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The Kreutzer Sonata

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  17,683 ratings  ·  1,090 reviews
When Marshal of the Nobility Pozdnyshev suspects his wife of having an affair with her music partner, his jealousy consumes him and drives him to murder. Controversial upon publication in 1890, The Kreutzer Sonata illuminates Tolstoy’s then-feverish Christian ideals, his conflicts with lust and the hypocrisies of nineteenth-century marriage, and his thinking on the role of ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1889)
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Galicius Part of the answer to your question: Beethoven only dedicated it to one Kreutzer a famous violinist of his day. The connection in the Tolstoy story is…morePart of the answer to your question: Beethoven only dedicated it to one Kreutzer a famous violinist of his day. The connection in the Tolstoy story is to the music teacher in the story. I highly recommend a reading in librivox. It's read in a very thick Brooklyn(?) accent that is amusing. I don't know the piece by Leoš Janáček but will listen to it.

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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature, russia
Lookie here, folks, this is me giving a 4-star rating to a massively sexist, pro-Christian, anti-sex, anti-birth-control novella about a guy who murders his wife for maybe cheating on him, feels justified in doing so, and gets away with it! (All of that plot-reveal is in the book's description, spoiler-markers. This story isn't about that basic series of events, but about a man's rationalization process concerning that quickly-summarized back-story, so keep your dirty mouse-clicks off of my ...more
Plainly the only reason for reading Tolstoy's Kretzer Sonate is to be able to begin the review with The Kreutzer Sonate and to end the review with The Kreutzer Sonate.

As to the story I am disappointed, for which I blame Janacek.

To go back to the beginning, lets imagine you are travelling on a train, it is going to be a fairly long journey, more than a day, I get on and sit opposite you and begin to tell you a boring story full of tiresome ideologies. I had settled on reading Ms Appletree's Iron
I read Doris Lessing's introduction to this and I was a bit stunned, angry almost. Why would a writer pen such a semi negative image of a book in her introduction, I wondered. A critique, yes, but why write an introduction for it at all? There is a moment when she even questions his lovemaking skills: "At some point one does have to ask if perhaps the trouble was really a simple one: Tolstoy was no good in bed." Whaaat? A bit personal, no?

And then I read the book. Ehn-ehn. On a plane to
I was inspired to read this after finishing The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy because the theme of The Kreutzer Sonata seemed to closely mirror an episode Sofia described in which her husband became jealous of a musician friend of hers and of the hours they spent playing music together. That real life connection gave the novella an extra relevance for me but otherwise I found it difficult to understand. I think I prefer the Tolstoy of War and Peace and of Anna Karenina to the more fundamentalist and ...more
Mark André
One of the best stories I have ever read.
Written by one of the greatest story tellers.
A bold, and authentic discussion of: Lust.
Love. Marriage. Children. Jealousy. Madness.
Strong stuff!
What a creepy, unpleasant read. Not what I expected from Tolstoy, at all.
David Schaafsma
"I wanted to run after him, but remembered that it is ridiculous to run after one's wife's lover in one's socks; and I did not wish to be ridiculous but terrible."

Tolstoy is to me without a doubt one of the greatest writers ever, with Anna Karenina in my opinion his greatest work, one of the greatest works ever. He was also an accomplished short story writer, as evidenced by, for example, the excellent “The Death of Ivan Illich,” which I also re-read this year. Woody Allen made a film, Love and
Steven Godin
What happened to Tolstoy the jolly sensualist who liked getting his leg over? I know late-19th century Russia folks were struggling with sexuality problems, and how to deal with human lust with minimum oppression, misery, and offence to God, but this novella still shocked me. At the time some even despised him forever over it.

Banned by the Russian censors this is probably LT's most controversial work, and it's easy to see why, even the most fraught relationship is unlikely to approach the crazy
Asha Seth
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tolstoyans and Non-Tolstoyans
I am only wondering why I did not end up reading this earlier. It's an excellent masterpiece of a work, keeping aside all the criticisms, reasons why this was banned in early 19th century, etc. This is a must read for all.A novella that tells a lot about the kind of person the author was or perhaps, maybe was not.

