of these ethical demands for natural man in his ­immediate situation. . . . It is, therefore, impossible to construct a sociomoral policy from this religio-moral insight of Jesus, as, for instance, Tolstoi [sic] attempted in his objection to jails and other forms of social ­punishment.15

The teachings of Jesus represent an impossible ideal. Christians neither reject them nor live by them. In these ways, Augustine and Niebuhr exemplify two of the main efforts of Christians to interpret the teachings of Jesus in such a way as to make them consistent with what they consider to be realistic ways of dealing with the problems of humankind in a sinful world. Augustine interiorizes the teachings of Jesus, detaching them (other than through motives and intentions) from outward conduct. Niebuhr represents them as perfectionistic and “impossible of fulfillment in the present existence of man.”16 The upshot is to unseat the teachings from their position as the ultimate guide to human conduct.

FAITH Tolstoy, of course, did not know of Niebuhr, but Niebuhr’s and Augustine’s analyses epitomize the ways he thinks the teachings of Jesus have been relegated to the realm of fine but unattainable ideals. Tolstoy seeks to restore them to their proper place. He does so by beginning with what he considers a basic philosophical perspective. Let us consider what that perspective is.



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In Tolstoy’s view, every person, whether conscious of doing so or not, defines his or her relationship to the universe in the process of living. Reason is the capacity by which one does that.17 Even those who are dimly aware of what is taking place may be incapable of articulating the conception of life being created in the process (a process Sartre later represents as creating one’s essence). For Tolstoy, the process of living creates a conception of life, and that constitutes faith. This means that for him faith is more than simply a label for religious beliefs incapable of verification. In that sense, the religions of the world (possibly excepting Buddhism) represent varying and conflicting faiths. Because the beliefs separating religions often contradict one another, they cannot all be true. If you know the truth and others hold contrary beliefs, then their beliefs must be false. This sets the stage for conflict, which is why some of the bloodiest wars have been religious wars. Those who presume to know the truth and to be its guardians are the priests, rabbis, imams of the major religions, along with those individuals who arise from time to time claiming a direct connection with God and who lead smaller bands of devoted and sometimes fanatical followers. If they do not shed blood directly themselves, they often inspire those who do: they provide the rationales for the killing their followers do, as did Augustine and Niebuhr and as do various ­religious leaders to this day. In the sense of faith that Tolstoy has in mind, however, all religions are united by faith. They all represent ways of defining man’s relationship to the universe as a whole, but it is not only religions that represent faith in this sense: science and philosophy do so as well. For reason, as Tolstoy says, is “the power man possesses to define his relationship to the universe,” which is why Tolstoy, like Socrates before him, attaches such importance to it. That power is preeminently at work in science and philosophy. Reason has its limitations, however, as a long philosophic tradition from Parmenides, Zeno and the skeptics through Kant to twentieth-century positivism and existentialism has recognized. Even science, the model of reason devoted to disclosing the truth about the physical world, cannot explain everything. Eventually it reaches a dead end. Fidelity to reason is constrained by the commitment to truth, and the truth about reason is that its capacities are limited. Reason itself shows the limits of reason. For Tolstoy, one is bound by this realization in the quest for meaning in life. If the limitations of reason must be respected, its verdicts must be accepted in the realms to which it applies, and Tolstoy applies them to what he sees as the pretensions of the Church. This includes what he thinks is the confusing, often incomprehensible and sometimes absurd picture it would have people believe of their relationship to ultimate reality. I shall not detail Tolstoy’s c­ ritical

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dismantling of this conception, but it includes his rejection of the ideas of the garden of Eden, original sin, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist. By presuming to know the truth about all such things, a body of men evolved who transformed the Church, turning it into a powerful social and political force in history. Let us contextualize this process philosophically. If humankind started with what is given to the senses phenomenologically, it would find only an unintelligible flux. It is only when the mind imposes order on this flux that it becomes intelligible. Kant masterfully detailed this with regard to concepts like space, time and causality. Tolstoy emphasizes that in the course of history there evolved aggregates of persons. Extrapolating from his analysis, we may say that just as the concepts of space, time and causality are central to understanding personal experience, the concepts of family, tribe, class, society and the State become central to understanding social reality—a kind of social-Kantianism. Accompanying it is the extension of moral categories of right, wrong, duty, obligation and rights to these collectivities. As that happens, there inevitably arises the question of the relationship of the individual to the group and of the relationship of individual ethics to collective ethics. More specifically, there arises the question of which takes precedence, individual ethics or collective ethics, when the two conflict. Although he does not call it such, Tolstoy sees the collective ethics epitomized by the rationalizations of the legitimacy of the State as having won hands-down. It imposes laws, courts, taxation and prisons by which to enforce compliance with the State and justifies wars to advance and defend the State’s interests. The Church, in its pretensions of absolute truth with regard to all things, forms an inevitable alliance with the State. Wealth, power and religion support the domination of the masses by a minority of elites. All of this, Tolstoy believes, can be shown by reason. This does not tell one way or the other about the truth of religion or about the teachings of Christianity in particular. A secular or philosophical scrutiny of humankind might arrive at the same conclusions. Many atheists and agnostics would agree with the picture Tolstoy presents of established religion, and many others, whether believers or not, would agree with much of Tolstoy’s analysis of the State. Where does religion come in? Here is where Tolstoy turns to the teachings of Jesus, for the Church is founded on those teachings. They are at the center of faith, and they provide the key to disclosing the falsehoods of the Church and the State. Ultimately, they provide an understanding of what makes life meaningful, which is at the heart of faith.



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JESUS Tolstoy, first, presents his reasons for taking such renderings of Jesus’s teachings as we have seen in Augustine and Niebuhr to be distortions, and, second, presents his reasons for taking the teachings of Jesus to represent the truth. The first response is marked by directness and simplicity. Tolstoy focuses on what Jesus actually says (or, if you like, what he is represented as saying in the credited accounts of the Gospels). He writes specifically of the injunction not to return evil for evil: So Christ says what he says. It is possible to affirm that it is very difficult always to obey this rule. It is possible not to agree with the statement that every man will be happy if he obeys this rule. It may be said that it is stupid, as unbelievers say that Christ was a dreamer and an idealist who ­enunciated impracticable rules, which his disciples followed from ­stupidity. But it is quite impossible not to admit that Christ said very clearly and definitely just what he meant to say, namely that according to his teaching man should not resist evil, and that therefore whoever accepts his teaching must not resist evil. And yet neither believers nor unbelievers understand this simple, clear meaning of Christ’s words.18

This is what Jesus says, and Tolstoy would hold the Church to it. Indeed, he would confront both the believers and nonbelievers with those words. As he says, you can dismiss them, ignore them, ridicule them if you like, but you cannot deny what they say. The very ground for the dismissal of these teachings is the claim that they were not meant literally, as Augustine argued, or if meant literally are absurd or unrealistic, as Niebuhr argued. Those very criticisms presuppose, however, that the words, taken at face value, mean what they seem to mean: love your enemies, turn the other cheek, do not resist evil, do not return evil for evil.

TRUTH It is the second part of Tolstoy’s response that is intriguing. For he contends that those teachings represent truth, and in being true they are the key to a meaningful life. How does he argue this? Notice at the outset—though Tolstoy does not himself argue this—that in the passages alluded to by Tolstoy (and before him by Augustine and after him by Niebuhr) what is relevant are the teachings of Jesus. To nonbelievers,

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however, there may not have been an actual Jesus, and if there was he may not have spoken precisely those words. This is well-taken. There is limited historical evidence independent of the Bible and Christian writings for the existence of Jesus.19 And if he did exist, the words attributed to him were written decades after his death by individuals who never saw him, much less heard him utter those words. Does this matter? If one takes the words to be true because they were uttered by an actual being, the son of God, and delivered on the authority of God, then it matters. For then everything turns on whether or not there was an historical Jesus and, before that, on whether there is a God in the sense of a perfect being whose will is authoritative. However, it may not matter if one does not make these assumptions. The words are there. They express thoughts. Their truth or falsity is what it is, and their implications for human life are what they are. The teachings are true or false, wise or foolish, independently of whether they were uttered by an historical Jesus and, if they were, whether that person was the Son of God. For Tolstoy, the teachings of Jesus are not true because they were uttered by a divine being. Rather, Jesus was a divine being because his teachings are true. It is their truth, as discovered by experience, that credentials Jesus, not the other way around.20 And reason is the capacity by which this is known. Against the Augustinian way of thinking, Tolstoy argues that it is by deeds that the Kingdom of God is realized, and realized in this world, not in a distant after life. Like Pelagius, Tolstoy believes in human freedom and the capacity to choose one way of life as opposed to another without its having been predetermined by God and the weight of original sin. Unlike Pelagius, however, he does not represent this as freedom to obey an external divine authority. It is the freedom to respond to one’s inner light. There is in each person a latent knowledge of how to live, and it is the teachings of Jesus that would awaken us to that knowledge if we attend to them. Against the Niebuhrian skepticism, all that needs to be done according to the Tolstoyan perspective is to strip away the accretions of Church, State and convention that obscure the truth of what lies within. At times Tolstoy speaks as though there is an inner voice that speaks if one is attuned to it. Like Socrates, who spoke of an inner voice telling him when he should not do a certain action, Tolstoy sometimes speaks as though the voice has a negative message. His rendering of the five commandments from the Sermon on the Mount are all negative. The Golden Rule, which he repeatedly cites as though it encapsulated those commandments, is also sometimes expressed in its negative form: do not



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do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. Whether the “voice” is just a metaphor and whether it is expressed in n­ egative ­judgments, it represents for Tolstoy the key to a meaningful life. It is found within each individual. It is not found in institutions that have evolved religiously, socially or politically and that have (even if it was not their original purpose) come to represent power by a few over the many. This power is the source of inequality, and that in turn is the source of ­poverty and crime. Therein lies the key to understanding the answer Tolstoy would give to the skepticism of Niebuhr that the teachings of Jesus cannot provide a social ethic. That key lies in equality, a central concept for Tolstoy. It is for that reason that he attaches so much importance to the parable of the laborers.21

THE PARABLE OF THE LABORERS In the parable, the owner of a vineyard hires laborers in the early morning to work for an agreed upon amount; then he discovers others looking for work at three-hour intervals throughout the day and hires them with a promise to pay them whatever is right. At the end of the day, he pays them all the same amount, starting with those who were hired last and who had worked for only one hour. Those hired first complain that they were treated unfairly because they worked the whole day. The owner replies to one of them that he will “give unto this last as unto thee.” Those hired first were paid the agreed upon amount. They were treated equally. The same contribution was made to the goodness of all of the worker’s lives, irrespective of the circumstances that led them to assemble at different hours in search of work. John Ruskin (1819–1900) had, before Tolstoy, written a short book on this parable, entitled Unto This Last, in which he attacks the political economy of his day for exploiting workers. Gandhi was influenced by both Ruskin and Tolstoy and fashioned his “Tolstoy Farm” in South Africa after the economics of nonviolence implied in their thought. Let us try to understand that outlook as it relates to the inequality Tolstoy condemns. Wealth represents power. The intrinsic value of a dollar bill is close to zero. It is a piece of paper with printing on it. It is worthless unless you can get people to give you something or do something for you in exchange for it. That represents power. Money can be used to satisfy needs, to get food, clothing, shelter or provide for medical service. Once needs are satisfied, however, the only function of money is to satisfy wants. As more and more

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money accumulates in the hands of a few, the satisfaction of their wants comes at the expense of others, who must satisfy those wants in order to ­survive. It matters little that those who do so are politically free. Their condition is tantamount to slavery. Ruskin makes this point in a hypothetical example of an island of one hundred people, ninety-nine of whom are slaves to one. Under this circumstance, the one master has the power to compel the ninety-nine to serve his every wish. Suppose the hundred are free, however, no one of them a slave of another, but one of them owns the island. There is complete political freedom, but the one who owns the island can compel the others to serve him as effectively as if they were his slaves. He can allot them space to live as he chooses, tax them as he pleases and require that they give him a portion of whatever they grow or ­produce. He controls their lives. Tolstoy saw this in the Russia of his day. The serfs had been free since 1861, but the complicated conditions of their emancipation were weighted in favor of the landowners. They were still little better than slaves to the wealthy. In America today, there is political freedom; slavery is outlawed, and every credentialed person is free to vote; but vast inequality in wealth exists, and with it comes power of a few over the many. Power and wealth feed upon one another. Tyrannical control of the lives of individual persons has often ­historically been the source of wealth. In a democracy, the power is less evident. Ownership of land, resources and production facilities is in the hands of a few. Complex political, economic and financial institutions increase that wealth, often in subtle and unseen ways. More and more people sink into poverty as the middle class shrinks and the wealthy become richer. All the while, the very people who are exploited—now subtly through the hidden operation of financial institutions—continue to support the whole system. So long as they can vote, they think they are free. Thus, it happens that people even in a democracy, like the ninety-nine on the island owned by the one, support the very system of their own oppression. Inequality in wealth does not in itself signify the relevant sense of inequality. What is important is inequality in treatment. It is the power the wealthy have over the lives of others that concerns Tolstoy: the control of the military, the police, the law courts, the capacity to impose punishments, to force men to kill and be killed for the wars initiated by the wealthy. Not least of all, it is the power of the small group of men of the established Church who exert great social, religious and political power over millions that he opposes.



Robert L. Holmes

NONVIOLENCE How do the teachings of Jesus—considered independently of the authority of the Church and independently of the divine authority traditionally attributed to them—represent an alternative to this system of oppression? And how do they provide a key to meaning in life? Tolstoy’s answer is clear. It is for people to renounce violence, simplify their lives, love one another, treat one another as equals and possess only what they need. Some elements of this way of life are found in the lives of the peasants, and it is for that reason that Tolstoy casts his light on them so intensely. However, they only partially represent the key to the way of life Tolstoy envisions. Besides, they are, in any event, unable to articulate it. Theirs is not fully the life of nonviolence as Tolstoy envisages it; and the commitment to nonviolence is lacking altogether in the thinking of those, like the revolutionaries of his day, who would presume to liberate by force the peasants and workers from their oppression. This is perhaps the most difficult of the teachings of Jesus to accept. It is not surprising that defenders of the Church from Augustine to the (religious) just war theorists of our day devote energy to finding grounds for rendering it virtually irrelevant. At times, Tolstoy stresses the well-being and happiness of the individual and laments the transfer of that concern to the well-being of a collectivity, such as society or State. At other times, he addresses humankind as a whole, so to speak, as though telling people that if they were to live by the teachings of Jesus, they would transform not only their individual lives but the whole world, socially and morally. Either way, it is the individual transformation for Tolstoy (as it was for Gandhi) that must come first. Society cannot be transformed from top down, as revolutionaries would have it, by seizing political power and then imposing coercive measures to try to realize a better world, as Stalin attempted. Nonviolent commissars would not for long be much better than Bolshevik commissars. The change must come from within each individual. For that is the only real power each person has. The change for Tolstoy must be represented in one’s conduct, not as for Augustine, by cultivating a pious inner mindset, and not, as it was to be for Niebuhr, by accepting the constraints of an egoistic society and calling it realism to do so.

OBJECTION Critics, of course, dismiss this as naïvely idealistic. It would be nice, they say, if everyone were nonviolent, but until such time as there is a change in human

Tolstoy’s Spiritual Nonviolence

nature, good people must defend themselves and their values against those who would take from them what they have or cause them harm. We might frame an answer to such critics on Tolstoy’s behalf. The first is: How do you know this would not work? When has it ever been tried, even by a whole people, much less by humankind as a whole? We know what reliance upon force and violence produces; the history of the civilized world is red with the blood that has been shed in response to that outlook. The product is the world we see today, a world of our (humankind’s) making. How can we know that an alternative would not be better ­without even striving for that alternative or even taking it seriously enough to explore it systematically? The second answer is to say that it is unrealistic to expect, as if by a wave of a magic wand, to awaken one day to a world of smiling pacifists, destined to do good and live happily ever after in permanent peace. Even Thoreau would have shuddered at such a prospect. What is realistic is to start with children, instilling in them from the earliest ages, and through the entirety of the e­ ducational system, from kindergarten through college, a concern for all peoples, not merely for those falling by chance within arbitrarily ­established national borders; a concern for the moral equality of all persons and a ­suspicion of inequalities in wealth and power.22 There is indeed evidence of the effects of such nurturing. Few children who are loved and cared for and in whom is nurtured a loving concern for others grow up to be a threat to others. Even if one should despair of transforming those persons now living and in positions of power, they will one day be replaced. Humankind is in constant state of renewal. Just as we owe obligations to those who have preceded us, as well as to those who sustain us today, we have, in Tolstoy’s view, an obligation to those who will follow us in the future. Referring to the ­aforementioned ­parable of the laborers, Tolstoy writes: As the dwellers in the garden had either forgotten or wished to ignore the fact that the garden was handed to them ready cultivated, hedged, and supplied with a well, and that someone had labored there before and therefore expected them to work; so people living a personal life have forgotten, or wish to forget, all that was done for them before their birth and is being all the time they are alive, and that something is therefore expected of them: they wish to forget that all the good things of life which they use have been given and are being given, and should therefore be passed on and returned. . . . From the day of our birth to our death, we are overwhelmingly in debt to



Robert L. Holmes others, to those who lived before us, those now living, and those who will live, and to that which was, is, and will be—the source of all things. . . . That only is true life which carries on the life of the past, promotes the welfare of the present, and prepares the welfare of the future.23

Today’s children, and their children, and the children of those after them, are the key to transforming the world. It must begin with the individual conscience but then it must extend to those we have the most influence over, in all our lives: our children. Where are children living in poverty or without parents or families, those who are more fortunate should consider adopting them rather than contributing to an overpopulated world by reproducing themselves. Tolstoy in his concern for education saw this. He attempted a new approach to education, which not only provided education for those who did not have it but provided an alternative to a system of education that prepared people to compete successfully in a system of inequality, wealth and power. This answer on Tolstoy’s behalf does not, however, fully answer the legitimate concerns behind the objection. For a complete philosophy of nonviolence must not only involve the renunciation of violence, it must provide an answer to the question of how one responds to violence—and Tolstoy does not explicitly do this. Nonresistance, taken at face value, simply says that one does not resist violence—that is, resist it by violence, as Tolstoy clearly intends. The main possible nonviolent responses to violence include, however, not only nonresistance but passive resistance and nonviolent direct action. Gandhi and King clearly advocated nonviolent action. It is difficult to be confident where Tolstoy stands on this issue. His skepticism toward the effectiveness of collective social action in his later years suggests that he would have been doubtful about nonviolent direct action; but he almost certainly would have advocated passive resistance in the form of noncooperation with evil as part of nonresistance. He clearly implies as much in his “Letter to a Hindu,” in which he writes to a Hindu revolutionary, C. R. Das: You say that the English have enslaved your people and hold them in subjection because the latter have not resisted resolutely enough and have not met force by force. But the case is just the opposite. . . . A commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred million. . . . What does it mean that thirty thousand men  .  .  . have subdued two hundred million vigorous, clever, capable and freedom-loving people? Do not the figures make it clear that

Tolstoy’s Spiritual Nonviolence it is not the English who have enslaved the Indians, but the Indians who have enslaved themselves? . . . Do not resist the evil-doer and take no part in doing so, either in the violent deeds of the administration, in the law courts, the collection of taxes, or above all in soldiering, and no one in the world will be able to enslave you.24

It was this letter that caught Gandhi’s attention and led to their correspondence. It is clear that in advocating that the Indians take no part in the “violent deeds” of the British administration, including the courts, collection of taxes and soldiering, that Tolstoy advocates noncooperation as a form of passive resistance.

