Adjectives on the Typewriter

she moves her words like a prizefighter

18 April 2009

Rob, Lie, Kill

I haven't done much reading lately, much to my chagrin, but when have I've ever been able to sate the reading bug? I am making a concentrated effort to change that though, and now that I'm no longer in school I really have no excuse for lazy reading habits. My most recent "conquest" is Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and while I'm proud to have completed such a significant (not to mention hefty!) piece of literature, I certainly can't boast about the 4+ months it took me to get through it. Hopefully I'll show a bit more concentration with the next few books I pick up...though I may not be able to proceed directly to another Russian novel as I had originally planned (it's a genre which I have neglected in the past, again to my regret).

Just one note on the quotes: somehow they all come from the very end of the book. I hope that's only incidental and not an indicator that I somehow didn't pay attention to the rest of the work. Though I'm inclined to doubt the latter since I read approximately the first half in the summer of 2006 and re-read the entire piece this time around, thus doubling up on 400 or so pages. Then again, perhaps a third reading is in order to grasp the full weight of Tolstoy's writing.

Regardless, without further ado, and in order of appearance, I give you quotations.

     "Understanding clearly for the first time that for every man and for himself nothing lay ahead but suffering, death and eternal oblivion, [Levin] decided that it was impossible to live that way, that he had either to explain his life so that it did not look like the wicked mockery of some devil, or shoot himself [...]
     'What would I be and how would I live my life, if I did not have those beliefs, did not know that one should live for God and not for one's needs? I would rob, lie, kill. Nothing of what constitutes the main joys of my life would exist for me.' And, making the greatest efforts of imagination, he was still unable to imagine the beastly being that he homself would be if he did not know what he lived for.
     'I sought answer to my question. But the answer to my question could not come from thought, which is incommensurable with the question. The answer was given by life itself, in my knowledge of what is good and what is bad. And I did not acquire that knowledge through anything, it was given to me as it is to everyone, givenbecause I could not take it from anywhere.
     'Where did I take it from? Was it through reason that I arrived at the necessity of loving my neighbor and not throttling him? I was told it as a child, and I joyfully believed it, because they told me what was in my soul. And who discovered it? Not reason. Reason discovered the struggle for existence and the law which demands that everyone who hinders the satisfaction of my desires should be throttled. That is the conclusion of reason. Reason could not discover love for the other, because it's unreasonable.'"
—Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin Group: New York, 2000. pp 796-797.

     "'And don't all philosophical theories do the same thing, leading man by a way of thought that is strange and unnatural to him to the knowldege of what he has long known and known so certainly that without it he would not even be able to live?'"
ibid. pg 798.

     "'It's the newspapers that all say the same thing,' said the prince. 'That's true. And it's so much the same that it's like frogs before a thunderstorm. You can't hear anything on account of them.'"
ibid. pg 808.

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