why I love Tolstoy

From Anna Karenina
written by Leo Tolstoy
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Kitty & Levin
‘If I can be forgiven, forgive me,’ her eyes said, ‘I am so happy.’
‘I hate everybody, including you and myself,’ his eyes answered, and he picked up his hat. (53)

“…and how Vronsky looked at her father with friendly perplexity, trying but failing to understand how and why it was possible to have an unfriendly attitude towards him…” (53)

“If he could have heard what her parents said that evening, if he could have taken the family’s point of view and learned that Kitty would be unhappy if he did not marry her, he would have been very surprised and would not have believed it. He could not have believed that something which gave such great and good pleasure to him, and above all to her, could be bad.” (57)

“‘What’s this about?’ asked Stepan Arkadyich, coming out of his study and addressing his wife.
By his tone Kitty and Anna both understood at once that a reconciliation has taken place.
‘I want to move Anna down here, but the curtains must be changed. No one else knows how to do it, I must do it myself,’ Dolly replied, turning to him.
‘God knows, are they completely reconciled?’ thought Anna, hearing her cold and calm tone.
‘Oh, enough, Dolly, you keep making difficulties,’ said her husband. ‘Well, I’ll do it, if you like. . .’
‘Yes,’ thought Anna, ‘they must be reconciled.’
‘I know how you’ll do it,’ Dolly answered, ‘you’ll tell Matvei to do something impossible, then you’ll leave, and he’ll get it all wrong’ – and a habitual mocking smile wrinkled Dolly’s lips as she said it.
‘Complete, complete reconciliation, complete,’ thought Anna, ‘thank God!’ and rejoicing that she had been the cause of it, she went over to Dolly and kissed her.” (74-5)

“Levin recalled how, during Nikolai’s period of piety, fasts, monks, church services, when he had sought help from religion as a bridle for his passionate nature, not only had no one supported him, but everyone, including Levin himself, had laughed at him. They had teased him, calling him ‘Noah’ and ‘the monk’; and when he broke loose, no one helped him, but they all turned away with horror and loathing.
Levin felt that in his soul, in the very bottom of his soul, his brother Nikolai, despite the ugliness of his life, was not more in the wrong than those who despised him.” (85)

Laska (dog)
“The pointer bitch Laska also ran out, almost knocking Kuzma off his feet, and rubbed herself against Levin’s knees, stood on her hind legs and wanted but did not dare to put her front paws on his chest.” (93)
“To go out with my wife and guests to meet the herd. . . My wife will say: ‘Kostya and I tended this calf like a child.’ ‘How can it interest you so?’ a guest will say. ‘Everything that interests him interests me.’” (96)

“Old Laska, who had not yet quite digested the joy of his arrival and had gone to run around the yard and bark, came back wagging her tail, bringing with her the smell of outdoors, went over to him and thrust her head under his hand, making pitiful little whines and demanding to be patted.” (96)

“I’m just the same!” he said to himself, “just the same! Never mind . . . All is well.” (attempting to balance his scales with a broken heart.) (96)

“Generally it seemed to Dolly that she (Anna) was not in calm spirits, but in that state of anxiety Dolly knew so well in herself, which comes not without reason and most often covers up displeasure with oneself.” (97)

“So that, in spite of his solitude, or else owing to it, his life was extremely full…” (152)

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” (153)

“After admiring that year’s young, which were exceptionally good – the early calves were as big as a peasant’s cow, Pava’s three-month-old daughter was the size of a yearling – Levin gave orders for a trough to be brought out and hay to be put in the racks. But it turned out that the racks, made in the autumn and left for winter in the unused pen, were broken. He sent for the carpenter, who by his order ought to have been working on the thresher. But it turned out that the carpenter was repairing the harrows, which ought to have been repaired before Lent. That was extremely vexing to Levin. What vexed him was the repetition of the eternal slovenliness of farm work, which he had fought against with all his strength for so many years. The racks, as he learned, not needed in winter, had been taken to the work horses’ stable and there had got broken, since they had been lightly made, for calves. Besides that, it also turned out that the harrows and all the agricultural tools, which he had ordered to be looked over and repaired back in the winter, and for which purpose three carpenters had been hired, were still not repaired, and the harrows were being repaired when it was already time for the harrowing. Levin sent for the steward, but at once went himself to look for him. The steward, radiant as everything else that day, was coming from the threshing floor in his fleece-trimmed coat, snapping a straw in his hands.” (154)

“Maybe it’s because I rejoice over what I have and don’t grieve over what I don’t have,” said Levin, remembering Kitty. (162)