POSTERITY Can a meaningful life be found in this way, even if we cannot know the meaning of life? That is for each person to determine for himself or herself. That way of framing the question may be misleading, however. It may be that the question is not so much whether we can find meaning in life as whether we can give meaning to life. Either way, the undertaking involves not only the intellectual effort to understand what is the best way to live but the moral effort to actually live that way. As Tolstoy says, realization of the Kingdom of God on earth requires effort by each person. Such an effort cannot be forthcoming if we remain hide-bound to conventional ways of thinking; ways of thinking that produced the injustice of Tsarist Russia that Tolstoy was born into and the world of systematic violence and oppression that all of us today have been born into. In Isaiah Berlin’s terms, Tolstoy may have been a fox in his early years, but in his commitment to nonviolence he became a hedgehog in his later years. Some may feel uncomfortable with framing the issue, as Tolstoy does, in religious terms—as a quest to realize the Kingdom of God on earth. Perhaps that language, too, does not ultimately matter. That is why it is preferable to speak of spirituality rather than religion in connection with Tolstoy. As we have seen, the teachings of Jesus are there; they are true or false, wise or ­foolish, regardless of how they originated and regardless of whether there was a Jesus and if there was, whether he was a son of God. It is up to us to determine in our own lives whether they are true. As Tolstoy writes, Studying the teaching of Christ in that way [as Tolstoy advocates] the reader will convince himself that Christianity, far from being a mixture of



Robert L. Holmes the lofty and the low, or a superstition, is a very strict, pure, and complete metaphysical and ethical doctrine, higher than which the reason of man has not yet reached, and in the orbit of which . . . human activity—political, learned, poetic, and philosophic—is moving.25

Whether the teachings of nonviolence are higher than humankind has ­previously reached, and whether the highest of human endeavors move in that orbit is a metaphor that perhaps philosophy can best explore, only reason and moral analysis can verify. If reason tells us, however, that the teachings of nonviolence are a metaphysical and ethical doctrine of the highest order, and that they point the direction to a nonviolent world order, it would signify a failure of the whole human enterprise, considered as a rational experiment to create a good life for all on earth, if the challenge to create such an order is not taken up.26

ENDNOTES   1 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, The Bhagavadgita (New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 88.   2 Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” in Russian Thinkers, ed. Henry Hardy and Aileen Kelly (New York: Viking, 1978), 22–82.   3 Ibid., 81. With a little ingenuity, one could fashion a similar judgment about the life of Gandhi, which was in its fledgling stage as Tolstoy’s was nearing its end. Gandhi was close to returning permanently to India from South Africa at the time Tolstoy died in 1910. He had named the second of his South African ashrams after Tolstoy and designed into it both the nonviolence of Tolstoy and the economic vision of Ruskin.   4 Zoë Heller, “Bookends,” The New York Times Book Review, May 1, 2016.   5 Leo Tolstoy, What I Believe, in A Confession, The Gospel in Brief and What I Believe, trans. Aylmer Maude (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 472–73.   6 Augustine stands as a major figure of the Catholic Church, at a time when the Eastern Orthodox Church—which was the prevailing form of Christianity in Russia in Tolstoy’s time—was rising in Constantinople. That does not affect his criticism of the Church.   7 Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (New York: Dorset Press, 1967), 291.   8 Salvation, it should be noted, did not mean for Tolstoy, as it did for Augustine and Pelagius, an eternity in heaven of an immortal soul, but rather finding meaning in life through realization of the Kingdom of God on earth.   9 Augustine, “Reply to Faustus the Manichean,” in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 1st series (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 4:301. 10 Even though motivation is not fully under one’s control. 11 Just as Augustine’s defense of original sin set him against Pelagius, Niebuhr’s dark view of human nature set him against the optimism of the pragmatist, John Dewey, whose confidence in human intelligence provided a bond with Pelagius and Tolstoy.

Tolstoy’s Spiritual Nonviolence 12 Reinhold Niebuhr, Love and Justice, ed. D. R. Robertson (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1957), 183. 13 Ibid., 30. 14 Ibid., 32–33. 15 Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935), 50, 52. 16 Ibid., 59. 17 Tolstoy, “What Is Religion,” in A Confession, The Gospel in Brief and What I Believe, trans. Aylmer Maude (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 104. 18 Tolstoy, What I Believe, 320. 19 Notable is the Jewish historian, Josephus, who mentions more than one Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews, but most significantly says of one: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. . . . He was [the] Christ” (bk. XVIII, ch. III, 3). He later refers to “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James …” (bk. XX, ch. IX, 1). Both quotes are from The Works of Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Hartford, CT: S. S. Scranton, 1902), 535, 598. 20 As Tolstoy renders the words of Jesus from John 5:31: “If I assure you that my teaching is true, that does not confirm my teachings; what confirms it is the conduct I teach.” A Confession, 175. Tolstoy himself says of Jesus: “He says that his whole teaching, and that he himself, is truth. The teaching of Christ is the teaching of truth. And therefore faith in Christ is not credulously accepting something concerning Jesus, but is knowledge of the truth.” Ibid., 460. 21 Matthew 20:1–16. 22 Tolstoy attempted this when he founded a school for peasant children on his estate. 23 Tolstoy, What I Believe, 431–32. 24 “Letter to a Hindu,” in Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy Letters, ed. B. Srinivasa Murthy (Long Beach, CA: Long Beach Publications, 1987), 55–56. 25 Preface by Tolstoy, The Gospel in Brief, in A Confession, 131–32. 26 I have benefited from comments by Veronica Slivinski Holmes on this essay.



Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction Inessa Medzhibovskaya Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam —Cato the Elder

One may not accept Carthage delenda —Leo Tolstoy



 ith Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., Tolstoy’s name needs to be mentioned among the great figures of nonviolence, be it for theory, practice, political position, or personal worldview.1 The discussion of Tolstoy’s nonviolence program is usually based on the arguments found in his famous polemical tracts and articles written after 1880, such as What I Believe (1884), The Kingdom of God Is within You (1893), “Christianity and Patriotism” (1893), “Patriotism and Government” (1900), and a few widely published addresses and pieces of correspondence, such as his “A Letter to a Hindu” (1908), which made a lasting impression on the young Gandhi. The major tenets of Tolstoy’s nonviolence, his most comprehensive approach for achieving universal brotherhood, may be summarized as the rejection of armed resistance, the rejection of conflict resolution by force in favor of pacifist and peaceful solutions, rejection of all forms of punishment, coercion, and the suppression of rights and of all vehicles of subjugation used

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

to support the existence of the state. Tolstoy proposes toleration, conscientious objection, civic disobedience, and withdrawal from participation in the work of the state and from operations run through state institutions. These methods, he believes, will disempower violence and disarm evil. What is not so well understood and not usually considered is the creative psychology (and dialectics) of Tolstoy’s articulation of the inevitability of nonviolence, and the genres, forms, devices, and the imagistic repertoire with which this articulation is achieved. It may seem that nonviolence and destruction are two incompatible things. Not so for Tolstoy. In what follows, I will attempt to unravel the dynamic of the processes through which Tolstoy arrives at the desired formulations and the demonstration that evil should be destroyed—and will be destroyed—nonviolently. Especially interesting in this regard are the three identically titled fragments of “Carthago delenda est” written by Tolstoy in 1889, 1896, and 1898. Only the third of these fragments, Tolstoy’s response to a questionnaire about the legitimacy and justification of wars and military action sent to him by Ernesto Teodoro Moneta, editor of La vita internazionale of Milan, and by Augustin Frédéric Hamon, editor of L’humanité nouvelle, the international review headquartered in Paris and Brussels, was published in his lifetime. It is rarely and only in passing mentioned in scholarship on Tolstoy’s pacifist writings2 that it caused a scandal in its time. The response appeared in La vita internazionale on September 20, 1898, with the result that Moneta stood trial on charges of treasonous sedition, and the published issue was confiscated. Although his Milanese colleague was acquitted, and as the Dreyfus case unfolding, Hamon thought better of it and chose not to release Tolstoy’s letter.3 Like most of Tolstoy’s subversive works, the 1898 text leaked to the West through Vladimir Chertkov’s Svobodnoe slovo (the Free Word Press), an émigré publishing organ based in Essex and edited by Pavel Biriukov, an outlet that allowed these two closest of Tolstoy’s disciples to publish many of the writer’s banned works and excerpts from his correspondence.4 The Anglophone audience would know “Carthago delenda est” (1898) as a public address finished in 1899, so dated after having been speedily translated that year into English by the American Nathan Haskell Dole. The remarkable fact about the fragments of 1889, 1896, and 1898 is their complete thematic independence from each other. The 1898 text, the only one deemed by Tolstoy to be deserving of dissemination in print, is by no means a clean copy, summary, or a polished write up of the previous two “Carthagos.” The 1889 and 1896 versions have likewise little in common either with each



Inessa Medzhibovskaya

other or with the 1898 version, except that all can be described as nonviolent sieges laid by Tolstoy on Carthage. This shifting symbol of injustice and violent excess, Carthage, and the delenda call for annihilation of the enemy, can thus be argued to be the three Punic Wars fought by Tolstoy in his strategic designs of nonviolent destruction and in his effort to forge the language, mechanisms, and weapons for a peaceful victory over evil.5

CARTHAGO DELENDA EST: WHAT’S IN THE PHRASE In its established figurative meaning, the phrase Carthago delenda est is an often jocular and bordering on the unduly incessant reminder to complete an action. It is in this sense that James Boswell keeps adding pressuring inscriptions of Carthago delenda est in his letters to Samuel Johnson, until Johnson does send him a promised copy of his letter to Lord Chesterfield.6 In the original sense, the phrase means what its inventor, the octogenarian censor Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) would utter from around 157 to 149 BC to conclude every speech delivered by him in the Senate, namely, that the city of Carthage, the mightiest enemy and rival of Rome, ought to be destroyed: “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (Besides, I assert that Carthage must be destroyed).7 The phrase and the circumstances of its delivery are known to us from antiquity, as they appear in the famous accounts by Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, and Livy, among others.8 Cato the Elder would start urging the destruction of the affluent Punic capital after the latter had attacked Numidia, the ally of Rome. By reiterating his signature line at each meeting of the Senate, Cato demanded that an adequately equipped Roman army under the command of its best generals be sent against Carthage.9 Cato died in 149 BC, when what would turn into a three-year-long siege had already been laid to Carthage and the Third (and final) Punic War had begun. Despite the severity of the blockade of Carthage, the city population refused to vacate it; the Roman legions would in the end prevail only in a house-to-house fighting. The legend has it that to add insult to injury Roman generals ordered the devastated sites of Carthage and the arable lands around it to be buried under salt, those lands seemingly an inextinguishable source of Carthaginian prosperity. A reminder of its former naval domination on the briny Mediterranean, salt now covered the lush soil of the province of Africa to render it barren.10 The First Punic War of 264  BC began about fifty years after Aristotle had completed his Politics, wherein he praised the Carthaginian progressive

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

c­onstitution, which was based on the principles of meritocracy. He delivered a simultaneous rebuke to the city’s self-indulgent lifestyles and a downright ­condemnation of its avaricious conduct in wars, where the goods plundered were valued over the virtues, in the name of which they were being fought.11 There is a strong connection to be noticed between Carthaginian prowess in wars and the city’s material prosperity. The First Punic War was fought about twenty-five years after Epicurus had drafted the main principles of his teachings on eudemonia, which consolidated Aristotle’s praise in the Nicomachean Ethics, Eudemian Ethics, and Magna Moralia of noble pleasures and the golden mean defenses against excess. Hannibal, the hero of the Second Punic War, accomplished a triumphant passage through the Alps with a few surviving elephants and a contingent of determined troops to lay waste to the the lands in Italy and force Rome to start importing grain. He made the mistake, which Napoleon would make in Russia in 1812—that is, he allowed his army to camp out for months on the occupied territory in the love of indulgence and life of excess for which Carthaginians had been so famous.12 Michel de Montaigne attempted to put the Punic Wars on the scales of a moral calculus in search of toleration. What was gained, he wondered, by the Roman slaughter of a great many Carthaginians that allowed the Romans an honorable retreat rather than the glory of victory, which it would have taken as many dead enemy bodies to achieve. This was Roman courage out of fear and distrust of Punica fide (an ironic euphemism for Carthaginian treachery) that the enemy would allow them a peaceful retreat without slaughter. In Montaigne’s Essays, the Punic case would always come out as an example of evil means employed for a good end, of war and slaughter used to achieve ­greatness or safety. Or, by sheer bloodletting of the conveniently present perennial enemy, to subdue the restless instincts of the idle youth of Rome.13 But what to make of Carthage centuries after its destruction? The city is no longer there, but the call to destroy it lives on.

TOLSTOY’S PUNIC WARS: “CARTHAGO” (1889) Let us now look at Tolstoy’s three fragments. The first fragment, written at Yasnaya Polyana on November 30, 1889, is the shortest of the three.14 Since it has never been published in English, let me provide its text here in full: Carthago delenda est. Life, that form of life which we, Christian nations, live delenda est, should be destroyed; I have been saying and will continue



Inessa Medzhibovskaya saying this until it is destroyed. I might die before it is destroyed, but I am not alone, hundreds of thousands of people stand by me and truth stands by me. It will be destroyed very soon and not because the revolutionaries, anarchists, workers, state socialists, the Japanese or the Chinese will be destroying it, but it will be destroyed because it is destroyed already in its main half: it is destroyed in the consciousness of people. The old form of life is holding up as a tree whose shoots are alive, but which itself seems alive only because the rot eroding it has not yet passed through the core part of the trunk. He who is neither deaf nor blind to what is going on in our Christian world cannot fail but see that the intellectual and the spiritual movement of progress has reached its limit. It has moved forward incommensurably with the social and public one. This is said in unison by all progressive people of our time. If one were to imagine progress as a movement of a quadrangular body by means of two straps attached to the two angles at the front, then our condition is akin to the position that a moved body would reach if one side were to advance incommensurably with the other. There is nothing else to be done than to move the edge that has fallen behind forward so that it would catch up with the other edge ahead of it. The delusion of the short-sighted people who see the irregularity of the position is only natural: in order to rectify the position, they wish to push the advanced edge back, behind. But this is impossible. The edge that has moved ahead is reasonable consciousness—and this is the highest force in humankind, and therefore there is no such power that could set it back. One thing remains: we should advance reality to make it keep up with consciousness. Humankind moves only in this way: a step of consciousness, a step of practical activity, which actualizes a new step of consciousness. There are times indeed when reality is apace with consciousness (it appears that this used to be true for a half of the past century), and then there are times just as they are now, when consciousness has stepped forward far ahead of life, and not in keeping with it. Not the thing, I should start it all anew (PSS 27:534–35).

Tolstoy is dissatisfied with how the disposition he sketched of the mutual dependence of consciousness and reality looks on the draft of his “Carthago” (1889). The draft insists on an utterly anti-Marxist paradigm of the dependence. According to Tolstoy, material conditions should catch up with the ideal spiritual aspirations, and not vice versa. In Tolstoy’s terminology,

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

reality should catch up with the reasonable consciousness of humanity, which is the state of mind and soul that rectifies any conflicts existing between necessity and ­freedom and places one in a relationship of peace and love with the world.15 If left alone in the state of war, the untended conflict will be doomed like Carthage, likened here to a trunk of an old decrepit tree. The trunk will perish of its own rot, from the violent toxins that are eroding it from the inside, and not at the hands of “the revolutionaries, anarchists, workers, state socialists, the Japanese or the Chinese” who approach it with explosives, axes, chain saws, jians, or Samurai swords. “Carthago” (1889) establishes the idealistic design of progress, of ethical and spiritual ideas, and convictions that come first, preparing and conditioning actions expressing these attitudes next. If the dependence is reversed, violence ensues. The fragment discounts the myth of an enemy scarecrow in ­justification of violent responses to bogus existential threats from without. The structure that depends on such a myth for its existence is doomed to die of spiritual immobility. A self-perfecting structure would seek to ­rectify an inherent structural flaw from within and not by external props. The health of the social structure can only be maintained by following the n­ ecessary adjustments that reasonable consciousness recommends to its master ­ ­builders. It is for this peaceful form of destruction as an adjustment of the existing imbalance that Tolstoy asks for the Lord’s blessing at the beginning, which is dated November 30, 1889. Tolstoy writes directly: “Lord, give me thy blessing” (PSS 27:534). The architecture of the 1889 fragment in which reasonable consciousness is the desired foundational seating to support the correctly organized societal structure should be linked to other Tolstoy texts of the period in which the idea is elaborated. In these texts, prophetic visions, advising voices, and ominous or hopeful predictions—all discuss the state of consciousness and conscience that can identify and confront violent incursions against harmony and peace, by peaceful means: through opening up to one’s mistakes, through open discussion, through abstaining from the temptations of obfuscating and covering up evil or clouding one’s conscience and reason, and from resorting to angry rhetoric that instigates violence or throws one into the torpor of inaction. Of special importance in this regard are two other texts of 1889: a preface to a veteran’s memoir by Andrei Ershov about the Sevastopol campaign,16 written by Tolstoy in March 1889, and a diary-style sketch prompted by a vision at night that he jotted down in his notebook on May 25, 1889, which he ­tentatively titled “An Address” (Vozzvanie).