Review to follow!
Well that was disturbing. Not what I was expecting from Tolstoy. It was the ramblings of a psychopath, which Tolstoy portrayed with way to much energy. And I understand he used an actual event with his wife and a musician as the basis for this story. Scary. I don't know enough about Tolstoy to know his views on romance, marriage, sex, etc. to make judgement's, but the views expressed and acted out by the protagonist were, as I said at the beginning, very disturbing.
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Music is the shorthand of emotion. Emotions, which let themselves be described in words with such difficulty, are directly conveyed to man in music, and in that is its power and significance.
-Leo Tolstoy


No one could make the claim that Tolstoy was not an opinionated man. Whether Pozdnyshev is a direct representation of Tolstoy or an amalgamation of sources is subject for scrutiny, but what is certain is the author's voice is forceful and present in The Kreutzer Sonata. I have to admit to
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: misogynists and fragile vessels
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list

Well that was a short, sharp burst of Tolstoy all wrapped up in the pleasingly presented package that is the Great Loves series by Penguin. Constrained to the length of a train journey, two men sharing a carriage also share a secret. One explains to the other how you can be transformed from ardent lover to cold blooded killer within a few short years of marriage. So how does one make the smooth transition from Don Juan to homicidal maniac?

There are some fairly sexist, misogynist and antiquated

I couldn't stand that story, found it repulsive and terribly depressing and Tolstoy misogynistic. It was so full of bad emotions, disdain and hypocrisy and felt really wrong to me. It was unbearably didactic and Tolstoy showed himself as sanctimonious prick. I know he was undergoing some crisis then, faith and value, and that probably coloured some of his views. But still.

Contradictions are inscribed in human nature but in Tolstoy’s life they manifested all too strong. As for a man who preached
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Sorry but reading this was making me really hate Tolstoy and I’d rather think of the works that I still more respect and fondness. The Kreutzer Sonata sounded interesting but it is just a guy on a train, mansplaining warped views of women to random strangers on a train. Nah. Next.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: 1001 Must Read Before You Die List
This must be the most disturbing view of love, sex and marriage I've come across in classical literature. I wish Tolstoy in his time had an opportunity to explore his feelings about his sexuality with a good psychotherapist. According to him, sex is vile and degrading, being sexually attracted to even one's spouse is disgusting, having sex for any reason other than procreation is disgusting, women are disgusting objects of men's disgusting desires. Every person's life goal should be chastity and ...more
Stephen P
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novella
The novella is a rant, defuse, spending its building rage in scattered directions, assaulting the numerous morbid absurdities in society, life. The aim alters under its own force returning to victims already slain or contradicting what has been said. A delirious but tepid Underground Man. But why? This is Tolstoy. It being Tolstoy is part of the problem. I found no way to read this story without being confined by the Master’s presence, his iconic reflection. The tension that this must be a ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 13, 2015 rated it liked it
During a train ride a conversation ensues between passengers concerning love and a woman's right to marry for love. Overhearing another man, joins in, full of bitterness and anguish, he recounts the events that led to his irreversible act.

There is so much anger in this novel about the expectations between the sexes. Quite a dark story, but somehow fascinating as well. Common themes in Tolstoy's novels, marriages that end badly, differences between the sexes and what it can lead to. Not my
Roger Brunyate
A Different View of Tolstoy

I have long known about this novella, but this is my first time reading it. Whoa! It is not at all what I expected, and I don't quite know what to make of it. I think it might be best to tackle it in layers: the story, my first reactions on reading it, thoughts on Tolstoy's appendix, responses to Doris Lessing's introduction to this edition, thoughts on Tolstoy's use of music, and finally an appendix of my own on other adaptations.

1. The Story. The narrator is on an
This was a disturbing read. The story is a confession of a disturbed man whose suspicion and jealousy led him to carry out a heinous crime - the murder of his wife, the mother of his children. The story is written as a direct narrative by the offender himself. It is surprising that Tolstoy has chosen such a style. Perhaps, he thought it would be the honest and truest way to convey the story to the reader. But this directness, in my opinion, made the reading all the more uncomfortable, and that ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Love's supposed to be something ideal and noble, whereas in practice it's just a sordid matter that degrades us to the level of pigs... nature didn't make it vile and embarrassing for no reason."

Tolstoy was a weird guy.

This is him in PEAK spiritual crisis mode.