“You don’t accept that one can like sweet rolls when one has a daily ration of bread – in your opinion, it’s a crime.” (162)

When Stepan visits, Levin is anxious to hear news of Kitty. At first he doesn’t want to discuss it, then he wants to and won’t allow himself to ask. Instead he asked Stepan, “’Well and how are things with you?’ thinking how wrong it was on his part to think only of himself.” (162) But just like Levin, he finally asks in an awkward way at an inopportune time. “‘Stiva!’ Levin said suddenly and unexpectedly. ‘Why don’t you tell me whether your sister-in-law got married or when she’s going to?'” (165)

“While they were saying this, Laska, her ears pricked up, kept glancing at the sky and then reproachfully at them. ‘Found a find time to talk!’ she thoughts. ‘And there’s one coming. . . There it is, all right. They’ll miss it. . .’ thought Laska.”

I feel that the hunting scenes are pretty accurate of men together, how they relate and are easily in the moment. When Levin learns that Kitty is in poor health and in danger of dying, the conversation is cut short by the appearance of a bird, which they shoot together, and while retrieving the bird, he has an uneasy feeling, but doesn’t recognize it immediately. “Ah, yes, what was that unpleasant thing?” he recollected. “Yes, Kitty’s sick…Nothing to be done, very sorry,“ he thought. (165) Levin is pretty good a self-correcting thoughts and deceiving himself when he feels reality isn’t lining up with his ideals.

Alexei Alexandrovich
“But he did not want to see anything, and did not see anything.” (205)

Kitty’s parents
“The prince and the princess held completely opposite views on life abroad. The princess found everything wonderful and, despite her firm position in Russian society, made efforts abroad to resemble a European lady – which she was not, being a typical Russian lady – and therefore had to pretend, which was somewhat awkward for her. The prince, on the contrary, found everything abroad vile and European life a burden, kept to his Russian habits and deliberately tried to show himself as less of a European than he really was.” (227)

Levin & Sergei
“‘Very pleased. We mowed the whole meadow. And what an old man I made friends with there! Such a delightful man, you’d never imagine it!”

‘Well, so you’re pleased with your day. And so am I. First, I solved two chess problems, one of them a very nice one – it opens with a pawn. I’ll show you. And then I was thinking about our conversation yesterday.’

‘What? Our conversation yesterday?’ said Levin, blissfully narrowing his eyes and puffing after he finished dinner, quite unable to recall what this yesterday’s conversation had been.

“I find that you’re partly right. our disagreement consists in this, that you take personal interest as the motive force, while I maintain that every man of a certain degree of education ought to be interested in the common good. You may be right that materially interested activity would be desirable. Generally, your nature is much too primesautiere (impulsive) as the French say; you want either passionate, energetic activity or nothing.’

Levin listened to his brother, understood decidedly nothing and did not want to understand. He was afraid only that his brother might ask him a question which would make it clear that he had heard nothing.

‘So there, my good friend,’ said Sergei Ivanovich, touching his shoulder.

‘Yes, of course. Anyhow, I don’t insist,’ Levin replied with a childish, guilty smile. ‘What was it I was arguing about?” he thought. ‘Of course, I’m right, and he’s right, and everything’s splendid. Only I have to go to the office and give orders.’ He stood up, stretching himself and smiling.

Sergei Ivanovich also smiled.” (258)

“Hard as Stepan Arkadyich tried to be a solicitous father and husband, he never could remember that he had a wife and children.” (260)

“She had lived in the country in childhood, and had been left with the impression that the country was salvation from all city troubles, that life there, though not elegant (Dolly was easily reconciled to that), was cheap and comfortable: everything was there, everything was cheap, everything could be had, and it was good for the children. But now, coming to the country as mistress, she saw that it was not at all what she had thought.” (260)

“‘No honour, no heart, no religion – a depraved woman! I always knew it, and always saw it, though I tried to deceive myself out of pity for her,’ he said to himself. And indeed it seemed to him that he had always seen it; he recalled details of their past life which before had not seemed to him to be anything bad – now these details showed clearly that she had always been depraved. ‘I made a mistake in binding my life to hers, but there is nothing bad in this mistake, and therefore I cannot be unhappy. I am not the guilty one,’ he said to himself, ‘she is. But I have nothing to do with her. For me she doesn’t exist . . .’