Inessa Medzhibovskaya

Both of these fragments speak of the false justification of violence for the sake of serving the “common cause” (obshchee delo) (PSS 27:522), and through the cultivated pride taken in this service, of its invented honor codes, of the methods devised by societies and individuals to submit to the status quo, to silence the voice of their conscience that advises them against the embrace of evil, and to retard, muffle, or stop their recovery of reasonable consciousness, the only tool that can restore the movement toward progress of a derelict, ­damaged structure of life. Tolstoy’s preface to Ershov’s memoir speaks of the hidden and undisclosed shame of members of their generation who chose to continue deceiving themselves and others about their experience in the Crimean War. As he begins commenting on Ershov’s text, Tolstoy quickly moves away from the proprieties of the genre of war memoir and switches to writing his own emotional autobiography of the war, which he feels to be very different from his fellow veteran’s. In the end, Tolstoy creates a generalized portrait of an innocent and honest young man who, before leaving for the front, is slapped on the padded shoulders of his new uniform by an avuncular general who blesses him before jumping into the carnage. Instead of coming forward and crying out loud about his terror, disgust, and lack of pride in what he soon witnesses in the trenches and then suffers after the war is over, the former ensign continues to hide his true emotions about the slaughter of which he had been a part. Crosses awarded, crosses on the graves, Red Cross, and many words spoken in public or written for public consumption allow this veteran to forget about the prohibition in the Gospels against fighting or blessing war (PSS 27:520–25). Tolstoy’s preface to Ershov’s memoir focuses on the means of obfuscation used to allow violence to continue. Silence is one method. Tolstoy also writes about giving alcohol to troops being sent on a retaliatory mission in which no one designated as “enemy” was to be spared.17 “An Address,” on the contrary, focuses on an individual’s own capacity to become distracted from the clarity of revelation presented by reasonable consciousness�for example, by becoming seduced by these voices of temptation (1) no time to think, just act (PSS 27:532); (2) do not think, serve the common cause (obshchee delo) (PSS 27:532); (3) do not think of yourself or change, live just as you used to (PSS 27:533); (4) live for your pleasure (PSS 27:533–34); (5) nothing matters, for this life is worse than nonexistence (PSS 27:534). “An Address” relies on the prophetic tradition to inform all nations and all religions under the sun that “human life is not taking the right course that it should be taking” (PSS 27:531), because this is the life based on violence. This address, Tolstoy’s rehearsal of his

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

own updated version of Sermon on the Mount, is an instruction about how to remodel the temple of life without destroying it. Tolstoy abandoned the draft on the same day that he started it due to a lack of energy. The following year Tolstoy returned to the study of the darkening of consciousness in “Why Do People Stupefy Themselves” (Pochemu liudi odurmanivaiutsia) (1890). I would posit that this work has as much to do with nonviolence as with what it is traditionally believed to talk about or, rather, do away with: wine, merry songs, tobacco, and narcotics, or anything else that distracts one from productive thinking. To begin with, the work features in the definitive text, and especially in its drafts, the same themes of non-substance-induced intoxication contained in the drafts of the year 1889: an intoxication with duty in fulfillment of the common cause, an intoxication with the pride in the uniform, the hypnosis of compliance with the will of a directing force that is different from the conscious rational and moral will within. The substances described in the 1890 drafts are used to facilitate the effects of the main intoxication taking place, which is a reluctance to heed the message of the moral imperative. Tolstoy speaks about the need of lazy reason to “muffle the voice of conscience not to see the discord between life and the demands of consciousness” (PSS 27:275), which is the central theme of “Carthago” (1889). The 1890 work contains descriptions of drunk troops on retaliating missions (PSS 27:273), of thick clouds of tobacco smoke hanging in the air in military headquarters, the corridors of power, and in lecture halls. Most importantly for us, the work contains details describing architectural elements and design that determine viable or doomed, mobile or static structures of nonviolent progress that complicate the blueprints for the same sketched in “Carthago” (1889): Humankind is moving ahead toward its moral perfection. But this movement is being carried out by means of the movement of individual persons. The movement by individual persons is carried out through their mental and moral efforts. These moral efforts produce the whole forward movement of humankind, the whole life of humanity is in them. And these very efforts, the very efforts by means of which humankind is moving forward, are consciously paralyzed by the use of stupefying substances (PSS 27:548).

The blueprints for the toil needed to maintain the health of the structure recall the schemes of “Carthago” (1889) in which progress should consist in



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aligning the pace of material improvement with the steps made forward by ­reasonable consciousness: Man always carries in his soul the models of what he should do, of what he should be. . . . It is the same as level and a square, which bricklayers or carpenters use to  .  .  . show them to what extent what they make is even or skewed. A carpenter takes good care of his level, plumb, and square so that they do not bend and so that what he is making would not come out askew. It would seem that man should also take good care of his conscience and reason so that he would always know about what he should do.  .  .  . It is necessary for man to experience all sorts of delusions and false paths before he can get on the right path, and so people, instead of making their deeds approach what conscience demands, have thought up a means so they can bend backward closer to the standard of their evil life, without changing their life, the demands of their conscience. These means consist in that it is not the wall that gets measured according to the plumb, it is the plumb that gets manipulated to fit against the skewed wall, and to think that the wall is straight, to stupefy and bend their conscience and make it match their evil deeds and to consider evil deeds to be good ones (PSS 27:551–52).

One should notice that in describing the parallel, perpendicular, and rectangular lines of a healthy structure measured by the tools of moral power is very different from the conic, beehive structures common to v­ iolence-based social and political organizations that Tolstoy had been exploring since his days in the army, in the drafts leading up to War and Peace and its two ­epilogues, and in part  8 of Anna Karenina, which depicts the ­pro-war and anti-war debates on the bustling train platform from which troops are l­ eaving for the Russo-Turkish War. Why people at the base of this violent s­ tructure obey the command issued from the top and assemble to commit evil deeds for some mysterious common cause during wars, ­revolutions, and as part of e­ normous historical undertakings involving thousands and millions of common ­participants led by a handful of “heroes” and leaders—that is a ­question that had ­bothered Tolstoy for decades.18 Now he has the answer: the force that pushes them into such participation is the force of moral i­ nertia that ­empowers and ­sustains legitimized evil of the power on the top. In effect, Tolstoy begins to associate the source of freedom not with the lack of ­structure,

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

as he did in the second epilogue to War and Peace, but with new principles of the internal correction of structural imbalance. Christian Teaching (1894–1896) solidifies the definition of self-commanded life and of the slow and nonviolent correction as a form of resistance to evil: And meanwhile—and like all great upheavals in the material world that do not take place all at once but through a slow and gradual falling away or agglomeration—so it is in the spiritual world where the liberation from sin and the approach to perfection are taking place only through a slow resistance to sin, and the annihilation of the minuscule particles of it, one by one (PSS 39:188).

The year 1896 marks the fifteenth anniversary of Tolstoy’s career as a ­religious and spiritual writer, when he, according to his own repeated ­addmisions, had discovered and formulated the principle of nonviolence after reading in the Gospels, “Do not resist evil” (Matthew 5:38 and Luke 6:29), which had forever changed his life.19 In the 1890s, Tolstoy continues his examination of whether, as per the formulas of the leading philosophers, life scientists, politicians, and military leaders of his time, nonviolence contradicts the fundamental law of life and whether violence is unavoidable and is better directed by science, the Church, and the government. To create his theory of nonviolence, based on a decision reached around 1879–1880, Tolstoy had changed the wording in Matthew from “do not resist evil” with “do not resist evil with evil” (PSS 24:232). He was thus continuing with the exploration of how evil can be made ineffective by peaceful deeds.

“CARTHAGO” (1896) The second fragment was likely finished before the end of November 1896. On November 16, 1896, Tolstoy mentions in his diary that he is writing “on war again” (opiat’ o voine), without yet seeing a clear outcome of the emerging drafts (PSS 53:118). Unlike “Carthago” (1889), five separate versions, not just one, remain of “Carthago” (1896) (PSS 39:256). I am here commenting on the fifth version only (PSS 39:216–24) and noting a possibility of an informed hypothesis regarding the links between the fifth and earlier versions of the ­fragment. The fifth version is the most reserved of all: Tolstoy hoped to publish it in legal editions eventually and toned it down to the best of his ability to avoid tsarist censorship.



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“Carthago” (1896) describes the dangerously untouchable status acquired by the military estate and the danger of the legal possession of combat arms by individuals in uniform. As in the case of the 1889 work, Tolstoy is seized in 1896 with the urgency of saying something in print about the i­mpossibility of maintaining the imbalances of Carthage. Upon reading in the press of November 1896 about two episodes of the outrages committed by Prussian and Russian members of the military, these “two most military of states,” as Tolstoy refers to them (PSS 39:217), he feels compelled to speak out in favor of the destruction of the world order supported by violence and wars ­originating from old and new chauvinisms perpetuated by the military estate. As is the case with “Carthago” (1889), Tolstoy is facing the dilemma of destroying war by not waging war in the traditional sense. A former officer and veteran of the Sevastopol campaign, he is choked with indignation at what has become of m ­ ilitary duty and of the so-called military honor. He mentions that there is a new tendency among members of the military to show arrogant disrespect toward peaceful aspirations of the peoples of the earth. The military disregard and distain for public opinion, which considers wars useless, senseless, and criminal, and the military’s confident self-placement above the law are unlike anything Tolstoy had witnessed “forty, fifty years ago” (PSS 39:216) when he was considering ­enlisting in the 1840s and then did become an officer, ­resigning after Sevastopol in 1856. Neither the Prussian nor Russian episode has been discussed by ­scholars or correctly identified in relation to Tolstoy’s writing, so some background discussion is in order. The German incident that Tolstoy very accurately summarizes from the reports in the European press is none other than the so-called Brüsewitz affair in Karlsruhe, in which the thirty-four-year-old first lieutenant Henning von Brüsewitz of the Baden Leib-Grenadier-Regiments fatally stabbed a thirty-one-year-old locksmith, Theodor Siepmann, who came to the Tannhäuser restaurant for a peaceful meal with friends on October 11, 1896.20 Von Brüsewitz’s sense of military honor puffed up and exploded over a sheer trifle: Siepmann, his friend, and two ladies in their company had the ­misfortune of taking seats too close to the table occupied by the lieutenant and von ­Jung-Stilling, his peer officer. In a tight restaurant space, Siepmann’s chair ­accidentally caught on von  Brüsewitz’s chair. Considering this act an insult to his military honor, and despite Siepmann’s apology, the lieutenant drew his sword and—amid horrified shrieks, general panic, and entreaties from the public—felt satisfied only when he cornered an escaping Siepmann and

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

f­inished him off with one sword stroke. Witness accounts have it that upon delivering the deadly blow, von Brüsewitz uttered that his honor was saved.21 The Brüsewitz affair (swiftly compared in terms of the magnitude of its disgrace to the Dreyfus affair) was covered widely in the German and European press. The indignities surrounding the military code of honor (Ehrenkodex), duels included, became the matter of heated and long parliamentary debates. The term “the era of Brüsewitz” came into being and underscored the anxiety in the German nation about the relationship between the military and civilians. Is Germany becoming totalitarian? Do civilians have the right of self-defense? Can democracy coexist with civic hatred? Can it be founded on state, folk, and military forms of patriotism? These were the questions asked.22 On November 14, 1896, the new satiric weekly Simplicissimus ran a frontpage piece about the event with a cartoon of a panicky crowd in disarrayed flight: children abandoning their toys, dignified gentlemen knocking them off their feet, deaf to their loud weeping, people ducking into open windows away from the street, simpler folk climbing lampposts, nannies tugging along their charges bundled up in haste. They are running away from the doors of the Tannhäuser, at which a figure of the Baden Leib-Grenadier can be seen gazing out and leaning on his sword. The caption says, “The lieutenant is unleashed!”23 The German outrage described by Tolstoy is typical of colonialist and imperialist propaganda in favor of the destruction of the enemy of the state. In fact, the frustration with this propaganda is part of the jaded déjà vu in Europe, with its “congresses of peace and the solidarity of all enlightened people of the world who hate war and are seeking the means to prevent and destroy it,” as Tolstoy has it (PSS 39:216). Although they cannot help but see the “terrible, glaring evil created by preparations for war between the nations who are amicably connected and have no cause for doing war to each other” (PSS 39:216, 221), the war is still there. Is this the case of the power of military rhetoric only or of all rhetoric? Are Catos the Elder outnumbering and shouting louder than war protesters? It is important that at the opening of the fragment Tolstoy releases the names of the authors of warmongering rhetoric. The first person mentioned is Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé, a famous French journalist and archaeologist, and a member of the French Academy of Sciences, who— amid his scholarly reflections and while sorting through the rabble during his Carthaginian excavations—considered war essential for the proliferation and progress of civilization. The second person is Helmuth von Moltke, hero of the Franco-Prussian War, a specialist of the Clausewitz’s school who supported the central thesis of his teacher that war is a duel,24 and who theorized, to



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attest to the proof of the argument that means serves the ends,25 that since the ­purpose is the creation of a strong militarized, unified Germany, the dueling opponent ought to be subdued, by all available means (PSS 39:216).26 Both war propagandists were already the target of Tolstoy’s criticism three years earlier in his The Kingdom of God Is within You (PSS 28:37, 120–25, 127–29, 297). In the same year, he made a seemingly unrelated inscription in one of his notebooks: “One may not accept Carthago delenda” (Carthago delenda nel’zia prinimat’).27 How can the militarist Carthage be destroyed if its means of conducting battle are unacceptable? Carthage in Tolstoy’s hands gradually becomes a double-faced Janus. It is the purely figurative phrase based in the maxim derived from Cato the Elder’s dictum that he employed in his “Carthago” (1889) to explain that the action of destroying the evil imbalance of life needs to be completed. On the other hand, this figurative meaning is in 1896 turned by Tolstoy upside down in order to argue that the spirit of militarism that had called for millennia for the destruction of the enemy (the sort that caused Cato to utter the fateful words, this militarist Carthage, Carthage as carnage) is unacceptable. De Vogüé and von Moltke, these contemporary Catos, help Tolstoy to make connections to opinions for and against militarism urged in all central newspapers of German-speaking lands and in Le Temps in France concerning the agendas to be followed in internal and international politics in the aftermath of the Brüsewitz affair. Tolstoy does not stop at evaluating the German incident as if it were an isolated European problem. Added to the list of warmongering Catos toward the end of the fragment is the Russian major general Mikhail Dragomirov, warfare theoretician of the Russian nationalist school and a noted military author, who lectured at the Imperial Military Academy in St. Petersburg.28 Dragomirov was an old critic of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, having serialized in 1868–70 three pamphlets under a unified title “War and Peace by Count Tolstoy from the Military Point of View,” in which he castigated Tolstoy for depriving his fictionalized generals of mastering control of the battlefield and for his overall contempt for military professionalism. Gathered together, Dragomirov’s pamphlets on War and Peace were issued in a book format in 1895, a year before Tolstoy sat down to write “Carthago” (1896). Dragomirov published widely in Russian periodicals in which he glorified the readiness of professionally trained Russian soldiers and commanding corps, a terrifying force, to fight and win and kill and die for their victory.29 Tolstoy’s “philosophical deliberations” (rassuzhdeniia) and “conjectures” (umozreniia) with which he justifies—weakly according to Dragomirov—the “trembling hands”

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

(drozhashchie ruki) of his overhumanized commanding officers and generals and the trembling thigh muscles of his neurotic and clownish Napoleon drown in Dragomirov’s praise of Napoleon’s military genius, brought down to humiliating defeat only by Russian skill and valor.30 To shoot Tolstoy down for his failure to clearly define the connection between the ruling hand of authority and its ideology that direct the masses, Dragomirov came up with an interesting metaphor at the conclusion of his evaluation of War and Peace: Doesn’t this remind us of a chemist who having succeeded in decomposing water and not knowing how to recompose it, would decide that it does not exist in nature and that there is only oxygen and hydrogen—the gases that are quite different in their qualities and having nothing in common between themselves.31

We will return to this deadly metaphor shortly. In 1896, Dragomirov was military commander of the Kiev Governorate and rumored to be one of the top candidates for the post of the minister of the interior to replace Minister Sipiagin, who was assassinated by the revolutionaries. His reputation seemed right for the job. It was under Dragomirov’s wing in Kiev and in his region that unprecedented levels of jingoism and military pride caused these crackdowns and attacks on suspected civilians, with the norms of behavior personally endorsed by the general. I would argue that it was Dragomirov’s defense in the newspaper Novoe vremia (the New Times) of the despicable and criminal behavior of his troops more than the Brüsewitz episode that triggered Tolstoy’s ire and led him to write his second Carthage fragment. It is from this point of view that Tolstoy describes the second, Russian, outrage in “Carthago” (1896)—more abominable in his eyes than the German episode in October. In Ukraine, drunk Russian officers received a dressing down from a festive civilian crowd after becoming tired of the officers’ heckling. Like von Brüsewitz, drunk officers sobered up to the reality of their lost honor: very literally, their epaulettes were torn off, as if in truth they didn’t deserve wearing them. With their honor thus insulted, the officers decided to take revenge on the local Jews (who must have been the likeliest targets of the officers’ heckling). The officers ordered their soldiers to join them on an anti-Jewish rampage. They plundered the home of a Jewish miller, and reportedly the epaulettes were retrieved, for which the owner and his family were badly beaten. The recovery and the “restoration of honor” and public order



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became the official pretext for pillage and murder. In this sense, the German case and the Russian case are somewhat comparable. Tolstoy does mention the false sense of honor as the common pretext: “In Russia, a band of drunk officers plundered and whipped defenseless civilians by forcing themselves into their homes, also under the same pretext” (PSS 39:217). There are clear differences, however. First, unlike Siepmann (a common German-Jewish name), the Russian Jews were not running away as cowards. They stood up to the hoodlums and tore off their military insignia. Second, and again unlike in the German case, there was no wide coverage in the Russian press: the newspapers vaguely reported that several officers of the Kiev Military District were temporarily demoted. Tolstoy writes: “This whole affair was kept prudently covered up from the whole of Russian society” (PSS 39:217). But the superior of the demoted officers, Major General Dragomirov, claims space in the central ­conservative newspaper of Russia, Novoe vremia, to protect the right of the Russian army to punish “Shylocks” and to protect the populace from their exploitative spells and guiles. In Tolstoy’s words: What the Russian officers have done is still more repugnant. Officers on a binge drove mad the crowd which they kept harassing. One of these drunken officers was beaten down and his shoulder straps torn off. The officer banded his comrades together with soldiers and commandeered their raids on Jewish homes, breaking in, looting the inhabitants and searching for the malevolent shoulder straps. The straps were found at the mill and torture of the owners of the mill began, which ended in death, as some claim. That this is the essence of the affair there is no doubt. Details may be inaccurate, and they cannot be corrected because this whole affair was kept prudently hidden away from the whole of Russian society (PSS 39:217).

In addition to the horror of the incident itself, two other aspects of the affair infuriate Tolstoy: “the system of silence and the demand of keeping universal silence about everything that is important and interesting to society” (PSS 39:218), and the unrestrained propaganda of violence sponsored by the government that keeps open the forums in the central press to its military spokesmen, letting them opine about how pacifism contradicts the law of nature, and that it is permissible to kill innocent civilians for the sake

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

of, as Tolstoy puts it, the “imagined honor of the uniform” (PSS 39:320). Tolstoy does not name Dragomirov explicitly, but he quotes in “Carthago” (1896) from a new column by Dragomirov in Novoe vremia (November 6, 1896, no. 7434); this particular issue contained items celebrating the most peaceful of topics, the education of women in Russia.32 In particular, in his peaceful dueling with Dragomirov, Tolstoy resorts to a chemical analogy of his own. Instead of Dragomirov’s water metaphor, which was created to claim that a peaceful resister like Tolstoy would not know what to make of the hydrogen and oxygen components that remain left to him as a consequence of his analytical experiments on something he is not equipped to think about, Tolstoy chooses the image of the dumped salt on the defeated Carthage to describe the toxic air created by Russian militarism that would not allow society at large to criticize it: “What has happened is akin to chemical decomposition. Before separated into elements, salt comprises nothing unpleasant. But after it had undergone decomposition, it emits chlorine, the repellent, suffocating gas” (PSS 39:218). It is precisely the words of Dragomirov that Tolstoy alludes to when he again mentions the “suffocating steam” (PSS 39:221) issuing from the compositions of the contemporary “military writers” (PSS 39:219), and especially one of them, “the general who is considered to be a learned and enlightened military man” (PSS 39:219). Tolstoy quotes Dragomirov expressly when, coming to the defense of the demoted Kiev officers implicated in the pogrom described above, Dragomirov attacks those who resist militarism, saying the pacifism contradicts the law of nature and insisting on the right of the power to support itself with the bayonets of a soldier and a gendarme, adding by way of instruction to the latter two: “God is leading you, he is your general!” (PSS 39:219–20). On the Jews in the Kiev incident specifically, Dragomirov had the following to say (the “dear Sirs” in his address being the pacifists): “Oh dear Sirs, dear Sirs! What gives the obligatory power to delicate sentences like years in hard labor, the dispossessing of a family sent begging, for the satisfaction of a ‘lawful’ claim of some Shylock? Must be, the confidence in the fairness of a judge, the inviolability of the written law, isn’t that so?” (PSS 39:220).33 Tolstoy sums up that this “mad and profane composition” could have been produced only by “a drunk scoundrel” and that there is only one means to destroy “the stinking gas” of militarism. In 1896, Tolstoy thinks that this can be done through open discussion and by giving voice to public opinion (PSS 39:222–23).



