Sunday, 18 August 2013

On "Resurrection"

Part 2 chapter 19. At this point I must admit, I've been wishing the book to end soon, and considering putting it down. I have about 2/5 left. 
When I started reading the book, it was wonderful. Especially the chapters on the court, on Katyusha's life, on Nekhlyudov's time with her and on his changes, etc. "Tolstoy is Tolstoy", I exclaimed. And I wondered why Tolstoy was linked with "War and peace" and "Anna Karenina" only and "Resurrection" was never mentioned. 
Now it's understandable. It is clear that at this point in life, Tolstoy was more concerned about political and social questions than creating a great fiction work, and therefore in "Resurrection", was focusing more on religious, political and social themes than aesthetic quality. He was being so didactic that, I'm afraid, he didn't realise so many parts in this potentially extraordinary novel were repetitive and redundant and tiresome, sometimes to the point of being unbearable. Nekhlyudov, the mouthpiece of Tolstoy, whom I would call the 'next stage' of Levin in "Anna Karenina", sounds like a communist, or at least a socialist, an idealist- I, personally, feel irritated by his thoughts and actions, due to my anti-communism, but am somehow able to understand his views by considering the inequality and injustice in Russia at the time (as well as other countries in the 19th century). But now I start to grow impatient with the way Tolstoy describes all people of the nobility and the church as being artificial and hypocritical and deceitful and deluded and pretentious and shallow etc. except Nekhlyudov, and all the peasants and prisoners to be nice and honest and reliable and oppressed and suffering. So while there were lots of things taking place at the beginning, over the last chapters there have been the same things going on- Nekhlyudov meets an upper-class person to ask about Katyusha's case or those of some other prisoners, this person pretends to be nice and good and behaves hypocritically and Nekhlyudov feels immensely disgusted but has to repress his contempt in order to finish his work, then, having done, quickly leaves this person and starts thinking about how artificial and nauseating this person is, then afterwards Nekhlyudov meets another upper-class person, who is also hypocritical and pretentious- in a different way, and the same things happen again, and after that Nekhlyudov meets another upper-class person, and so on and so forth. 
"Anna Karenina" is a masterpiece because it is no longer a work of fiction- it is life. All the people in it feel very real. Among the upper-class people described there are hypocrites but there are also good-natured and kind people. Though we can read Levin's thoughts, who also feels alienated from his own class, the narrative is flawless and we break from it from time to time by the parallel narrative about Anna, which is also perfect. In "Anna Karenina", Tolstoy tries to understand his characters and wants us to also understand his characters and why they do what they do, instead of condemning them, judging them, criticising them. 
And it is where "Anna Karenina" succeeds that "Resurrection" fails. 
[Surprisingly enough, as it turns out, Tolstoy noted in his diary
"Completed "Resurrection". Not good, uncorrected, hurried, but it is done with and I'm no longer interested."]

It must be added, however, part 1 of this novel is impeccable. What I may do now is to be considered, but I believe I will come back to part 1 many times in the future. It's flawless. 

Update at 11.45pm: 
As written in this 1 post, "Resurrection" may be seen as a kind of bible. Or, you know, a kind of moral book which you can carry around and reread several times in life. It just fails to be up to the standards of Tolstoy's previous book as a work of art.  

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