All that was going to befall her and their son, towards whom his feeling had changed just as it had towards her, ceased to concern him. The only thing that concerned him now was the question of how to shake off in the best, most decent, most convenient for him, and therefore most just way, the mud she had spattered on him in her fall, and to continue on his path of active, honest and useful life. [Here he thinks of other great men with unfaithful wives.] ‘Granted, some unreasonable ridicule falls on these people, but I never saw anything but misfortune in it, and I always sympathized with them,’ he said to himself, though it was not true he had never sympathized with misfortunes of that sort, but had valued himself the higher, the more frequent were the examples of women being unfaithful to their husbands.” (279)

“His official activity, of great importance in his eyes even before, now presented itself as especially important.” (281)

“He read the letter over and remained pleased with it, especially with having remembered to enclose money; there was not a cruel word, not a reproach, but no lenience either. Above all, there was a golden bridge for return. Having folded the letter, smoothed it with a massive ivory paper-knife, and put money in the envelope, with the pleasure always aroused in him by the handling of his well-arranged writing accessories, he rang.” (284)

“Only most recently, in regard to his relations with Anna, had he begun to feel that his code of rules did not fully define all circumstances, and to envisage future difficulties and doubts in which he could no longer find a guiding thread.” (305)

“‘Done,’ replied Vronsky, smiling with his eyes alone and twirling the tips of his moustache carefully as if, after the order he had brought to his affairs, any too bold and quick movement might destroy it.” (307)

“Having once decided to himself that he was happy in his love and was sacrificing his ambition to it, or at least having taken this role upon himself, Vronsky could no longer feel either envy for Serpukhovskoy, or vexation with him for not visiting him first on coming to the regiment.” (307)

“The smell of brilliantine on his moustache seemed especially enjoyable to him in that fresh air.” (313)

“But she was not listening to his words, she was reading his thoughts in the expression of his face. She could not have known that his expression reflected the first thought that occurred to him – that a duel was now inevitable. The thought of a duel had never entered her head and therefore she explained this momentary expression of sternness differently. Having received her husband’s letter, she already knew in the depths of her soul that everything would remain as before, that she would be unable to scorn her position, to leave her son and unite herself with her lover. The morning spent at Princess Tverskoy’s had confirmed her still more in that. But all the same this meeting was extremely important for her. She hoped it would change their situation and save her. If at this news he should say to her resolutely, passionately, without a moment’s hesitation; ‘Abandon everything and fly away with me!’ – she would leave her son and go with him. But the news did not produce in him what she expected: he only seemed insulted by something. . . . She understood at once that he had already thought it over to himself. She knew that whatever he might tell her, he would not say everything he thought. And she understood that her last hope had been disappointed. This was not what she had expected.” (315)

“Levin saw that he was not going to find a connection between this man’s life and his thoughts. Evidently it made absolutely no difference to him where his reasoning led him; he needed only the process of reasoning itself. And it was unpleasant for him when the process of reasoning led him to a dead end. That alone he disliked and avoided, turning the conversation to something pleasantly cheerful.” (337)

“Besides, this sister-in-law with her neckline produced in him a feeling akin to shame and repentance for having done something bad.” (339)

“And what he saw then, he afterwards never saw again.” (403)

“Sergei Ivanovich was in the best of spirits and enjoyed Katavasov’s originality. Katavasov, feeling that his originality was appreciated and understood, flaunted it.” (443)

“Levin did not want to deprive him of the illusion that there could be anything good anywhere without her, and so he said nothing.” (444)

“Vronsky meanwhile, despite the full realization of what he had desired for so long, was not fully happy. He soon felt that the realization of his desire had given him only a grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires.” (465)

“And pity in her woman’s soul produced none of the horror and squeamishness it did in her husband, but a need to act, to find out all the details of his condition and help with them.” (493)

“But Kitty obviously did not think about herself and had no time to; she thought about him, because she knew something, and it all turned out well.” (496)

“She had in her that excitement and quickness of judgement that appear in men before a battle, a struggle, in dangerous and decisive moments of life, those moments when once and for all a man shows his worth and that his whole past has not been in vain but has been a preparation for those moments.” (497)

“He said, addressing God: ‘If You exist, make it so that this man is healed (for that very thing has been repeated many times), and You will save him and me.’” (499)

“At almost the same time that his wife had left him, the bitterest of events for a man in the service had also befallen Alexei Alexandrovich – the cessation of his upward movement. This cessation was an accomplished fact and everyone saw it clearly, but Alexei Alexandrovich himself was not yet aware that his career was over. Whether it was the confrontation with Stremov, or the misfortune with his wife, or simply that Alexei Alexandrovich had reached the limit destined for him, it became obvious to everyone that year that his official career had ended. He still occupied an important post, was a member of many commissions and committees, but he was an entirely spent man from whom nothing more was expected. Whatever he said, whatever he proposed, he was listened to as though it had long been known and was the very thing that was not needed.” (515)

“‘First of all, don’t rock, please,’ said Alexei Alexandrovich. ‘And second, what is precious is not the reward but the work. And I wish you to understand that. If you work and study in order to get a reward, the work will seem hard to you; but when you work,’ Alexei Alexandrovich said, recalling how he had sustained himself by a sense of duty that morning in the dull work of signing a hundred and eighteen papers, ‘if you love the work, you will find your reward in that.’