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Although Tolstoy never published either “Carthago” (1889) or “Carthago” (1896) in his lifetime, and did not circulate these drafts, by the mid-1890s his outlook on war could have left no doubts about his stand on the most essential questions. A curious and rather pitiful book appeared in 1897 that endeavored to compare Tolstoy, one of “the Pharisees of the newest formation” who denied the efficacy and necessity of war, and General Major Dragomirov.34 Authored by the well-known military historian Platon Geisman, the book argued that the works of Dragomirov were as important to “thinking Russian society” as War and Peace, and that military leaders, patriotism, statehood, and power determine the course of history, and the military estate is the core, most honorable estate in the nation—and not its publican, as Tolstoy would have it.35 The leitmotif of many letters written by Tolstoy to various correspondents in 1896–97 is to the contrary, and he writes of the need to become publicans and conscientious objectors, citing the maxim Carthago delenda est always in the sense that through the repeated resistance of individuals and their withdrawal from the operations of the state, the powerful military-industrial and bureaucratic Carthage will fall defeated. Several letters written by Tolstoy to Eugen Heinrich Schmitt in 1896 are examples of this new interpretation. A librarian at the Ministry of Justice, in early September Schmitt informed Tolstoy about leaving government service and resigning his post as incompatible with his life as a Christian, on which Tolstoy congratulated Schmitt on September 13, 1896 (PSS 69:148–49). Sending to Schmitt on September 30 a new article, “The Nearing of the End” (Priblizhenie kontsta), which extolls the heroic behavior of the Dutch ­conscientious objector John Van der Veer, Tolstoy added: “One cannot be a Christian and a murderer. One cannot be a Christian and a murderer—this ought to be repeated incessantly at all frets until all will hear and will understand it. Carthago delenda est. I am very joyous about your liberation as well as about your courageous statement” (PSS 69:155).36 On October 12, 1896, Tolstoy explains his use of the Carthago maxim as a tactic of enervating evil by not responding to it on its terms. Wars against evil can be won by not being fought on the battlefield, by armies not joined, and by their weapons not used, and this is like repeating Carthago delenda est ad infinitum, until it is destroyed: “The state is violence. [C]hristianity is humility. [N]onresistance, love, and therefore the state cannot be Christian, and a man who wishes to be a Christian cannot serve the government. The state cannot be Christian. A Christian cannot serve the state. The state cannot be . . . and so on” (PSS 69:164).

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

“CARTHAGO” (1898) In describing the approaches to peaceful means for the destruction of Carthage, such as the gradual enervation of its aggressive and violent energy, Tolstoy is aware that the demands of the higher understanding of life “continue to hold on to the lower forms of life [and] there occur contradictions and suffering that poison life” (PSS 28:297). On expressing this idea in the older drafts of The Kingdom of God Is within You, Tolstoy mentions Moneta, the very Italian editor who in 1898 would send him the questionnaire regarding the possible legitimacy and efficacy of war, which became the reason why Tolstoy wrote “Carthago” (1898). In 1893, in the year when he had resolved that the violent version of “Carthago” should not be accepted,37 Moneta is named by Tolstoy among the lovers of equivocations, like the congresses of peace and tertiary courts and negotiations in which some justifications, buybacks, and blackmails can be employed for achieving the desired ends without resorting to military action (PSS 28:297). Such an approach holds on to a view of war as an accidental political phenomenon and not a logical consequence of the acceptance of violence in principle. Among the other two approaches, Tolstoy names the Frenchmen Maupassant and Emil Rod, who consider war “a cruel but inevitable phenomenon,” and Zola and de Vogüé, who think that war is “a necessary, even a useful cause” (PSS 28:297). It is because Tolstoy was so unequivocal in his previous statements on wars and militarism that the arrival in 1898 from La vita internazionale and L’humanité nouvelle truly angered him. The following were the questions forwarded to the writer by Moneta and Hamon: 1. Is war among civilized nations still required by history, law, and ­progress? 2. What are the intellectual, moral, physical, economical, and political effects of militarism? 3. What, in the interests of the world’s future civilization, are the solutions that should be given to the grave problems of war and militarism? 4. What means would most rapidly lead to these solutions? (PSS 39:197). All four questions reflect an unacceptable way of looking at war. With ­sarcasm, Tolstoy describes congresses of peace and tertiary courts as c­ onsolatory and conciliatory toys with which bandits are hoped to be distracted by “­ponderous questions” (glubokomyslennye voprosy) from preparing for a new profitable slaughter.



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The non-rejection of war in principle and the invention of new means and forums and venues for the deferral and avoidance of the commitment to reject violence are forms of existential luxury and moral voyeurism akin to stupefaction and to playing roulette at Monte Carlo (PSS 39:199). Tolstoy draws a line in 1898 between willful stupefaction of individuals or individuals joining war, as they would join interest groups—the explanations elaborated on 1889–90—and the participation in wars by the masses. The focus of Tolstoy’s attention in 1898 is the state of mind of the people threatened by their economic or civilian situation of no exit, brainwashed into believing that they cannot refuse their participation in “plunder, murders and the preparations for these” (PSS 39:198). The hypnotism that Tolstoy focuses his attention on in 1898 is not the poetry and “honor” of the uniform, as he did in 1896, but the “spell”—he uses this English word to render the Russian “bewitching” (okoldovaniia)—of ­military duty (PSS 39:200). The destruction of Carthage recommended by Tolstoy in 1898 is a means of conscientious objection, the only peace of mind that can insure one against the dangers of military duty, from going with “the evil flow of life” (durnoe techenie zhizni) (PSS 39:202–4), but, most importantly, it is the best assurance that one acts consciously and freely, on the authority of his conscience: Only let every person carry out—without any kind of cunning and complex considerations and suppositions—that what his conscience with all certainty is telling him to do in this time of ours and he will know the justice of the words of the Gospel: “If anyone wills to do his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from god or whether I speak on my own authority” ( John 7:17), April 23, 1898 (PSS 39:205).38

In the same year (1898), Tolstoy repeated these ideas in “A Letter to a Sergeant” (Pis′mo k feldfebeliu) and “A Congress on Peace” (Kongress o mire). The conclusion of Tolstoy’s Carthago cycle should also be understood in the context of two other works soon to be written or finished: What Is Art? (1897–98), with its theory of good and bad infection, good and bad ­hypnosis, and consequently with the infection by good or by evil; and Resurrection (1889–99), Tolstoy’s great political-religious novel that ends in Siberia on the recitation of the Sermon of the Mount and Matthew 5:39, and on the ­conscious rejection of violent resistance to evil after having fully witnessed its horrors.39 The sum of “Carthago” (1889), and related fragments ending in 1890, is the heroic individual effort of prophets speaking to the conscience

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction

of individuals against violence, a warning against the temptations that lead to the obfuscation of consciousness and to the continued acceptance of violence out of the force of fear, habit, or inertia. The point of “Carthago” (1896) is the need of an open discussion and the support of public discourse against militarism that would unravel and demystify the propaganda of violence and deprive it of its hypnotic powers. The thrust of “Carthago” (1898) is the rejection of useless conversations and vapid public discourse, which as long as it remains enclosed in the parameters of the state, and the states in dialogue with each other, would simply turn into a new technology of deception. “Carthago” (1898) marks the return to the imagery and tone of heroic individualism in the fragments of 1889 in that it declines to heed the call of Cato the Elder and refuses to enlist in the campaigns of destruction by war and military action. The counterpoint to this method is the rejection of the rhetoric of violence and the embrace of the belief that Carthage as the symbol of military ­aspirations and the symbol of state power will be destroyed only through conscientious objection to it. Thematically, Tolstoy’s three fragments parallel and echo the driving motives for the waging of the historic Punic Wars: the First Punic War was a military competition of the two ailing imperial trees striving for material dominance in the Mediterranean and fought, in part, as Montaigne eloquently put it, “to prune and clear” their branches proliferating “too lustily.”40 The Second Punic War was a competition for military glory and the vain honors in victory between Hannibal and his Roman opponents. The Third Punic War was a war for annihilation of the enemy, as agitated for in the Senate by Cato.

THE POETICS OF NONVIOLENT DESTRUCTION: A REFLECTION ON TOLSTOY AND CARTHAGE Having traveled a long road from classical antiquity through most of the nineteenth century, Carthago delenda est became a clichéd and morally indifferent rhetorical flourish in public speaking, political polemics, and literary texts. Possessed by a dream of establishing the conditions for perpetual peace and enlightened cosmopolitanism, it was eighteenth-century thought that began associating the rhetoric of the maxim with negative overtones and regretted that it should still hold true. Voltaire drew on the example of “that good citizen, the ancient Cato,” who would “always proclaim his opinion in the Senate, ‘Carthage must be destroyed’” to lament in 1764 in his Dictionnaire philosophique that to “be a good patriot we must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.”41



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Samuel Johnson upgraded the maxim with an invention of his own, in his conviction that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”42 Johnson thought that political didacticism and stern national self-esteem were depriving readers of the capacity to empathize with Carthaginians and their plight, with the wounds of the injured enemy, and with the consequent ruins of their civilization.43 Thanks to the pilgrimages of Chateaubriand, Romanticism restored the rights of Carthage in the international cemetery of holy ruins.44 In a popular book that appeared in Tolstoy’s lifetime, Mable Moore credits Chateaubriand for having reawakened the European interest in “the spot occupied by the Acropolis or Byrsa and the combined ports of the fleet and commerce of Carthage.”45 The interest was mostly aesthetic and historical, as was Moore’s comparison of the formerly prosperous Carthage to a once vibrant tree: Cato, in pronouncing the dread fiat, could scarcely have contemplated in anticipation a more complete fulfillment of his words “Delenda est Carthago” than that which actually took place. The Roman battle-axe was laid to the fair and flourishing tree and the mingled fires of Roman envy and material flame combined to wipe out Carthage from the face of the earth. But the strong tree laid low, was not uprooted, and subsequent flames of Roman, Christian and Byzantine growth shot up once more from the hidden roots, only to succumb in their turn to Vandal and Saracen destruction, followed by complete and utter oblivion.46

The trope of the Carthaginian ruin was the favorite of many militarists. It is in this sense that de Vogüé sings his paeans to the “Elysian life” of the conquered and dead city while ransacking its sarcophagi.47 Other attempts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were made to revive the immediacy of Carthage historically and politically. It takes remembering J. M. W. Turner’s oil painting, Snow-Storm: Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps, finished in the fateful year of 1812, to understand how, in its difficult embrace or rejection of Napoleon, the Romantic era became obsessed with the exploits of Napoleon’s distant historic competitor, the other human epitome of the destructive force of nature. Hannibal was the loser of history, as was his Carthage. This was their tragic appeal to Romantics. The principles of the legality of power of the Caesars interest the young Hegel the most as he contemplates the importance of the Sermon on the Mount in the admirable but futile heroism of the Jesus of history. He skims over Matthew 5:39, relegating it to one of the unremarkable “so on” points

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reduced by Kant to the prerogatives of ethical obligation that as yet do not remove the punitive principle of an eye for an eye from the banal formulas of non-self-negating “moral prudence” of the philistines on which Hegel decides not to dwell.48 But Karl Marx used the Carthago delenda est phrase in 1849 to overcome this philistine wisdom of parliamentary debates. He used the phrase to explain the rudiments of dialectical and historical materialism underpinning all forms of revolutionary struggle that would establish the new order on the ruins of the old bourgeois one.49 Russian conservatives, on the contrary, used the phrase to quench the revolutionary upheaval. Tolstoy, meanwhile, and in all of the three polemical sieges that he has laid on Carthage, has affirmed his reputation as the ­opponent of violent destruction by force. As Aylmer Maude, his famous biographer and translator, said in 1901, “The Socialists, the Revolutionaries, the party of the Russian anarchists and the nihilists raise their accusation against Tolstoy that he wishes to ‘oppose despotism by mere metaphysics.’”50 What is then the background for Tolstoy’s involvement with the maxim of Carthago delenda est? Tolstoy was not much taken by the melancholic longing associated with Carthaginian ruins of the Romantics. Hannibal’s Carthage was to him associated with the “shameful, effeminate” luxury, the epithet he repeats several times, for example, in his diary of May 3, 1897 (PSS 53:145), and best remembered from one of Levin’s ruminations on the shame of wealth and the spoils of life on receiving the news that his brother was dying, in part 5, chapter 15 of Anna Karenina (PSS 19:54). One of a kind and yet in league with other military leaders, like Napoleon, Hannibal the conqueror was to Tolstoy another typical mass murderer, and this is how Tolstoy refers to him in the drafts to War and Peace: Who of the thinking people receiving their initiation into historical ­mysteries in their youth was not overtaken by bewilderment while reading the descriptions about how Hannibal fell out with Rome, put together an army of warriors, won a victory, killed one-ten-thousandth (1 of 10,000) of the people of Rome and how Rome was conquered as a consequence— why would a defeat of one army force a nation of people to surrender?51

To Tolstoy, the Napoleons, Caesars, and Hannibals fighting their wars, winning or losing them, do not explain the meaning of movement toward the highest goals of humankind. What is gained, he asks, by our understanding of the movement of history and nations from the comparisons drawn by modern



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historians between, “say, England in 1685, with the England of our time,” or from the comparisons of “Russia, France and Italy of our time with ancient Rome, Greece, Carthage, and so on”? (PSS 8:332).52 Although he is trying to make his sense of Carthage immediate and contemporary, Tolstoy is reluctant to explain the mysteries of the progressive movement by the tags of “progress,” “science,” or “the historical view”: “What do I care whom Hannibal has conquered?,” or that there used to be “the Punic Wars and other wars and laws such and such,” exclaims his autobiographical questor for the meaning of life in search of better answers to his complaint, namely, that in three thousand years “we haven’t moved forward a breadth of a hair in our knowing about what is justice, what is freedom, what is the meaning of human life.”53 Even the maxim Carthago delenda est itself was not to Tolstoy an ­unquestionable monolith equated with patriotism. Echoing Johnson, he wrote in English to his American follower Ernest Crosby around April 11, 1898, during the writing of “Carthago” (1898): “Patriotism is one of the dreadfullest delusions and evils of the world” (PSS 71:352–53). The “good ­citizen Cato” first questioned by Voltaire’s wit is made into a satirical h­ igh-­society clown in one of the drafts of Anna Karenina in which the righteous statesman Karenin is taking out his vindictive anger of a cuckold on a minor clerk in the ministry and is instantly nicknamed “Cato” (Katon).54 Between the vituperative and loquacious ire of Cato the Elder and the self-sacrificial Stoicism of Cato the Younger, Tolstoy preferred the latter, quoting his words about restraint from verbal violence in his own collections of maxims assembled from 1896 to 1910: “Great is the power that belongs to a person who remains silent although he might be in the right.”55 Did Tolstoy get his history right? In one of the crossed-out phrases in this sketchy first draft of “Carthago” (1889), we can see deleted the words “Thus spake Scipio” (PSS 27:534). It might not be a deleted error after a committed slip was noticed, after all. It is also possible that by attributing the phrase Carthago delenda est to Scipio in “Carthago” (1889) Tolstoy is not thinking of Scipio Africanus, the commander of the Roman army that sacked Carthage and covered it in salt,57 but of Scipio Nasica Corculum, son of Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, and first cousin of Scipio Africanus, the only opponent to Cato’s Carthago delenda est who openly objected to the destruction of Carthage.58 Livy notices this in his explication of the status of debate in the Senate on the eve of the Third Punic War: The beginning of the Third Punic War fell in the six hundred and second year after the founding of the city—a war which was concluded within five

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction years from its beginning. A contest of opposing opinions took place between Marcus Porcius Cato and Scipio Nasica, one of whom was considered a man of the greatest wisdom in the state, while the other had even been adjudged by the Senate to be a man of greatest excellence. Cato urged war and the removal and destruction of Carthage, while Nasica opposed him.59

Tolstoy writes in his diary on June 12, 1898, that “nonviolence alone and solely terminates evil by absorbing it into itself and by neutralizing it and by not allowing it to proliferate further” (PSS 53:197), adding two weeks later on June 28, 1898, that “nothing can save humankind from the deception in which it has been caught by the power of authority” better than “nonviolent resistance” (PSS 53:199). Tolstoy’s nonviolent resistance, his pinch of salt thrown to extinguish the effects of decomposed salt of militarism that “emits chlorine, the repellent, ­suffocating gas” (PSS 39:218), is the same symbolic form of peaceful ­resistance as was shown in Gandhi’s Satyagraha during the Salt March. Against Tolstoy’s ­chilling prediction stands the conviction that human granules of resistance are the “salt of the earth,” which cannot be trampled under the conquerors’ feet (Matthew 5:13), the “salt of freedom” and the “spiritual salt” of the followers of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.60 By equating Dragomirov’s ­protectorate of violence with the Brüsewitz affair, Tolstoy was again right. On the eve of the Russo-Japanese War and shortly before his death, Dragomirov was seen pulling rank over a junior cavalry officer who was trying to impress his female friend at the Filippov Bakery in Moscow: by brashly asking the soldier to give up his seat to him.61 At the hands of Tolstoy, Carthago delenda est undergoes a creative dismantling of the sort of which Viktor Shklovsky speaks when explaining, in a rarely quoted passage, the principle of defamiliarization: “Tolstoy is not only a great creator, but also a great destroyer of the old structures” in which he eliminates the tired preconsciousness that is ready to accept truisms at face value.62 In our case, Tolstoy reinvents the taken-for-granted call for war, the preconscious acceptance with this phrase, of the inevitability of violence. Could it be that by saying, “One may not accept Carthago delenda” in his diary (1893; PSS 50:239), he cannot accept the concept of annihilation without a trace? After all, “delenda” is a derivative from the verb “deleo,” (to annihilate, to exterminate; to destroy (cities), to break, to delete, erase from existence once and forever). Morte deleti in Latin means “the deceased,” or “the dead.” Just as a designer and architect with his levels, angles, and squares in hand, and his incessant ­repetition of what



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cannot be, Tolstoy hopes to negotiate peace between constructio (a balance of parts, a structure built of some form of material, with its wear and tear, with its malfunction) and its destructio (the imbalance of a normal structure). The vital fabric of life is a combination of these mutually contradictory yet coexistent materials, processes, and elements, even in the ways that we describe them. “Life is neither good nor evil in itself: it is the scene of good and evil according as you give them room.”62 These famous words of Montaigne in the first book of Essays have inspired everything from Pascal’s acceptance of death—and with it a memento of one’s eventual deletion from the memory of life—to Kierkegaard’s subscription to the act of ethical choosing; to Nietzsche’s ­inebriation with the power of violence; and to de Beauvoir’s ethics of ambiguity. In what we have seen, Tolstoy exercises the freedom of finding at different stages of his career the choice between good and evil as the rejection of violence. War and violence are simply a bad ontological choice. Tolstoy wrote copiously to Schmitt from October 12 to November 12, 1896, including this: I am not saying that the state and its power will fall destroyed, it will not become destroyed in the near future, there are too many crude elements in the crowd, which lend support to it, but the Christian support of the state will crumble down, that is, those who do violence will stop supporting their authority with the Christianity’s sacrosanct. Those who commit violence will remain the committers of violence and nothing more. And when this will be, when they will be unable to hide behind their false Christianity, then the end of any violence will be near. Let us attempt to bring this finish closer: Carthago delenda est (PSS 69:164).

