Monday, August 1, 2011

Not Very Good at All

The collection of stories in Tolstoy’s Divine and Human were picked for their connection and concern with political themes.  Unfortunately, most of the stories are a bit stiff, obvious, and lack the fine touch of Tolstoy’s greatest short fiction. 
“What for?” deals with the subjugation of the Polish aristocracy under Russian imperialism.  The long story “Divine and Human” with the fate of failed revolutionaries and political disappointment  The final story in this slim collection, “Berries” appears to not deal with politics at all, but through the subtle use of the image of under ripe berries, actually is all about the class conflict.

Without an obvious spiritual dimension, these stories don’t carry Tolstoy to the grand heights of his more fully realized fiction.  In Divine and Human the stories are interesting, in that here we see Tolstoy the social reformer without any guise, but that is as far as the interest goes; these stories are good, but with consideration alongside the rest of Tolstoy’s oeuvre, this means they are not very good at all.

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