His main argument was that even within marriage sex is immoral. What about reproduction? Kids are the worst. Peasants need to have children to look after them but it is pure selfishness for the rich to have them. Humans have sex even
Clif Hostetler
May 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novel
This book provides an in-depth first-person description of a man's developing hatred of his wife, his jealous rage at her perceived attraction to another man, and in the end his murdering of his wife. He maintains that ninety-nine percent of all marriages are as unhappy as his. He has his own analysis of the cause of all this as being "animal excesses" and "swinish connection" governing the relation between the sexes. His solution is that everyone should live lives of sexual abstinence, and the ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: list-1001, russian
This was good, I liked two Tolstoy novellas I have read much better than the more popular epic monsters. This one is alive with a sort of energy I never expected from him. And this book even faced censorship! Both Russia and USA thought it was indecent. Well, outside DH Lawrence, it is most sex-centric book I have read that doesn't use the word 'sex'. Roosevelt even called him immoralist for writing the book.

Actually Tolstoy's fault lies in opposite direction. He is telling you how sex is a bad
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tolstoy does it again! Boy could this guy write, and the translation by David Duff maintained all of the manic intensity of the narrator's story until the very last page.

The narrator in this novella is particularly vile, and the views put forward on women, marriage and love are extremely off-putting and odious. It also saddens me a bit that I don't think this was solely a character choice and probably had some relation to Tolstoy's own feelings on the subject (and his own marriage). But I'd be
I drew my conclusions about this novella prior to reading Tolstoy's Afterword. In the Afterword, he reveals his intended messages for the book---and also reveals himself to be a serious headcase!
I waited until I'd finished the book before reading Doris Lessing's introduction about Tolstoy's life. He was a total hypocrite, making demands on his wife that were entirely at odds with the "ideal" he promotes in the Afterword.

But no matter. My rating is based on my experience of the story. What I
Lee Klein
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I will admit, since it suggests something about this one's clarity/readability and the effectiveness of its short chapters, that I read this under blankets with a cat in my lap on a sleepy January Saturday spent watching the riveting NFL divisional playoff games almost on mute -- the double OT Broncos/Ravens game was an epic worthy of Tolstoy, although this late-style gripping polemical narrative essay of course didn't meet the seven-star standards set by Leo's masterpieces. Like Zwieg's Chess ...more
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Though I do not agree with all the arguments which Tolstoy's protagonist raises, I think this novella is very well written and has many controversial opinions on sex, marriage, love etc. I give this one 4.5/5 stars because it asks many important questions though it might not answer everything perfectly as some of the readers would prefer it to. Tolstoy might have been in great anguish and frustration when he wrote this one as it is filled with anger and cynicism. Read at your own risk. It might ...more
Viv JM
This story is a bit bonkers. It's a somewhat feverish account of one man's jealousy culminating in the murder of his wife. It's not exactly a sex-positive tale, what with all evils being laid at the feet of sexual desire, but it is a surprisingly compelling read nonetheless!
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
“To talk of loving a man or woman for life is like saying that a candle can burn forever.”
Disbelief. That is what I felt as I read this book. These are the ramblings of a twisted mind and a tortured soul. It is dripping with confusion and contradictions, oozing frustration and self-loathing, seething with anger and jealousy. It is no wonder that the relationship portrayed in this story ended in murder. How tragic. How horrifying. How realistic?
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, russian
Ludwig van Beethoven dedicated his 9th sonata to Rodolphe Kreutzer, French violinist. Later Kreutzer refused to play the sonata and treated it as "incomprehensible". Tolstoy wrote his jealousy homicide story 90 years later and this is the most misogynistic text I ever read. The novel is set against women and against sexual relationships overall. 90 pages of an explosive rant against coitus, told from a point of view of a wife-killer who couldn't stand his wife, who maybe cheated on him. What she ...more
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The Readers Revie...: The Kreutzer Sonata-Reading Schedule 5 27 Jun 19, 2018 09:31PM  
nexus 1 3 Mar 12, 2018 09:45PM  
Discovering Russi...: The Kreutzer Sonata -Chapters 11-20 (May 11-May 19) 2 23 May 24, 2014 12:53PM  

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Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Николаевич Толстой; commonly Leo Tolstoy in Anglophone countries) was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist fiction. Many consider ...more
“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” 4976 likes
“Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really seem to feel what I do not feel, to understand what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot have. Music seems to me to act like yawning or laughter; I have no desire to sleep, but I yawn when I see others yawn; with no reason to laugh, I laugh when I hear others laugh. And music transports me immediately into the condition of soul in which he who wrote the music found himself at that time.” 125 likes
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