In the same year, 1896, Tolstoy started writing And Light Shineth in Darkness (I svet vo t’me svetit). Never finished, and last touched in 1902, the play is autobiographical. With several alternative conclusions, it explores the existential tragedy of conscientious objection as a deed completed and as mere preaching. Thus Tolstoy is fascinated by contradictions inherent in the behavior of one person toward the task of destroying violence within, despite the continued dependence on it, fear of it. Yet, envisaging the state of exception only as one’s own willing self-­ excepting from the life of the state, he is not mesmerized by the enigma of ­violence as a “cipher for human action.”63 He is not interested in contradictions “inherent in impotence of power” in that, “every decrease in power is an open

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invitation to violence” or in fairytale scenarios in which “greatest power on earth can win wars.”64 In elaborating his political theology, Tolstoy somewhat presages Walter Benjamin in thinking that state power and its violence are not graven in stone; they are but dangerous myths that should be resisted.65 And he is with Gandhi’s ahimsa when he believes that nonviolence “is the only true force in life.”66 Power qua state power, man-made and man-held, should and will fall, but nonviolently. If nonviolence is practiced consistently—he believes—only the nonresister, this demystifier of power, who withdraws from the effects of its bewitching spell, will enforce the cardinal change in the design of existence. If these figurations look too abstract to be taken seriously, they also adhere to a certain pattern in the thought of intellectuals who consider violent means to be nonoperational and who visualize in their stead the images of mason’s line or lever or a compass to posit the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” as a guideline for being nonviolently just.67 Had Carthaginians not rushed to war with Rome, but patiently waited for the guidelines of their peaceful compass, there might have been no dictum, and no history of Cathago delenda est.68

ENDNOTES 1 Tolstoy occupies pride of place in the works of Robert L. Holmes, an acknowledged theoretical leader in the study of the doctrine. See especially Robert  L.  Holmes and Barry  L.  Gan, Nonviolence in Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. (Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2012); Robert L. Holmes, On War and Morality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014); and Robert  L.  Holmes, The Ethics of Nonviolence, ed. Predrag Cicovacki (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013). Several essays deal with Tolstoy’s ideas in a new collection, Predrag Cicovacki and Kendy Hess, eds., Nonviolence as a Way of Life: History, Theory, Practice. 2 vols. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2017). The problem of nonviolence in Tolstoy receives a fair treatment in the contexts of anarchist thought in Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2010), 10–20, 252–57. Only sketchily is Tolstoy’s thought covered as a critic of “orgasmic” militarism in Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea (New York: Modern Library, 2008), 114–17, 138–39. Certainly not all major books on the topic of nonviolence would include a discussion of Tolstoy. He is missing, for example, from Todd May, Nonviolent Resistance: A Philosophical Introduction (Cambridge: Polity, 2015). For recent articles on the topic of Tolstoy and nonresistance or nonviolent resistance, see Christoyannopoulos, “Turning the Other Cheek to Terrorism: Reflections on the Contemporary Significance of Leo Tolstoy’s Exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount,” Politics and Religion 1, no. 1 (2008): 27–54; Inessa Medzhibovskaya, “Tolstoy’s Response to Terror and Revolutionary Violence,” Kritika 3, no. 9 (2008): 505–31; Michael Denner,



Inessa Medzhibovskaya “Resistance Is Futile, but Nonresistance Might Work: The East and Russia in Tolstoi’s Political Imagination, 1905–1910,” Kritika 16, no. 1 (2015): 37–55.   2 Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism, 146, 239, 317.   3 Tolstoy specifically invites the two editors not to feel obligated to publish his response, feeling certain that his message was not going to meet their expectations. All subsequent references to Tolstoy’s text are to the Jubilee edition: L. N. Tolstoy, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii [The Complete Works], ed. V. G. Chertkov, 90 vols. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1928–58); cited by volume and page. Tolstoy’s remark to Moneta and Hamon appears in the editorial section of vol. 39 of the Jubilee edition published there for the first time by volume editor V. S. Mishin (PSS 39:251).   4 L. Tolstoy, “Carthago delenda est, April 23, 1898,” Svobodnoe slovo: periodicheskii sbornik. ed. P. I. Biriukov (Purleigh: V. Tchertkoff, 1898) 1, no. 1 (1898): 6–17. Tolstoy’s “Carthago” was followed by translated excerpts from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.”   5 I will henceforth refer to fragments as “Carthago” (1889), “Carthago” (1896), “Carthago” (1898). All translations are my own.   6 See Boswell-Johnson exchanges in November-December 1779, in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (New York: Modern Library, 1953), 889.   7 These variant phrases are also used: Delenda est Carthago; Carthago delenda est; and Ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse.   8 See Plutarch, Lives, Themistocles and Camillus. Aristides and Cato Major. Cimon and Lucullus, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914), 2:383; Pliny, Natural History, vol. 4, bks. 12–16, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1945), 339; and Livy, Julius Obsequens: History of Rome, Summaries, Fragments, Julius Obsequens (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), 14:23.   9 On the public career of Cato the Elder, see Erica Sciarrino, Cato the Censor and the Beginnings of Latin Prose: From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2011); and Alan E. Astin, Cato the Censor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 10 On the Punic Wars, see Adrian Keith Goldsworthy, The Punic Wars (London: Cassell, 2000); Nigel Bagnall, The Punic Wars (London: Hutchinson, 1990); Brian Caven, The Punic Wars (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980); and Richard Miles, Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization (New York: Penguin, 2012). 11 Aristotle, Politics 1269b1–73b1, 1280b1. Quoted from The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1984), 2:2014–20; 2:2031–32. When Aristotle was writing these words about Carthage, his recalcitrant former charge and student Alexander the Great had just died. 12 Carl von Clausewitz, studied by Tolstoy very closely, was one of the first to draw the parallel between Napoleonic and Punic Wars. See Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. Anatol Rapoport (New York: Penguin, 1985), 237, 376–77. 13 Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Works: Essays, Travel Journal, Letters, trans. Donald M. Frame (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 63, 78, 628.

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction 14 The fragment was first published with a brief chronological commentary in vol. 27 of the Jubilee edition in 1936 (PSS 27:534–35), eds. N. K. Gudzii and N. N. Gusev. 15 On the concept of reasonable consciousness, see Inessa Medzhibovskaya, Tolstoy and the Religious Culture of His Time: A Biography of a Long Conversion, 1845–1887 (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2008), 28, 43, 64, 133, 338–47. The fullest elaboration of the concept is made by Tolstoy is his work O zhizni [On Life], written in 1886–87 (PSS 26:313–442). 16 On January 12, 1889, Andrei Ivanovich Ershov (1834–1907), author of Sevastopl′skie vospominaniia artilleriiskogo ofitsera [Sevastopol Memoirs of an Artillery Officer], visited Tolstoy to ask that he write a preface for the reissue in one volume of his memoir, published originally in journal form (1856–57). Reading Ershov’s Sevastopol memoir on October 31, 1857, Tolstoy remarked in his diary, “It is good” (PSS 47:161). He had other thoughts about the same work thirty-two years later. Tolstoy wrote several drafts of the preface, but the new edition of Ershov’s memoir published by Aleksei Suvorin in 1891 came out without it. Chertkov published Tolstoy’s preface under the title “Protiv voiny” [Against War] in England (1902). 17 Both in the finished version and in variants of the “Preface,” Tolstoy writes about the atrocities committed by the troops ordered to drink spirits before action by General Skobelev during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 (PSS 27:522, 734). 18 Regarding Tolstoy’s definitions of violence and the structural forms of its existence through the year 1887, see Medzhibovskaya, Tolstoy and the Religious Culture, 9–11, 49–50, 62–66, 73–74, 95–97, 117–20, 124–30, 212–13. 19 I have written on the course and the process of assimilation of this discovery at length in chaps. 8, 9, and 10 of Medzhibovskaya, Tolstoy and the Religious Culture, 199–294. 20 Tolstoy does not indicate his sources, but he encloses the three paragraphs describing the incident at the Tannhäuser in quotation marks (PSS 39:217). These paragraphs can be either his translation from the foreign press or a quotation from one of the short news reports from abroad common in Russian newspapers of the period. 21 Apparently, von Brüsewitz’s friend, Lieutenant von Jung-Stilling, abetted the murder. 22 For further details on Siepmann’s murder by von Brüsewitz, see Angela Borgstedt, “Der Fall Brüsewitz: Zum Verhältnis von Militär und Zivilgesellschaft im Wilhelminischen Kaiserreich,” Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 55, no.7/8 (2007): 605–23. 23 See Thomas Theodor Heine, “Aus Karlsruhe: Der Lieutenant ist los,” Simplicissimus, November 14, 1896, 1. The first issues of the journal founded in the same year came out in April 1896. 24 For a fine article on the topic of dueling according to Tolstoy and Clausewitz, see Rick McPeak, “Tolstoy and Clausewitz: The Duel as a Microcosm of War,” in Tolstoy on War: Narrative Art and Historical Truth in War and Peace, eds. Rick McPeak and Donna Tussing Orwin (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012), 111–22; see esp. 112–16, and 210n33. 25 The ends and means in war sections in bk. 1 of Clausewitz’s On War are among the best known, and further developed in sketches of bk. 5, 122–37, 388–98.



Inessa Medzhibovskaya 26 Better known for his study Le roman russe (1886) and its frequently cited chapter containing a catchy epithet about Tolstoy’s alleged duality (an English scientist and Buddhist mystic in one), since 1855 de Vogüé had been sending reports to the French Academy about his archaeological expeditions to Africa and the Middle East, including a series of works he published on Carthage and Punic artworks in the late 1880s and the early 1890s: Note sur les nécropoles de Carthage (1889); Note sur une inscription punique trouvée par le P. Delattre à Carthage (1892); Vases carthaginois (1893), and others. Von Moltke had died in 1891, and a posthumous wave of his works, from military instructions and manuals to personal correspondence, was released as a result in the early to mid-1890s. 27 Notebook 5, June 5, 1893 (PSS 50:239). 28 Dragomirov’s chief military criticisms of War and Peace are well summarized in the following essays: Donna Tussing Orwin, “Introduction” and “War and Peace from the Military Point of View,” in Tolstoy on War, 7–8, 98–101, 103–7; Dominic Lieven, “Tolstoy on War, Russia, and Empire,” in Tolstoy on War, 12–14, 16. Lieven places Dragomirov among the “magicians” of war who believed in the power of the morale and motivation rather than “technologists” of the German type, who favored the power of strategy and tactics over the human factor. 29 In addition to his 1895 work, Dragomirov’s review of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, “Voina i mir gr. Tolstogo s voennoi tochki zreniia” (1868–70) [War and Peace by Count Tolstoy from Military Point of View], was also reprinted along with other essays in M. Dragomirov, Ocherki [Essays] (Kiev: N. I. Ogloblin, 1898), 3–136. I am quoting from the latter edition. 30 Ibid., 109–11, 120, 154–59. 31 Ibid., 136. 32 This is according to the editorial summary on the front page of the November 9 issue (no. 7437, 1). Unfortunately, all known surviving collections of Novoe vremia do not contain the November 6 issue, and I will be quoting Dragomirov from Tolstoy’s own quotes. The surviving issues of Novoe vremia for that month in November 1896 dedicate several pages each to materials celebrating the army. The November 9 issue celebrates the centennial of the Chasseur Regiment (2–3), opening the narrative with an epigraph from Napoleon frequently quoted by Dragomirov: “It is not enough to kill the Russian soldier, one has to fall him to the ground” (2). 33 V. S. Mishin, editor of vol. 39 of the Jubilee edition, notes in his circumspect summary of Tolstoy’s earlier drafts of “Carthago” (1896) that “the description of the incidents both with the German lieutenant and the Russian officers in the first drafts of the article is much more complete and strident.” Tolstoy sounds incensed that Dragomirov “does not consider Jews to be human” (PSS 39:257). Writing on November 13–15, 1896, to his brother-in-law, a high-ranking law officer in the Kiev courts, Aleksandr Mikhailovich Kuzminsky, Tolstoy asks him: “Why don’t you plead with Dragomirov not to write such filthy bits of stupidity and most of all not in this tone: ‘Oh, dear Sirs, dear Sirs’ and so on. It is terrible once you think that so many people are in the power of this drunken idiot” (PSS 69:206). Although the November 6 issue of Novoe vremia is no longer available to readers, one could see why Aleksei Sergeevich Suvorin, the newspaper’s conservative editor and a determined anti-Semite, would give space

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction to a writer like Dragomirov. The general’s imposing strongman behavior preoccupies Suvorin in numerous editorial columns and his personal diary covering the period 1889 to 1897. What perplexes Suvorin is whether a person like Dragomirov could truly represent Russia and its values. See, in particular, A. S. Suvorin, Dnevnik Alekseia Sergeevicha Suvorina [A. S. Suvorin’s Diary], eds. N. A. Roskina, D. Rayfoeld, and O. E. Makarova (London: The Garnett Press; and Moscow: Nezavisimaia gazeta, 1999), 235, 375, 443, 545; and Aleksei Suvorin, V ozhidanii XX veka: Malen΄kie pis΄ma, 1889–1903 [Waiting for the Twentieth Century: Short Letters, 1889–1903] (Moscow: Algoritm, 2005), 290–91, 521, 597, 891. Although he extolled Tolstoy and was personally attached to him, it was Suvorin who had published Ershov’s memoir in 1891 without Tolstoy’s “Preface.” See note 16, above. 34 P. I. Geisman, Graf L. N. Tolstoy i M. I. Dragomirov [Count Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Dragomirov] (St. Petersburg: A. A. Porokhovshchikov, 1897), 96. 35 Ibid., 93–96. 36 Tolstoy means Schmitt, Lossagung vom Staat [Breaking Loose from the State] (1896), the document in which Schmitt explains his decision. 37 See the second epigraph and the beginning of the section dedicated to “Carthago” (1896) above. 38 The words “god” and “my” are not capitalized in Tolstoy’s rendering of this verse from John. 39 Tolstoy was writing “Carthago” (1898) simultaneously with the first drafts of Hadji Murat. See Tolstoy’s diary for April 12, 1989 (PSS 53:189). 40 Montaigne, Complete Works, 628. 41 See the chapter titled “Patrie/Fatherland” (1764) in Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, ed. John R. Iverson (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006), 332–33. 42 See the conversations of April 7, 1775, in Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 525. 43 See Boswell on the year 1783 in ibid., 1036–37. 44 As he sums up the routes traveled in one of his iconic texts, “I have known public and private life. I have crossed the seas four times; I have followed the sun to the East; I have touched the ruins of Memphis, Carthage, Sparta, and Athens; I have prayed at St. Peter’s tomb and worshipped on Golgotha.” François-René de Chateaubriand, Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb, trans. Robert Baldick (London: Penguin, 2014), 376–77. 45 Mabel Moore, Carthage of the Phoenicians in Light of Modern Excavation (London: William Heinemann, 1905), 8. 46 Ibid. 47 Melchior de Vogüé, Note sur les nécropoles de Carthage: lue à l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres [Notes on the Excavations of Carthage: Read at the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres] (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1889), 28. 48 See “The Life of Jesus” (1795), in G. W. F. Hegel, Three Essays, 1793–1795, ed. and trans. Peter Fuss and John Dobbins (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 112–15. 49 “Under Louis Philippe,” writes Marx, “The Nation lived by paraphrasing daily Cato’s dictum: Carthaginem esse delendam (Carthage must be destroyed),” but “none was more



Inessa Medzhibovskaya servile toward the Holy Alliance.” see Karl Marx, The Class Struggle in France: 1848–1850, ed. and rev. trans. Mathew Carmody and Mark Harris (Delhi: Sankar Srinivasan and LeoPard Books, 2015), 81. 50 Aylmer Maude, Tolstoy and His Problems: Essays (London: Grant Richards, 1901), 155. 51 See draft no. 273, ms. 96 to bk. 4, pt. 3, chap. 1 of War and Peace (PSS 15:91). 52 I have quoted from Tolstoy’s “Progress and the Definition of Education” [Progress i opredelenie obrazovaniia] (1862) (PSS 8:325–55), written a year before War and Peace was started. 53 “Razgovor o nauke” [A Conversation on Science] (1875–76) (PSS 17:140–41). 54 See draft no. 67, ms. 38 (PSS 20:257). 55 See Tolstoy, Mysli mudrykh liudei na kazhdyi den΄ [Thoughts of Wise People for Every Day], Krug chteniia [The Circle of Reading], and Put΄zhizni [The Path of Life] in sections dealing with peaceful forms of verbal exchange (PSS 42:227; 44:312; 45:362). 56 Hero of Carmine Gallone’s film Scipione l’africano (1937), Mussolini’s propagandistic blockbuster known in English release as Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal. 57 On Nasica’s objections against the destruction of Carthage, see Miles, Carthage Must Be Destroyed, 336–37, 355. 58 Livy, Julius Obsequens, 23. 59 On salt, see Gandhi’s autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, trans. Mahadev H. Desai (New York: Beacon, 1993), 460–69; and The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (New York: Warner, 1998), 128, 201. On soul-force and the Salt March, see Louis Fischer, Gandhi, His Life and Message to the World (New York: Signet, 2010), 35–40 and 93–102. Salt continues to be a powerful and complicated symbol of human implication in violence, especially in fiction writing. Consider Isaac Babel’s “Salt,” told through the chillingly comic medium of ornate and semi-literate “storyteller” style of skaz. 60 This anecdote about Dragomirov’s hierarchical mind-set is customarily cited in summaries of his life that suggest his stern military magnanimity. Famously, the episode is remembered by the writer Vladimir Gilyarovsky in 1925: at the Filippov coffee shop, Dragomirov sees a junior flag officer in a spic-and-span uniform supporting a woman in an enormous hat with one hand and his sable with another, and he decides that an ensign should cede to his lady a seat at the window. Dragomirov tells him off: “You should have taken a place only with my permission. I allowed the enlisted man to sit. Go!” See chapter titled “Bakers and Barbers,” in Vladimir A. Gilyarovsky, Moscow and Muscovites, trans. Brendan Kiernan (Montpelier, VT: Russian Information Services, 2013), 198–99. Not all veterans and authors of wartime memoir speak of Carthage seriously. Consider Siegfried Sassoon’s “Storm on Fifth Avenue.” The poet views the storm from a restaurant window during dinner when pork, beans, and ice-cream are consumed. In the poem’s famous final lines: “O Babylon! O Carthage! O New York!”, in I Speak of the City: Poems of New York, ed. Stephen Wolf and John Hollander (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 1:45.

Three Attempts on Carthage: Tolstoy’s Designs of Nonviolent Destruction 61 Viktor Shklovsky, Povesti o proze: Razmyshleniia i razbory [The Stories of Prose: Reflection and Analysis], 2 vols., ed. I. Mikhailova and M. Samoilova (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1966), 2:267. 62 Montaigne, Complete Works, 78. 63 On the horror of the withdrawal by state power of the guarantees of rights and legal protection, see Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 59. 64 See Hannah Arendt, On Violence (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1970), 86–87. 65 In what is commonly complained about as one of his most opaque pieces, Benjamin writes, “Lawmaking is power making” and “Justice is the principle of all divine end making, power the principle of all mythical lawmaking”; Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence” (1920– 21), in Reflections. Essays. Aphorisms. Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott, ed. Peter Demetz (New York: Schocken Books, 2007), 295. 66 Mahatma Gandhi, On Non-Violence. ed. Thomas Merton (New York: New Directions, 2007), 37. 67 See Signe Larsen’s insightful reading of Benjamin’s imagery regarding the commandment of nonviolence in “Notes on the Thought of Walter Benjamin: Critique of Violence,” in Critical Legal Thinking at , published October 11, 2013. Accessed on October 1, 2017. 68 The possibility is only suggestively expressed in Benjamin Constant’s political reflections, a thinker Tolstoy sympathized with. See Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments, ed. Etienne Hofmann, trans. Dennis O’Keefe (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2003), 355–57.



