Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tolstoy's Resurrection

As the editor of Tolstoy’s Resurrection points out, Tolstoy published this novel late in life, and did so for the money.  He had long given up writing, lived as a simple peasant like existence, and gave away the royalties to his books.  Resurrection was written, or more correctly updated for publication from an older manuscript to support the emigration of a “heretic” Russian religious sect to Canada.

Hence Resurrection, definitely a Tolstoy production, is a late work. The mastery of the form of the novel that we find in War and Peace and Anna Karenina is not present in this book.  Yet despite this, Resurrection is a fascinating cluttered, confusing novel; it is full of long ruminations on human nature, God, and government.  So intense are these debates, that they are  appealing.  The dark vision of Russia this novel provides is unflinching. In its  depictions of all social ills, corruption, crime, avarice, vice, economic injustice, indifference and inhumanity, the reader can see the roots of the Russian Revolution.  The society of Resurrection could not continue as it was without a bloody upheaval.  It was simply too hopeless and dark a place .

So I imagine an older, shaggy Tolstoy, brimming with rage over the conditions in Russia, more than slightly misanthropic as a result, pouring out his social and religious theories and ideas while composing this novel.  If this is kept in mind, then reading this novel becomes less of a chore and more of a delight.  Here was an author with nothing more to prove; he used this novel for his social propaganda, with rich results.

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