Seryozha’s eyes, shining with tenderness and gaiety, went dull and lowered under his father’s gaze. This was the same long-familiar tone in which his father always addressed him and which he had learned to fall in with. His father always talked to him – so he felt – as if he were addressing some imaginary boy, one of those that exist in books, but quite unlike him. And he always tried, when with his father, to pretend he was the book boy.

‘You understand that, I hope?’ said his father.

‘Yes, papa,’ Seryozha replied, pretending to be the imaginary boy.” (524-5)

“A man can spend several hours sitting cross-legged in the same position if he knows that nothing prevents him from changing it; but if he knows that he has to sit with his legs crossed like that, he will get cramps, his legs will twitch and strain towards where he would like to stretch them.” (528)

Sergi & Varenka
“Sergei Ivanovich sighed and made no answer. He was vexed that she had begun talking about mushrooms(…)

He also repeated to himself the words in which he wished to express his proposal; but instead of those words, by some unexpected consideration that occurred to him, he suddenly asked:

‘And what is the difference between a white boletus and a birch boletus?’

Varenka’s lips trembled as she answered:

‘There’s hardly any difference in the caps, but in the feet.’

And as soon as these words were spoken, both he and she understood that the matter was ended, and that what was to have been said would not be said, and their excitement, which had reached its highest point just before then, began to subside.” (564-5)

“All that day she had had the feeling that she was playing in the theatre with actors better than herself and that her poor playing spoiled the whole thing.” (634)

“Darya Alexandrovna did not object. She suddenly felt she had become so distant from Anna that there were questions between them which they would never agree on and of which it was better not to speak.” (639)

“Is this life? I am not living, but waiting for an event, which is continually put off and put off.”
(different translation – 704)

“There are no conditions to which a person cannot grow accustomed, especially if he sees that everyone around him lives in the same way.” (706)

“He was going into the drawing room when he suddenly heard a pitiful, instantly fading moan from the bedroom. He stopped and for a long time could not understand.

‘Yes, it’s she,’ he said to himself and, clutching his head, he ran down the stairs.

‘Lord, have mercy, forgive us, help us!’ he repeated words that somehow suddenly came to his lips. And he, an unbeliever, repeated these words not just with his lips. Now, in that moment, he knew that neither all his doubts, not the impossibility he knew in himself of believing by means of reason, hindered him in the least from addressing God. It all blew off his soul like dust. To whom was he to turn if not to Him in whose hands he felt himself, his soul and his love to be?” (709)

from the notes section
Part Seven
24 “Apostle James: Oblonsky quotes from James 2:26: ‘For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.’ This teaching seems to be a contradiction of St Paul’s notion of ‘justification by faith’ (see Romans 4, Galatians 3), so much so that Martin Luther, who (like Karenin and Countess Lydia Ivanovna) preached justification by faith, wanted to have the Epistle of James removed from the Bible. The two apparently contradictory assertions are in fact complementary.” (836)

“Two more minutes went by while the doctor put his boots on, and another two minutes while he put his clothes on and combed his hair.

‘Pyotr Dmitrich!’ Levin began again in a pitiful voice; but just then the doctor came out, dressed and combed. ‘These people have no shame,’ thought Levin, ‘combing his hair while we perish!’” (711)

“‘Let me be! Remember, don’t remember . . . What business is it of his? Why should I remember? Leave me alone!’ he said, not to the tutor now, but to the whole world.” (728)

“What was he looking for in me? Not love so much as the satisfaction of his vanity.” (762)

“And so they parted, neither of them having voiced his opinion.” (777)

“Reason could not discover love for the other, because it’s unreasonable.” (797)

“It seemed to him that his relations with all people would now be different.” (801)

“He was glad of the chance to be alone, in order to recover from reality, which had already brought his mood down so much.” (803)

“. . . Levin, despite his disappointment in the change that was supposed to take place in him never ceased joyfully sensing the fullness of his heart.” (812)


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