Tolstoy’s Philosophical Legacy An Interview with Abdusalam A. Guseynov* 

Predrag Cicovacki [PC]:  You believe that Tolstoy was not just an o­ utstanding writer but also an important thinker. He was furthermore a thinker who was grounded in the long intellectual tradition of philosophers and religious prophets. Among his philosophical predecessors who made a s­ ignificant impact on him, Tolstoy mentioned especially Rousseau and Schopenhauer. How exactly did they impact him? In your opinion, did they impact him equally, or was one of them more important for the formation of Tolstoy’s own thoughts? Abdusalam Guseynov [AG]:  When we speak of the p­ hilosophical sources of the worldview of Leo Tolstoy, of the ideological influences he experienced, it is necessary to keep two facts in mind. First of all, Tolstoy was not a philosopher in the traditional European idea of this occupation. He was interested in philosophy only to the extent that it constituted a teaching about life, answered the question regarding what a human being must do in order to live out his or her life in accordance to reason and conscience. Here he was concerned not about the overall truth of how life must be arranged, but rather about the vital problem of how he himself was to live. He was not satisfied with logical persuasion and the factual veracity of philosophical statements; he also tested them on himself. Tolstoy elevated his personal life to the level of an experiment, attesting to philosophical truth. It is not that he strove to build his life according to his philosophical convictions, but the opposite: he sought those convictions that corresponded to life, not to the abstraction of life but life itself, as it is revealed in his own individual experience. Second, Tolstoy was exclusively a self-willed thinker. He figured e­ verything out himself. He trusted reason absolutely. But only his own reason. He had a * Professor Guseynov’s answers are translated from Russian by Diana Dukhanova.

Tolstoy’s Philosophical Legacy

strong immunity against universality as a criterion for truth. He took nothing on faith and could oppose the opinion not only of the majority but even of the whole world if he found it false. This was discovered, for example, in his evaluation of Shakespeare, who, he thought, could not be recognized even as the most mediocre writer, and his pejorative opinion of Napoleon. The philosophical influence that Tolstoy experienced also depended little on the place of the philosopher in the commonly accepted table of ranks. So, for example, he did not regard Aristotle or Hegel very highly. We can say it as follows: Tolstoy himself decided who of the philosophers could have an influence on him. Rousseau and Schopenhauer, perhaps, influenced Tolstoy more than other philosophers, having had a rational and emotional impact on him. They became close people for him, those with whom he willingly spent time. For ­fifteen years, instead of a cross, he wore around his neck a medallion with an image of Rousseau. A portrait of Schopenhauer hung in his study for many years, attracting the attention of visitors. The relationship of Tolstoy to Rousseau and Schopenhauer, their influence on him—this is a major topic, demanding ­specialized (partially already realized) work on the specific analysis of the heritage of Tolstoy, including his artistic creations. Speaking of this, I am obligated to limit myself to the most general considerations. A great deal attracted Tolstoy to Rousseau: the idea of individual freedom, the emotional emancipation of the individual, the criticism of the sciences and arts in their corrupting influence on morality, the contrast between the state of nature and the vices of civilization, the cult of rural labor and, of course, the rejection of violence in the process of bringing up children. The clarity and sincerity of the style of Rousseau had great significance. It was not only the individual ideas of Rousseau, but first and foremost the overall spirit of his ­philosophy, aimed at the moral perfection of man, that had an influence on Tolstoy. I also think that, for Tolstoy, Rousseau’s own relationship to his ­philosophy was important: the fact that for him, philosophy was not a type of thinking but a deep personal undertaking. Tolstoy became acquainted with the work of Schopenhauer in the late 1860s. Here began his continuous interest in philosophy. It is possible that it was he who gave Tolstoy a push toward his interest in Eastern religions, in particular Buddhism. In Schopenhauer, as in Rousseau, he was attracted by the overall ethical nature and the critical direction of the teachings. The idealistic metaphysics of Schopenhauer also attracted him, suggesting a view of the world as a living whole, as will and representation, and seeing the f­ alling away from it in the form of individual will as a degradation. What turned out to be particularly important



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for him was Schopenhauer’s ethics, with its a­ scertainment of life as inescapable suffering, and the idea of compassion as an adequate answer to the existential situation and a positive program of action. Tolstoy interpreted compassion as a form of love and a way of overcoming the egoism of the animal personality, which isolates people from each other. Tolstoy’s attitude toward Schopenhauer changed over time. After the first ten years of enthusiasm, he subjected to criticism and sharply distanced himself from the pessimism of Schopenhauer, from his idea about the meaninglessness of life. Tolstoy came to the conclusion that the claim about the absence of an intelligible meaning in life is logically incorrect because it is, in itself, a conclusion of reason, and it is ethically false, because if he were ­serious about this claim, he would have ceased living before he made it. The critique of Schopenhauer, in this aspect, became one of the important moments in the process of Tolstoy’s working out of his own teaching about nonresistance to evil by way of violence. Another factor in Tolstoy’s cooling toward Schopenhauer became his rather late (1887) encounter of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, which showed him that the real Kant strongly differs from his interpretation by Schopenhauer. Overall, Schopenhauer remained an ­important philosophical interlocutor of Tolstoy. As far as the question of who influenced Tolstoy more strongly, Rousseau or Schopenhauer, I am not sure that it is possible to have an answer to this question or, indeed, if it is a correct question. When an artist creates a painting, does it matter where he gets his paints and which ones? It was not the art of Rousseau or Schopenhauer that determined what would enter into Tolstoy’s worldview, but Tolstoy himself decided what he would take from them and what, in consequence, would become not their but his achievement. PC: Who else, in the long philosophical tradition, had a significant impact on Tolstoy and in which ways? Socrates and Plato? Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius? Kant and Spencer? AG: Spencer should be excluded from this list, as he was totally alien to Tolstoy. Tolstoy considered Darwin with enthusiasm (Spencer, with his attempt to rethink all of culture in the spirit of Darwin’s ideas is an especially clear example of this enthusiasm) to be a form of hysterical contagion. All the other philosophers you named were part of that philosophical treasury from which Tolstoy amply and readily gathered ideas, but not only them. Here a number of other names should be added—for example, Ruskin, Seneca, Skovoroda, Spinoza, Thoreau, Emerson.

Tolstoy’s Philosophical Legacy

Tolstoy’s friend and secretary Dushan Makovitsky recounts that on August 16, 1910, a few months before the departure and death of the writer, a game was undertaken in his home: those present were asked to write on one piece of paper the names of twelve great people, and on another piece of paper, the names of their favorites, excepting Christ and Tolstoy. Tolstoy had one list, because in his opinion, the names of the great people and the names of his favorite people were one and the same. These were: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Socrates, Plato, the Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Krishna, Francis of Assisi, Kant, Schopenhauer, Pascal. This concurrence is telling: Tolstoy only considered his favorite philosophers to be great. For Tolstoy, there was not among them an unconditional figure. He examined every thought of this or that philosopher not in terms of general logic and the context of the corresponding philosophical system, but in the light of his own Tolstoyan teaching. He saw his task not in assessing the philosopher in question from all sides, to remark on his weak and strong aspects, but to pick out the life wisdom contained in their work. The free treatment of the texts that appealed to him was characteristic of Tolstoy; in popularizing them he might shorten something or reformulate it. In a word, he approached them not as authorial but as collective property. He saw all philosophers and spiritual teachers as wise people writing the same book. It is fully logical that all of them, together with Tolstoy himself, became the authors of the same book, which he composed in the last years of his life. This is the book for reading in different versions, constituting four volumes of his complete 90-volume collected works: Ideas of Wise People for Every Day (1903); The Circle of Reading (1904); For Every Day (1909); The Path of Life (1910). PC: One of Tolstoy’s central preoccupations, in the last several decades of his life, was to develop an ethical view that would serve as a guideline for his life—something to “live with.” In thinking of Tolstoy’s ethics, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is his reconstruction of the words and message of Jesus. Why was Jesus such an important figure for Tolstoy? What is the central lesson that Tolstoy learned from Jesus? Was the Jesus that inspired Tolstoy the historical Jesus? The Jesus of the four Gospels? Tolstoy’s own invention of Jesus? AG: It is sometimes considered that an answer is straight when it is no longer than the question. I will attempt to follow this rule. Why Jesus? —Because he expressed more fully than anyone else the idea of love as the basis of life.



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What is most important for Jesus? —Nonresistance to evil through violence. Is it about the historical Jesus (the real Jesus), the Jesus from the Four Gospels, or the Jesus of Tolstoy himself? —They are all the same, Tolstoy’s personal Jesus was simultaneously the historical Jesus, and the Jesus of the four Gospels. Now, in a bit more detail. Among those who influenced Tolstoy, Jesus of Nazareth truly held a ­special place. Tolstoy chose Jesus in the capacity of teacher and called h­ imself his follower—a Christian. Above I said that among philosophers there was no absolute figure for Tolstoy. Jesus Christ was an absolute authority for him. He did not, at that, consider Jesus as God; he rejected any forms of idolization. Moreover, Tolstoy supposed that for one who truly believes in God, Jesus Christ is not God. He was a real person, a spiritual reformer, speaking his teaching. Tolstoy’s path to Jesus was sinuous and difficult. Born in an Orthodox environment, he absorbed Christianity, as it is said, with his mother’s milk. Nevertheless, as a sixteen-years-old he already ceased to attend church and set out to swim upon the waves of worldly success. This swimming, on the one hand, was very successful in terms of worldly renown, wealth, health, family prosperity; on the other hand, it turned into a spiritual catastrophe and led Tolstoy to the brink of suicide. Wishing to come out of the spiritual crisis that occurred on the eve of his fiftieth birthday, Tolstoy decided to return to the bosom of the official religion and, in the course of the year, led the life of the most traditional Christian, meticulously observing all of the Church’s instructions, but this did not in any way ease his condition and did not return the lost meaning of life. Then Tolstoy decided to seek for himself the answer to the question of the meaning of life, turning with this goal to all the sources of human wisdom: to the founders of religions, to the great philosophers and moralists, as well as to the worldview of simple working people who are free from the grief, which stood in his way. He took from all sources; and everywhere, among all wise people from Confucius and the Buddha to the Tver province Christian Vasily Siutaev, he finds the same idea: that the meaning of life is love. The idea of love received its fullest and most consistent development in the teachings of Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount. In this way Tolstoy revealed to himself once again the clear meaning of Sermon on the Mount concerning salvation, establishing that the Christian churches had perverted it, had deprived it of its life-giving principle and replaced it with the symbol of the faith. Having revived his knowledge of Ancient Greek,

Tolstoy’s Philosophical Legacy

he subjected the life and deeds of Christ to a thorough analysis and conducted a monumental project in consolidating all four Gospels into one, t­ranslating them into a language clear to common people, and adding commentary. As a result, he came not to a new understanding and interpretation of the life teachings of Christ but to the unexpected conclusion that his attempts to interpret various theological traditions turned out to be false and conscious lies. In fact, the teaching of Christ is in need not of some kind of profound scholarly interpretation but in the acceptance of its simple literal meaning. Another important conclusion to which he came was that the focus of the teaching of Christ was a proposition that had been perverted to a greater extent than all the rest: the commandment about nonresistance to violence. It was not allegorical, not complicated, not suggesting and demanding additional ­clarifications and explanations, but a straightforward and literal ­understanding of the commandment of nonresistance to evil, bolstered by the demand to ­forgive one’s enemies, an understanding that means the total ­rejection of ­violence in all its forms and manifestations: this is the type of understanding that expresses the innermost teachings of Christ, that newness that he brought into the understanding of life as compared to Moses. Thus Tolstoy, in his capacity as a humble disciple of Christ, found the lost meaning of life, and he dedicated his remaining thirty-odd years to the practice of the newly acquired truth, comprehending it and telling others about it. The rejection of violence, of nonresistance to evil, is the touchstone of Christian love in its most pure and honest expression. The internal harmony of the teaching of Tolstoy, his moral impeccability and logical evidence, is based on the idea that only human beings force others to live according to their will by way of power, threats, and physical coercion. At its basis the striving to ­subject people around oneself, and the world, to one’s own interests is the most extreme form of egoistic self-assertion. The formula of violence is: as I wish, and not as you wish. Love represents a movement opposite to that of violence: it is the service of other people. The formula of love is: not as I wish, but as you wish. Jesus expressed it when he, on the night before his execution, overcoming the doubt that was taking over him, concluded, in addressing God: let not my, but thy, will be done. To love is to follow the will of God. The problem lies in discerning this will. It is this, according to Tolstoy, that cannot be known. God is the limit of our understanding. The human being, in the parameters of the rational knowledge of the world, can and inevitably does come to a conclusion about his or her boundless foundation, which is called God, but the human being, remaining in the sphere of responsible judgments,



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can say nothing about what this foundation constitutes. Therefore, in the ­formula of love—not as I wish, but as God wishes—what is truly, really accessible to the human being is only the first part: not as I wish. To follow it means to reject violence. Rejecting the law of violence, we follow the law of love—this is the cornerstone of the entire rational-spiritual construct of Tolstoy. Tolstoy was moved by the pathos of truth. He could not in any sense agree that his judgments had the status of opinions, that they represented one point of view. When Tolstoy decided to reach an understanding of the meaning of life, his own life was at stake. He was talking not about curiosity, not about new rational pursuits, a change of occupation and so forth; this was about life itself, about whether he should continue to live or take his own life. He could in no way be satisfied with a point of view. No, he needed the truth, only one truth. That is why, for him, Jesus is real, the Jesus of the Gospels and his own ­personal Jesus—it is one and the same person. But the Jesus of theology, the Jesus declared as God, the Jesus who gives permission to swing a sword in certain circumstances, sanctioning State violence, the Jesus who rose after his execution, whose Second Coming is awaited—these are not simply opinions, hypotheses, points of view, but genuine, straightforward falsehoods and lies. PC: Tolstoy took faith far more seriously than religion, if by faith we do not mean any doctrinal creed but rather “one’s awareness of one’s place in the world, which imposes responsibility for certain deeds.” As you yourself ­commented on it, “Tolstoy’s faith looks odd.” It is not something that can be i­nstitutionalized, nor is it based on any mysticism. Tolstoy’s faith is not ­something that can be proved by scientific means, nor does it seem to relate to our ­technology-­obsessed world. What good is faith, then? Why should faith be the central ­preoccupation of our lives? AG: I cannot agree with the assertion that Tolstoy saw faith as something more serious than religion. For him they are both highly important things, and both are inextricably connected. For Tolstoy, religion is the fundamental, basic characteristic of human existence. It expresses the relationship of the human being to the boundless foundation of life, which can be different—both true and false—but outside of which the human being cannot live a rational, ­conscious life. The religious relationship of the human being to the endless life that surrounds him or her is genuine when it is established in accordance with and on the basis of reason and knowledge; and it is false when it ­contradicts reason

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and knowledge, as happens in religions of revelation. Religion, Tolstoy says, answers the question about the meaning of life if the question itself is adequately ­understood. When a person asks themselves the ­question about the meaning of life, he or she is actually interested in whether there exists in our lives some kind of meaning besides life itself, beyond its borders. Does there exist in it some kind of meaning that does not disappear with the perishing of life itself? By answering this question, the human being enters the sphere of religion; he or she even enters this sphere as an atheist, because in this case atheism itself represents a sort of religion. Being a rational being, the human cannot help but think about the consequences of his or her actions, including the most remote; cannot help but ­formulate a relationship to the world as a whole, reflecting on whether this world, accessible to us, is the ultimate reality, or whether behind it there is another boundless reality inaccessible to reason. Similar to the way in which, in his or her capacity as a physical being, the human enters into relationships of the exchange of substance with the surrounding empirical (visible, audible, and so on) world, so in the same way, in his or her capacity as a rational, spiritual being, he or she enters into a religious relationship with the world as a whole. As a matter of fact, faith is religion, with the only difference being that religion is directed outwards in its relationship to the world and its boundlessness, and faith is the internal predetermination of this relationship, its experience in itself. Tolstoy believes that in order to understand what religion truly is as a form of knowledge and a responsible position on life, it is necessary to reject the false religious ideas and practices cultivated by the Church. In the same way, in order to understand what faith is as a real, important, and integral element of human life, it is necessary to reject the Apostle Paul’s (Hebrews 2:1) perverted ideas about faith as the realization of the awaited and as certainty about the invisible. Tolstoy decidedly rejects faith in its common understanding as trust, the appeal to miracles, supernatural powers; as something ­irrational. Tolstoy, in fact, revealed faith anew as an indispensable basis for conscious human existence. He determines faith as the consciousness of the meaning of life, as the power of life, as something thanks to which the human being exists. This is not something that one finds as a result of special efforts such as learning, but something that is inherent to the human being, given to him or her along with consciousness. If a human being lives, Tolstoy said, he or she believes in something. If the faith of the Church removes from the human being the responsibility for what he or she does, then true faith, faith in the form in



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which it is given to each human being and practiced by him or her, makes possible his or her life in a personal sense. In the Tolstoyan teaching about faith, we should underline two points. The first consists in the fact that faith corresponds with that which the human being does. It is developed in his or her actions, it represents a certain thread upon which his or her deeds are strung. For this reason, in fact, it is fitting to distinguish between faith itself, imprinted in the factual life and vital function of the human being, and ideas about faith, as well as to examine these ideas in the context of vital activity. Faith without works is dead. The basic ­argument of Tolstoy as a true Christian, in opposition to a Christian of the Church, ­consisted in the fact that the Church exchanged the Sermon on the Mount for the symbol of faith. The second point is as follows: faith cannot contradict reason. Faith is also knowledge, but it is a particular type of knowledge, the type of knowledge to which the human being comes through reason, recognizing its limit. It is possible to formulate the following paradoxical affirmation: faith, in Tolstoy’s understanding, consists in taking nothing on faith. A wonderful example of the combination of faith and reason is the Tolstoyan teaching on nonresistance to violence, which, being the result of basic exploratory work, was at the same time the faith of Tolstoy himself, his deep personal conviction. Among Tolstoy’s various definitions of faith there is also the following: the assessment of all the phenomena of life. In it is the answer to our questions: “What good is faith, then? Why should faith be the central preoccupation of our lives?” Faith can be understood as a general axiological basis of vital activity of the human being. It is, first of all, a given system of moral coordinates, by which human deeds, all of human life, is organized. Faith, speaking in short, is the sensibility of life, it is its own type of compass swimming in the sea, a ­lantern in the hands of one walking at night. I think it would be accurate to express Tolstoy’s thought and the essence of the topic itself as follows: faith is that by which the human being lives. PC: Although Tolstoy considered himself a true follower of Jesus, he was also well-informed about other world religions and spiritual traditions. He held Buddhism and Taoism in high esteem. Is his religious thought a synthesis of various religious traditions, or is his thought something new and unique for himself? AG: Tolstoy considered himself a follower of Jesus. He knew well and valued highly Buddhism, Taoism, and not only those; he also studied and valued

