Robert's Reviews > The Kreutzer Sonata

The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
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's review
May 17, 2012

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The Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoy is a remarkable book to read (that doesn’t mean I recommend it though). My review will come in three parts—what I thought Tolstoy wrote, what Tolstoy thought he wrote, and how I came about reading it.

A guy is taking a train and ends up with a talkative partner in his compartment. The talkative partner had just been recused from killing his wife. He killed her because he thought she might be having an extramarital affair with her friend the violin teacher. She was a pianist, and they played Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata together. His wife was beautiful, and he was a jerk. He had stopped having sexual relations with her years before, because he decided that he wanted to be celibate. Not only was he celibate, but he was a butt head who made his wife’s life and their children’s lives unbearable. Not only was it unclear whether or not our lady had an affair, but she seemed adequately motivated.

Tolstoy wrote an afterword, where he was on the same plain as Rick Santorum. He thinks sexual relationships should only occur in marriage, to conceive children, and that this is a lessor choice than to select celibacy and deal more directly with God (like epistles of Paul). This is so weird—why didn’t he make our hero a good guy then. If celibacy is good, our hero would have also been good.

So I read Murakami 1Q84, and one of the characters is enthralled with Sinfonietta by Janacek. I was at the public library so looked under Janacek to see if they had anything—but they only had some chamber music by him, including this string quartet, The Kreutzer Sonata. Now Beethoven wrote the original Kreutzer Sonata, and it is just beautiful. The Janacek work is not – arrhythmic, dissonant, but very interesting. I found out that the Janacek work is inspired by this Tolstoy work, so off I go to the library to read it. The combination of Tolstoy, Murakami, Beethoven, and Janacek is, I think, much more interesting than any one of them alone.

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