Physiological Particularities of Tolstoi Characters
Russians tourists in Europe are weird.
We conducted two integrated randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials on Anna Karenina and War and Peace, looking for significant peripheral nervous system deviations. Central nervous system particularities, due to the complexity of obtaining reliable results, will be addressed in later trials. Placebo is established as an average mishmash of European XIX-century litterature, excluding Romantics and Emily Brontë.
Response rates at week 12 prove:
- hypertrophy of tear ducts in adult males
- hyperactivity of SNS and SNPS in facial terminals account for inordinate amounts of blushing and turning pale
- significant hepatic degeneration, probably alcoholic
- increased digestive activity. Noted capacity of consuming two entire chickens for breakfast.
Tolstoy characters belong to a different version of human beings.
I was planning to write a review along those lines- flippant, flimsy and inaccurate, because I haven’t found as much evidence of the physiological hokum as I remember from Anna. Perhaps I remember it wrong, or perhaps Levin was more prone to it than the characters of War and Peace. Anyway- I have four major things against Tolstoy:
First, he resents women for the power that he perceives they have over men. He’s mostly a forgiving soul, but he can’t help himself. Elena over Pierre, Anna on Levin, have an unfair influence that barely fails, and occasionally succeeds, to make their lives derail. It’s a dumb force. And unfortunately, the parallel doesn’t apply. I’m not begging for Tolstoy to have a go at female sexuality, but I do think that if anyone was subject to unfair powers, it was the women.
Second, I don’t trust the fact that his “seeker-characters” (Andrei, Levin, Pierre, and Ivan Illich, for that matter) always find the answers they were looking for through sudden revelations and epiphanies. It’s a religious concept. I’m not a fan. They always over think the questions and rarely the answers. I would have it the other way around.
Third, I find the lot of them enormously awkward. Even the handsome ne’er do wells are hard-pressed to express themselves with style. Between sexes, certainly (the felp-declaration, the letter written by Dolokhov have enough comedic elements in themselves), but even the relationships between men and women separately are mostly inharmonious. They must be Russians: they certainly aren’t french. My french sensibilities would require someone sometime somewhere to be smooth. Please. Just a little.
Four and last, the historic considerations. They haven’t aged well. I’m doing my best to ignore the existence of the epilogue- for one thing, it’s awfully reiterative, and conceptually it can be attacked on practically every sentence.
But Tolstoy blew my mind. Why? Sincerely: it was the landscape. May the gods of literature forgive me, I’m a Tolstoy tourist. I’ve got this book all wrong. I loved the war scenes, the dancing scenes, the pre-ball preparation scenes. I loved every bit in which noone was talking. I loved the bear coats, the horses, the gambling parties, the vodka, the banquets in the club, Moscow burning, the flight from the french, the march of the prisoners. I knew before reaching the middle that I had already gone through my favourite scene; I didn’t think the hunting party with the Rostovs, and the balalaïka that follows could be surpassed. See what I mean? I’m a Tolstoy tourist, clapping at folklore and local colour. I should shut my mouth, go read a Baedecker, and leave literature to people who want meanings. Me? A pretty picture! Wo-ho!