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Confucianism, Brahmanism, Judaism, Islam. One did not contradict the other: he valued the common ethical basis in all world religions, which is the ethics of love, and which can be expressed by the common human truth of not doing unto others what one would not want done onto oneself. The teaching of Jesus Christ speaks of the same thing, only more fully, clearly and consistently. The religious-moral teaching of Tolstoy is universal and acceptable for any person as a living rational being; it has no cultic, nationalist, class-related, historical, or other boundaries, which would have made him unacceptable to representatives of any particular religion. Nevertheless, this cannot be considered a variant of religious syncretism. Tolstoy is not interested in the differences between religious-cultural traditions and the possibility of combining them in some sort of synthesis. He is interested in the primary truth of human life that they contain, that common seed from which different ancient world and national religions grew. Tolstoy was occupied with different religions not in order to find out what they represent in themselves and to attempt to juxtapose them, but rather in order to find in them that which he seeks, to find in them the answer to the question about the meaning of life, which stood before him. This discovery and joyful surprise consisted in the fact that all the religions without exception answer this question in the same way. Everywhere, as I already said above, he found the idea of love and nonviolence as its adequate expression, and that became his Gospel. PC: Tolstoy was a harsh critic of the institution of church and state. It is interesting that we live at the time when these institutions, and perhaps institutions in general (banks and media included) have lost their credibility and any robust sense of authority. Does Tolstoy’s criticism still apply to our time, or are we undergoing a different crisis of institutional authority? AG: “The Kingdom of God is within you”—Tolstoy took these words for the title of the composition in which he explores why neither the State nor the Church, nor any external powers can arrange and correctly direct human life, which is principally fragile, full of suffering and accidents. The one thing that is given to the human being and which exists in the fullness of his or her power is the rational consciousness, the ability to recognize truth and be guided by it. The truth of nonviolence is realized in the regime of individual responsible action, and there is no other way of overcoming v­ iolence apart from the refusal to commit it, and nothing can stop the human being, having recognized this truth, from following it if he or she has decided to do so. Also, nonviolence,



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being a strictly internal individual ­decision and action, is ­simultaneously a form of unity with other human beings and with the ­spiritual universe. This is, if we may so express it, the non-egoistic self-affirmation of the individual; it is self-denying egoism, egoism in reverse. Namely, on the basis of the conviction that the kingdom of God is within the human being, Tolstoy critiques the Church and State, justly considering them to encroach on the moral autonomy of the human being, to carry out coercive power over people. Thus, the Church, in his opinion, rests upon three positions: the recognition of the existence of special people who constitute intermediaries between the human being and God; the recognition of miracles, called upon to affirm the role of these intermediaries; and the recognition of certain propositions that supposedly express the will of God and are considered holy. As far as the government is concerned, it is founded completely on lies, as if violence can be overcome by violence, and represents the organized repressive machine in its internal politics and in the implementation of war in external politics. Tolstoy’s criticism of Church and State preserves its power, and even becomes more vital in our time. This criticism similarly concerns other institutions, because each of them in their own way carry out the dominance and manipulation of people. Tolstoy’s position in this matter can be designated as “ethical anarchism.” It comes from the conviction that the social life of the human being and his or her moral life are two different things. Social life as a form of organizing large masses of people proceeds, if we use the terminology of the well-known sociologist and writer Alexander Zinoviev, based on the law of “existential egoism”; its goal is external prosperity, benefits, and interests; it is inescapable that some people in society rule others. The vector of moral life is the opposite: nonresistance to violence, the voice of the conscience, love, brotherhood. For this reason the human being, wishing to live a moral life, cannot but step into conflict with social institutions, to strive to go beyond their forms. Tolstoy’s relationship to the State can be compared to his relationship to the lust of the body: both deserve moral criticism. Moral law is not the continuation either of the natural process or the social process; it is autonomous in relation to them and posits a different level of human existence. PC: Out of the entire New Testament, perhaps the most important piece for Tolstoy was the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s gospel. Jesus there preaches nonviolence and nonresistance to evil (by means of violence). Although there are more than one billion people in the world who consider

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themselves Christian, very few accept Jesus’s teachings on nonviolence and nonresistance to evil. Why is Tolstoy such a vehement proponent of these views, and why should we follow him in this regard? AG: Tolstoy was indeed vehement in upholding the idea of nonviolence, having placed upon it all of his rational, spiritual and physical powers, all his life. Why? Simply because he believed in it. Because it is the truth. Because it had led him out of a deep spiritual crisis. For me personally, along with all the arguments and careful investigations that Tolstoy undertook to find a rationale for the truth of nonresistance, an important additional argument is exactly the perseverance and outrage with which he did this. I think that there have been few people in the world who have lived such an intense spiritual and rational life as did Tolstoy, and for whom rational pursuits had such a direct personal meaning, as they did for him. One might bewail the fact that over a billion people consider ­themselves Christians and yet do not accept so clearly and unequivocally the ideas expressed in the Sermon on the Mount about nonresistance to ­violence, but this cannot be considered an argument against Tolstoy and his t­eachings. These billions of people, in contrast to Tolstoy, consider Jesus to be God; they believe that he ascended to the Heavens and await his Second Coming. Whom, then, do we consider to be in the right here—Tolstoy, or these ­billions? Tolstoy talked of three types of truths. Some have become a habit; they do not fully constitute truth. Others have a vague appearance; they are not yet truths. Those of the third category are clearly truths; they are r­ ecognized, but they do not enter into everyday life, habit; they constitute the sphere of freedom. It is to this third category that the truth of nonviolence and ­nonresistance belongs. Its truth is evident to everyone, it is recognized even by those who consider it permissible in certain cases to stray from it, but it did not become a foundation of life, a habitual form of behavior. Tolstoy ­carefully studied the question of why it is so difficult for humanity to adapt this truth; he analyzed the huge role that historical inertia played, as well as the ­position of the Church, the interests of the ruling classes; he examined the main objections usually put forward in opposition to nonviolence; and so on. In his approach to the given question, he was, to the highest degree, sober and realistic. At the same time, he was totally sure that the truth of nonviolence will forge its path. In any case, it is undoubtable: his efforts and works made a huge contribution to it and became an example that inspired



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Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Schweitzer, and many other people. Tolstoy did not fully change the state of affairs the world, but he ­created a new, more favorable situation in relation to nonviolence as the basis of human coexistence. PC: Our usual approach to faith and religion is that they stand in sharp opposition to reason and rationality. Tolstoy would strongly disagree. Yet what could possibly be rational about faith? What is Tolstoy’s conception of reason and rationality and is there something about his understanding of the relationship of faith and rationality that we should learn from Tolstoy? AG: On faith, as Tolstoy understood it, and why from his point of view it could only be rational, I already spoke above. Here I will just add one important point. In his understanding of rationalism, Tolstoy held to general accepted ­scientific ideas. Everything that we know, we know only thanks to reason, which is in its judgments guided by facts and logic. If there is something i­naccessible to reason, it is so only because it is evidenced by reason itself. There are no shortcuts to knowledge. Reason finds its limit in the fact that it pertains to the world as a whole, to its boundless framework. This is the limit of reason, the limit of our knowledge, which, of course, can constantly be pushed back, but can never be overcome: it is called God. About God as the limit of our knowledge we can say that he is, he exists, but we cannot say anything specific and meaningful about him, nothing about him in himself, about what he represents, because he is that about which we cannot know anything. Although we can know nothing of God, nevertheless, we must live with the knowledge that he exists. The human, rational being, guided by the rational consciousness, cannot act and live without formulating his or her own relationship to the world as a whole, to its very basis. That is why he or she thinks not only about what he or she must do in order to live, but also about the meaning of life itself. The bee that gathers honey, reasons Tolstoy, does not doubt whether or not it acts well. It corresponds with its livelihood. The human being, occupied with sustenance, thinks about different things that go beyond the framework of what he or she does, for example, whether or not he or she brings too much harm upon others, whether he or she does not take food away from others, what will happen to his or her children, about whose sustenance he or she is concerned, the milieu that surrounds him or her, etc. The human being does not only live, he or she also works out a relationship to life and evaluates it. He or she cannot act and live without knowing what he

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or she lives for, without placing his or her deeds and self in a particular semantic context, which is given by his or her faith and common moral orientation. It behooves us to differentiate between the question of the rational organization of life, its moral livability, and the question of the meaning of life, its moral basis. In the first case we are speaking about scientific reason answerable for our knowledge, skills, technical abilities; in the second case—about faith, responsible for the meaning of life, its common moral basis. We are speaking of two aspects of reason: the scientific-technological and the moral. Tolstoy clearly designated these differences and sharply posed the question of their relationship. European reason, he believed, developed one-sidedly with an emphasis on the intrinsic value of knowledge and the expansion of the material opportunities of the human being and the society, carried away by the most multifaceted questions, leaving in the shadows that which all people had previously considered the most important: the teaching about life. It is specifically this deformation that became the focus of Tolstoy’s criticism, and he, recognizing the absolute nature of reason as the single source of knowledge, strove to direct it to the moral channel that is posed by reason itself. The adequate posing of the question of what reason must do ­presupposes an answer to the question of why this must be done. Tolstoy did not limit ­himself to the abstract posing of the question; he simultaneously developed his understanding of faith, which he considered true and which must become the goal of the efforts of human reason. Speaking today about the heritage of Tolstoy in relation to this question, and about his relevance for modern philosophy, we must remark on the fact that, at the very least, two important questions have no clear answer and, in essence, remain outside the boundaries of philosophical discussion. The first concerns the relationship between morality and knowledge, specifically: can the human being think without his or her thought being constrained by a­ xiological hoops and without setting a certain direction for life; is it possible to consider human life to be rationally organized if it is not based on the correct understanding of that for which the human being lives, why he or she came to this world and exist in it? The second question: if the understanding of that for which one must live is the necessary and limiting condition of the rational organization of life, to what extent does philosophy purposefully occupy itself with this question and how does it answer it? PC: The seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries were an era in which numerous utopias were presented. There were even attempts to implement some of



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them, with more or less tragic outcomes. Tolstoy did not invent a new utopia, but he did take seriously the biblical idea of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps Tolstoy’s most important work of nonfiction, a book of about 350 pages, was The Kingdom of God Is within You. First of all, is there not a contradiction in that very title: a kingdom is a political category that is realizable only in space and time, while Tolstoy is inviting us to think of a kingdom as something internal (psychological and spiritual). Does not Tolstoy invite some kind of quietism here? Or a passive acceptance of destiny and the evil forces that may dominate our lives? What could possibly be appealing about an internalized version of the Kingdom of God in the face of undeniable evil that spreads through the world like a deadly disease? AG: Was Tolstoy’s teaching not a utopia or a type of quietism? It is not a utopia. Utopias, beginning with Atlantis, and including also the utopias of the new era, are types of societies. The teaching of Tolstoy has as its subject the individual life of the human being; it answers not the question of how society should be, how it should be organized in a more desirable manner, but the question about what to do, how the individual being is to build his or her life. Further, utopias, as is incorporated into the concept, are non-existent, unrealizable ideas. Tolstoy suggests a solution that is within the power of the human being, within the boundaries of his or her responsible decisions. He appeals to real-life experiences and builds his own life in accordance to the teaching. That formula of Jesus that Tolstoy liked so much—“the Kingdom of God is within you,” used by him as the title of a book—speaks about the fact that the human being need not wait for the Kingdom of God (the fulfillment of his or her aspirations) in the future and seek it somewhere in the heavens; it is already here, in the human being, in his or her soul, in his or her rational conscience. Tolstoy suggests a program of moral improvement, a new understanding of the meaning of life, but not a utopia. He insistently underlines that the truth of nonresistance to violence is that new height of morality toward which humanity had been moving for almost two thousand years and which it must adopt by the efforts of each human being, each having recognized its truth. A human being always proceeds in his or her life based on one or another understanding of the meaning of life, on one or another ideal conceptualization of life. Tolstoy only suggests another understanding of the meaning of life, another ideal; we are talking, then, not about the need for the human being, deprived of an ideal, to accept Tolstoy’s ideal, but about the need for them to reject a false ideal.

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Today, we have a vital question that consists of the following: can the ideal of nonviolence, becoming a reality not in institutions and principles of government, but in individual human experiences, be considered a social ideal in our epoch? My answer would be: I see no other perspective on the development of humanity, or not even the development but the vitality of humanity. Modern societies have no future, no social future in a different, justly arranged state, which would be free from all that inspires moral disturbance in people today. It is, in fact, so: the lowest views prevailing in society, and the officially proclaimed strategies, emerge from the fact that the future is the prolongation of the present, only in an improved, cleansed form. Social science sanctions the view suggesting that the societies that would be ideal in a moral sense—or, in other words, that would exclude the ruling of people by other people and would be characterized by a brotherly relationship between them—cannot exist as a matter of principle. From here it follows: if the idea of moral improvement preserves its meaning, then its content is not the social medium and its external organization but the rational individual and his or her internal spiritual life. Here we come to the second part of your question about Tolstoy’s quietism. Quietism as a religious-philosophical doctrine did not attract Tolstoy’s attention. Several times, in letters to Nikolai Strakhov, he mentions the name of Madame Guyon, remarking that he does not share the view of removal from the world as a goal (December 1885), and of Fenelon, underlining that the latter gave him nothing ( July 6, 1891). In the Yasnaya Polyana library there is an almost uncut three-volume collection of the compositions of Fenelon. Tolstoy included in his collection of wise thoughts also three sayings of Fenelon about the liberating role of the internal work of the human being upon the self. This testifies to the fact that quietism was on the far periphery of Tolstoy’s occupation and thought. In essence, the views of Tolstoy also cannot be qualified as quietism, although such reproaches were made against him, including those from the point of view of Marxist criticism. He speaks not of retreat from the world for the sake of unity with God, but of changing one’s way of being in the world. You find the affirmation that “the kingdom of God is within you” to be contradictory because a kingdom, as a social political category, exists in space and time, and that which is within us (the soul) is outside of space and time. Tolstoy truly saw the meaning of life in the human being’s care for his or her own soul and not the body, because through bodies human beings separate from one another, and through souls they come together. Besides, he also clearly understood that the soul does not exist outside the body and without the body, which, it is supposed, has its own coordinates in space and time. The care of the soul, the building of



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the Kingdom of God within oneself, consists in the body becoming a tool of the soul, and not the other way around. The unusually active lifestyle of Tolstoy after finding his faith, the uncompromising battle that he waged against the institutions and heralds of violence, his restructuring of the whole character of his own activities with the inclusion of physical labor, his titanic striving to learn and interpret ideas of nonviolence, his very physiognomy, which recalls more readily the biblical Samson tearing apart the jaws of lion than an Indian yogi who has retreated within himself—all this in no way fits with quietism. It is totally impossible to agree with the proposition that, in thinking about the soul, Tolstoy factually recognized the dominance of evil in the world and gave the world over to the hands of the devil. No, according to Tolstoy, the world belongs to God, there is a good meaning to it. Tolstoy rather adhered to the idea that there is no evil, than that it is omnipotent. For one who understands the true content of life, Tolstoy believed, there is no evil. When he connected evil with the condition of the soul, he meant that it is possible to liberate oneself from it. The very idea of nonresistance to violence meant the rejection of violence: the rejection of the striving to defeat evil with evil. A stranger to all mysticism, Tolstoy was least of all inclined to mystify evil. PC: It is often claimed that one of the greatest achievements of Western culture, and one that is moreover connected to the unique personality of Jesus Christ, is the development of individualism. Tolstoy was well aware of this view, but his teachings seem to be opposed to individualism. Despite being a pretty unique individual himself, Tolstoy emphasized what is of value for humanity in a general sense, regardless of our individual differences. What do you think of this aspect of Tolstoy’s view, and is this one of the reasons why he is often dismissed as a serious thinker? AG: Individualism is a sociological or, at the very least, an ethical and sociological category. Whatever is meant by the individual, we are speaking about how the good of one (given, concrete) human being correlates with the good of other people, all of society. It is not a matter of how to behave toward others, how to arrange one’s interactions with them, but about how to correctly behave oneself, about what constitutes the true meaning of life, worthy of human predestination: this is what interests and concerns Tolstoy in the liveliest manner. In this approach, what comes to the forefront is not the sociology and ­psychology of the relationship of individuals toward each other, in their ­dispositions in the parameters of society, but the ethical philosophical p­ roblem

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of the relationship of the human being to themselves, or more concretely, the relationship of the soul, the rational consciousness of the human being and his or her body, the physical and social demands. The body, the necessity of m ­ eeting its needs, the provision of its safety, comfort, and convenience, ­separates the individual as a private person within his or her own place and time, with natural ties and so on; it demands from people self-assertion in the world, demands feelings and thoughts that lead them to such self-assertion. The soul, the rational consciousness of the human being, connects him to life as a whole, with the immortal basis of the world. They are united in the soul, because it is the same for everyone. The problem of the meaning of life, which stands before the human being, and which he or she decides in the activity of their own lives, consists in the alternative between subordinating one’s life to egoistic (individualistic) self-affirmation in the world, the good of one’s own frail body, or to think of the immortal soul and not stand on the path of evil and violence for the sake of one’s animal personality. We should keep in mind that this position of Tolstoy’s, even if it may be called anti-individualistic, acts and realizes itself as the choice of the individual; it is personal decision and action. We should note that one of the sayings of Fenelon that Tolstoy adopted reads as follows: “Only self-denial gives us true freedom.” A separate and very special question is the question about individualism as one of the most important attributes of the human being. It is about individualism not as uniqueness, as singularity signifying the difference between one human being and others and their particular position among people. It is not about individualism as uniqueness. Let us ask ourselves, where does this individualism, this uniqueness come from? Is there something in the world that possesses individualism, apart from the world itself, and if we speak of history, of humanity, then is there here something singular, individual, except history itself and the human beings themselves? Is not, finally, the understanding of God one of the forms of comprehension and postulation of that singularity (individualism) of the world, which reason cannot find in the world itself? And if the human being has aimed for uniqueness, having justly observed it in the singularity of eternal life, then he or she has no other choice but to hold to that thread of personal life that connects him or her to the immortal beginning of life. That, I believe, is how Tolstoy thought. PC: Are the differences between Tolstoy the writer and Tolstoy the thinker reconcilable? Or is there at least a partial overlap between them? If we have to choose between them, which one would you prefer and why?



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AG: How Tolstoy the thinker is related to Tolstoy the artist is a difficult ­question; it remains a subject of debate. After the spiritual revolution that he underwent at the age of fifty, when he—by his own admission—became like a person who leaves the house to acquire something and, having remembered that he forgot something, turns back, as a result of which, what was at the left turns out to be at the right, and what was at the right turns out to be at the left, Tolstoy, with a small exception, turns away from his literary creativity, including the great novels that brought him international fame, War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Later, Tolstoy saw the value of his artistic creations in their useful potential to attract people to his teachings. In the stories, tales, and novels of Tolstoy from the first period, one may find those ideas, including the idea of nonresistance, which later became the content of his faith teachings. There, as in the personal life of Tolstoy, these ideas were fragments along with others, including completely opposite ideas and positions on life. Renouncing these works, Tolstoy renounced the underlying values, the general way of life affirmed in them, exactly as he renounced everything (thirst for glory, wealth, success in society, feats of self-assertion and so on), by which he had previously lived. These were consecutive stages. Nevertheless, the first (let’s call it his conditionally worldly, pagan) period of creation and life of Tolstoy was necessary for the second (spiritual, Godpleasing) period; it was necessary, if only in the sense that the second period, the spiritual revolution, could commence only as a result of the rejection of the first, and would have been impossible without it. In War and Peace Tolstoy, by his own admission, examined the national idea, and in Anna Karenina—the idea of family. He examined, in artistic form, whether the human being can find meaning in life for the sake of the people and for the sake of the family. He came to the negative conclusion, imprinted in the story of the Rostov family and the fate of Anna. Without this, the step later becoming the basis for the transformation that he experienced, and that brought him to the realization that the meaning of life is in the service of God, would have been impossible. This logic also ties together the two periods of Tolstoy’s life. The strange conditions of life that brought him to the brink of suicide became obsessions when Tolstoy had everything that constitutes the understanding of earthly happiness: great health, a happy family, wealth, immense recognition in society, influence, international fame—in a word, everything about which, as they say, one may dream. It is precisely because the consciousness of the meaninglessness of perishable life dominated him in spite of everything, Tolstoy turned in the opposite direction.

Tolstoy’s Philosophical Legacy

The writer Tolstoy is known to the world, but the thinker Tolstoy has not yet been revealed. As a writer, he exists in the familial surroundings of other Russian and non-Russian writers. As a thinker, he is alone. His rational achievements are, in my view, significantly higher than his artistic ones. When they are understood in their true depth, then, perhaps, the comparison and contrasting of his literary works and his teachings will cease; then it will become clear that the first is a necessary step to the second, just as crawling on all fours is the first step to walking on two legs. PC: What are your most serious objections to Tolstoy the thinker? What do you most admire about his thinking? What is Tolstoy’s legacy as a thinker? What should we remember him for? Should we remember him as thinker at all? AG: I dare not make critical remarks about Tolstoy. It is difficult for me to do this even, for example, in relation to such pure theoreticians as Hume or Kant, to say nothing of Tolstoy, who not only thought through to the end but suffered through his teaching. The only thing that comes to me with difficulty and perplexes me in his thought is his use of the terms “God” and “religion.” But in this, too, I attempt to understand him: he, we must suppose, did not want to surrender these concepts to those who gave them a completely false interpretation. After all, we cannot reject the concept of honor because it was perverted for centuries by the practice of the so-called noble classes. When we speak of Tolstoy the thinker, we must keep in mind one s­ ignificant circumstance. He is not a philosopher in the sense prevalent today and is not part of that milieu in which the “law-givers” are Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Hegel, Russell, Heidegger. . . . His milieu is different: Confucius, Lao-Tzu, the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Francis of Assisi, Luther, Thoreau . . . those who brought, with their teachings and their activity, a new understanding of life; those who, being thinkers, were also teachers of humanity. I cannot imagine a systematization of philosophical knowledge in which Tolstoy could find a rightful place and which would be flawed without his teaching. At the same time, it is difficult to imagine a compendium of religious and moral teachings that could do without Tolstoy. Tolstoy studied philosophy from a young age, occupied himself with it a great deal and thoroughly (especially in the second period of his life); the index of names in his collected works contains such a number of philosophers’ names from Heraclitus to Nietzsche and Emerson, which one will not find in many works of professional philosophers. In philosophy, he was chiefly concerned with moralists; for example, he valued



An Interview with Abdusalam A. Guseynov  

Epictetus, even Spinoza, but, as I already said, he did not like Aristotle and Hegel very much. Tolstoy’s main reproach to philosophy, especially the professorial philosophy contemporary to him, consisted in the fact that it does not give the proper meaning to the question that is at its center: “What am I to do?” Today this reproach sounds more relevant than it was in Tolstoy’s time (in order to verify this, it is sufficient, for example, to juxtapose Tolstoy’s understanding of consciousness with the modern interpretation of consciousness on the basis of cognitive sciences). This question, the understanding of its paramount place in the lives of human beings and in philosophy, is connected to the future of Tolstoy as a thinker and as a son of humanity.

Index A

adultery, 7, 53, 81, 85–89, 91, 143 “Alyosha the Pot,” xiv, 47–48 anarchism, 9, 19, 33, 44, 184, 185, 201, 222 Anna Karenina, 7, 17, 18, 19, 21, 26, 27, 64, 69, 113, 129, 135, 136, 137, 138–39, 142, 188, 201, 202, 230 anxiety, 116, 117, 118, 121, 155–56 Aristotle, xx, 161, 182–83, 213, 231, 232 Arnold, Matthew, 23–24 art, 10, 23, 37–38, 50, 54, 56, 58, 94, 95, 101–2, 104, 116–19, 140, 213, 214, 230, 231 Augustine, 69, 94, 132, 163–67, 168, 174 Aurelius, Marcus, 214, 215 authenticity, 152–53, 156–59


Bakhtin, Mikhail, 73 Bakunin, Mikhail, 9 Bartlett, Rosamund, xvii, 116–17 Bayle, Pierre, 78–80, 83, 88, 89–90 beauty, 21, 22, 23, 25, 85, 104, 121 Beethoven, Ludwig van, xviii, 93, 98–99, 103, 109, 111, 113–14, 116–25 Berdyaev, Nikolai, xvii, 53 Berlin, Isaiah, 67, 161–62, 177 Bethlehem, 136–39 Bible, xiii, 23, 24, 25, 55–61, 65, 69–70 Blagoi, Dmitry, 64, 75 Borodino, Battle of, xiii Bourignon, Antoinette, 89–91 Boyhood, 3 Briggs, Anthony, 93, 97 Brüsewitz, Henning von, 190–91, 192, 193 Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), xx, xxiv, 215, 216, 231 Buddhism, xvii, 53, 168, 213, 220 Bunyan, John, 54, 61, 64–67, 69 Bykov, Dmitry, 29


“Carthago delenda est,” 181–85, 187, 189–90, 192, 193, 195–204 Cato, Marcus Porcius (Cato the Elder), 180, 182, 187, 202–3 Chekhov, Anthon Pavlovich, 18, 20–25, 32, 67, 68, 70, 97 Chertkov, Vladimir Grigoryevich, 117, 181 Childhood, 3, 48, 64, 119–22 Chopin, Frédéric, 120 Christ, see Jesus Christ Christianity, xiv–xv, xix, xxiv, 24, 32–33, 40, 44, 46, 48–49, 53, 56–59, 64–67, 78–79, 89, 90, 110, 128–45, 162–67, 169, 177, 183, 184, 189, 196, 204, 216–17, 220, 223 Church, 19, 23, 30, 32, 55, 59–60, 67, 79, 110, 129–35, 138,140, 145, 163–64, 140, 145, 163–64, 168–70, 173, 174, 189, 216, 219–20, 221–23 The Circle of Reading, 215 civilization, xiii, xxii, 9, 97, 134, 191, 197, 213 compassion, 25, 214 confession, 37, 69, 94, 96, 99, 135 A Confession, 2, 3, 4, 18, 26, 45, 58 Confucius, xx, 215, 216, 231 Constantine the Great, 164 Cossacks, 38, 40 The Cossacks, 18, 141 crime, 40, 44, 68, 79, 86, 94, 95, 115, 172 Crimea, 3, 30, 186 culture, 21, 112, 113, 117, 125, 140, 214, 228


Darwin, Charles, 110, 214 Das, C. R., 176–77 death, xix, 1–2, 7, 10–13, 15, 43, 48, 56, 60, 62–63, 105, 123, 136, 137–38, 140, 142, 143, 149–52, 158–59, 204


Index The Death of Ivan Ilyich, xiii, xix, 10, 15, 149–59 deception, 98, 155–57, 199, 203 Defoe, Daniel, 54, 56, 70, 83 Descartes, René, xx, 231 destruction, 9, 26, 29, 181–82, 185, 190, 199 Dickens, Charles, 54, 55, 56, 67 Diderot, Denis, 80–81, 85–86 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich, xxi, xxiii, 54–55, 58, 65, 70, 72–73, 94–95, 98–99, 161, 162 Dragomirov, Mikhail, 192–96, 203 Dukhobors, 130, 131 dying, 11–13, 15, 150




education, 28, 57, 61, 114, 176, 195 Eikhenbaum, Boris, 60, 65 Eliot, George, 17, 54, 56, 57, 59, 112 Emerson, Caryl, 116, 119 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 214, 231 Epictetus, 214, 215, 232 Ershov, Andrei Ivanovich, 185–86 ethics, xix, 78, 166, 169, 204, 214, 215, 222


Fadiman, Clifton, 100 faith, xx, 17, 18, 22, 31, 54–56, 59, 66, 69, 105, 133, 140, 163, 168–69, 218–20, 224–25, bad, 153–58 family, 7–10, 39, 46, 66–68, 105, 125, 128–29, 132–40, 142, 144, 169, 230 Family Happiness, 123 famine, 21 Father Sergius, xiv fear of death, xiii, 10–11 Fet, Afanasy, 114 Field, John, 119–20 For Every Day, 215 Francis of Assisi, xx, 215, 231 freedom, 33, 47, 57, 70, 153, 155–56, 171, 173, 185, 188–89, 202, 203, 223, 229


Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma,” 20, 172, 176–77, 180, 203, 205, 224 Garnett, Constance, 19, 26, 27 God Sees the Truth, but Waits, 37–38, 40, 42–49 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 118, 161 Gogol, Nikolai Vasil’evich, 1, 7, 54, 55, 61 Golgotha, 136–39, 141, 142 Gorky, Maksim, 101 Gustafson, Richard, xv, xvii, 53, 116

Hadji Murat, 10, 13–15, 70 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 162, 200–1, 213, 231 Heidegger, Martin, 149, 153–59, 231 history, 21, 134, 139, 161–62, 166, 169, 175, 197, 200–2, 229 holy fool, 6, 48, 53, 69, 101 Homer, 40, 62 Hugo, Victor, 64, 67 humanity, xx, 10, 39, 46, 98, 145, 185, 187, 226–29, 231 Hume, David, 231 immorality, 4, 12, 47, 49, 58 inauthenticity, 153, 156 individuality, 39, 50, 140, 152 irrationality, 155, 156, 219 Irvine, Lyn, 16–17, 27


Jahn, Gary R., 43 James, Henry, 25–26 Jesus Christ, xiii, xx, 20, 22, 25, 33, 45, 55, 57, 59, 65–70, 77, 85, 87, 91. 98, 105, 136–38, 163–72, 174, 177, 200, 215–18, 220–23, 226, 228, 231 Johnson, Samuel, 18, 182, 200, 202


Kant, Immanuel, 168, 169, 201, 214, 215, 231 Katz, Michael R., 111–12 King, Martin Luther, Jr., 176, 180, 203, 224 Kingdom of God, xxi, 45, 161, 171, 177, 222, 226, 228 The Kingdom of God Is within You, 19–20, 23, 45–46, 180, 192, 197, 221, 226 The Kreutzer Sonata, 10, 21, 25, 44, 46, 77, 93–103, 109–11, 114–16, 118, 124, 125, 128–33, 137–39, 142, 144, 162 The Kreutzer Sonata (Beethoven), 102–3, 111, 118


Lao-tzu, xx, xxiv, 215, 231 lie, xxi, 98, 154, 155, 158, 217, 218, 222 life, xv, 2, 5, 10–12, 14, 20, 39, 44, 48, 50, 66, 99–100, 101–5, 112, 123, 132, 136, 140, 151–52, 156, 158, 161–63, 168, 175–78, 197, 198, 204, 205, 212, 215, 218–19, 222, 226, 227, 230 meaning of, xii–xiii,

Index xxi, 5, 9, 49, 114, 170, 172, 174, 177, 202, 214, 219, 221, 224–25, 229 Livy (Titus Livius), 182, 202 love, xiii–xvi, xxii–xxiii, 8, 20–21, 22, 26, 30, 33, 43, 46, 50, 54–56, 66, 101–5, 133, 141, 143–45, 167, 170, 174, 185, 196, 214–18, 221 “Lucerne,” 15 lust, 5, 85, 89, 90, 130, 199, 222 Luther, Martin, 231


machines, xvi–xvii, 1, 2, 222 madness, 91, 94, 99–105, divine, 101–5 Makovitsky, Dushan Petrovich, 215 Mandeville, Bernard, 79–83 Mann, Thomas, 101–4 marriage, xviii, 79, 81–2, 93, 96–98, 105, 109–11, 129–36, 139, 143, 145 Master and Man, 48 Maude, Aylmer, xv, 19, 27, 98, 117, 120, 121, 201 Maude, Louise, 19, 27 Maupasant, Guy de, 197 McLean, Hugh, 43, 68 meaning of life, xii–xiii, xxi, 5, 9, 49, 114, 170, 172, 174, 177, 202, 214, 219, 221, 224–25, 229 Medzhibovskaya, Inessa, 64 “Memoirs of a Madman,” 11, 64 Merezhkovsky, Dmitry, 94, 95–96, 130, 139–45 metaphysics, 44, 45, 115, 144, 155, 178, 201, 213 Mohammed, xx, 231 Molière ( Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), xvi, 1, 7 Møller, Peter Ulf, 110–11 Moltke, Helmuth von, 191, 192 Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de, 183, 199, 204 morality, 81, 85, 93, 96, 103, 110, 111, 114, 164, 213, 225, 226 Moroz, Vladimir Alekseyevich, 30–31, 33 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 112, 120, 123 Murdoch, Iris, 104 music, 54, 78, 95–103, 109–25


Napoleon Bonaparte, 63–64, 183, 193, 200–1, 213 New Testament, xiii, 58, 59, 69, 98, 130, 136, 138, 223 Niebuhr, Reinhold, 163, 166–68, 170–72, 174 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 140, 204, 231

Nikanor, Archbishop of Kherson and Odessa, 131 nonresistance to evil, xv–xvi, 14, 21, 176, 216–17, 220, 222–23, 226, 228, 230 nonviolence, xx, xxii, 32–33, 172, 174–78, 180–89, 203–5, 221–24, 227, 228 novels, English, 53–70


Old Testament, 58, 136 Orthodox Church, 30, 32, 57–58, 61, 70, 110, 129–35, 140


pacifism, 27, 32, 164, 166, 175, 180–81, 194, 195 paganism, xix, xxiv, 48, 128, 130, 135, 137–41, 143, 144, 145 Parmenides, xx, 168, 231 Pascal, Blaise, 87–91, 204, 215 passion, 2, 7–8, 9, 25, 42, 43, 62, 79–80, 88, 95, 97, 103, 132, 135, 139, 143 The Path of Life, 215 Paul, St., 8, 219 peasants, xx, 6, 28, 47, 48, 59, 69, 163, 174 Pelagius, 164–65, 171, 178 personality, 1, 7, 10, 12, 25, 42–43, 44, 45, 48, 104, 143, 166, 169, 173, 175, 177, 212, 214, 216, 218, 220, 228–29 philosophy, 28, 85, 104, 113, 114–15, 132, 142, 155, 162, 168, 176, 178, 212–16, 225, 231–32 Piggot, Patrick, 119–20 pilgrim, 54–55, 63–66, 68–69 Plato, 103–4, 161, 215, 231 pleasure, 46, 88, 104, 121, 140, 183, 186 Pobedonostsev, Konstantin Petrovich, 131 poverty, 5, 6, 22, 29, 47, 172, 173, 176 The Power of Darkness, 44, 47 “Prisoner of the Caucasus,” 37–42, 45, 46, 50 property, 6, 9, 20, 28 Punic Wars, 182–83, 199, 202 Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeevich, 1, 7, 54–55, 63–65, 70


rationality, 4, 103, 155, 224 reason, 21, 43, 45, 47, 49, 101, 155, 162, 164–65, 167–69, 171, 178, 185, 187, 188, 212, 214, 218–19, 220, 224–25, 229 Resurrection, 25, 42, 57, 60, 62, 67–68, 70, 100, 101, 198 Rozanov, Vasily, 128–48



Index Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 37, 46, 53, 58, 94, 212–13, 214 Rubinstein, Anton, 113 Ruskin, John, 172–73, 214 Russia, 18, 33, 40, 53–58, 61–63, 69–70, 101, 109–117, 124–25, 128–40, 144–45, 173, 177, 192–96, 201


Samara, 1, 32 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 153–56, 158, 162, 168 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 115–17, 121–22, 212, 213–14, 215 Schweitzer, Albert, 224 science, 162, 163, 168, 189, 227 self-deception, 155–57 sensuality, 4, 84, 98, 113 serfs, serfdom, 173 The Sermon on the Mount, xiii, 19, 24, 53, 77, 85, 87, 90, 91, 171, 187, 198, 200, 216, 220, 222–23 Serov, Aleksander Nikolayevich, 124 Sevastopol, 30, 64, 67, 185, 190 “Sevastopol in May,” 60, 62–63 Shakespeare, William, 1, 7, 62, 102, 213 Shaw, Emily, 114–15 Shestov, Lev Isaakovich, 44–45 Socrates, 103, 168, 171, 214 spirit, 10, 49, 57, 64, 139, 141, 142, 143 spirituality, xiii, xv–xvi, xx–xxiv, 5, 11, 17, 18, 20, 22–27, 30–32, 47, 48, 54, 58, 64, 97, 98, 105, 111, 122–23, 128, 130, 132, 135, 138, 139–40, 162, 177, 185, 189, 203, 216, 219, 222, 223, 227, 230 Steiner, George, 93 Sterne, Laurence, 43, 54, 56, 61 Stockham, Alice Bunker, 117 Stoics, 47, 48, 202 Strakhov, Nikolai Nikolayevich, 65, 111 suffering, 6, 44–45, 62, 105, 121, 122, 138, 140, 151, 197, 214, 221 suicide, 7, 8, 47, 216, 230 Siutaev, Vasily Kirillovich, xvii, 53, 216 Suvorin, Aleksei Sergeevich, 20, 21–22 Swift, Jonathan, 25


Taoism, xiii, xv, 163, 220 Tchaikovsky, Piotr Il’ich, 102, 113, 117

technology, 199, 218, 225 Thackeray, William Makepeace, xvii, 54, 56, 62–64 Thoreau, Henry David, xx, 175, 180, 214, 231 Tolstaya, Sofia Andreevna (née Bers), 110, 111–12, 118, 137 transcendence, 55, 105, 132, 145, 156 Turgenev, Ivan Sergeevich, 3, 12, 18, 19, 21, 25, 58, 59 Turing, Alan, 16–17, 27 Tyndale, William, 56, 59–60, 70


vanity, 60, 62–64 violence, xxii, 14, 26, 27, 29, 32–33, 165–66, 174–77, 185–90, 194, 196–200, 203, 204–5, 213, 214, 216–18, 220, 222–23, 228 Vogüé, Eugène-Melchior de, 54, 191, 192, 197, 200 Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), 199, 202


wanderer, 6, 18, 53, 54, 64–66, 69, 70 war, xxiii, 5, 10, 13, 16, 20–22, 26, 27, 30, 33, 40, 104, 163–66, 168, 169, 174, 181–83, 185–86, 188, 190–92, 196–99, 202–5, 222 War and Peace, xii. 17–23, 24, 26, 27, 37, 47, 63, 64, 66, 69, 93, 100, 114, 119, 129, 136, 137, 138, 139, 142, 162, 188–89, 192–93, 196, 201, 230 What I Believe, 18, 43, 180 What Is Art?, xvii, 37, 53, 56, 118, 198 What Then Must We Do?, 65 Wilson, A. N., 77, 79 wisdom, 15, 30, 47, 48, 62, 104, 203, 215, 216 woman, as “dangerous object,” 77–84, 86–89 Woolf, Virginia, 16, 27


Yasnaya Polyana, 7, 18, 58, 64, 116, 128, 130, 132, 133, 141, 145, 183, 227 Young, Dudley, 104 Youth, 3


Zalambani, Maria, 110 Zola, Émile, 47, 197