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Group Reads Archive - 2011 > Family Happiness - - - Leo Tolstoy

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message 1: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Here's the thread for our short fiction reading now open for discussion (Sorry about the 2-week delay :) . I encourage your comments and views on this. All nine chapters will be discussed here. So new readers be aware of spoilers. Thank you!

If you're reading for the first time or need to go through the text again, check the following links:
http://www.manybooks.net/titles/tolst...

http://magister.msk.ru/library/tolsto...

******************************************

Here are some questions to get things start:

Does Masha love Sergey or is she in love with the idea of loving him?

Is Sergey a husband or a father-figure or both?

Is Tatyana Semyonovna a good mother-in-law? How does she influence her son's marriage?


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I just started reading. I'm still in chapter two. I don't know if it's only me but I just don't see romance when a young girl falls in love with a man she used to be like an uncle or a father (that's creepy!0. It's not really the age, but the former relationship.

Masha, is definately feeling lost and depressed in these chapters may be she feels safe to have a familiar figure back with her again.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I just started this too, but I agree with Shanez, that the relationship that is developing between Masha and Sergey is kind of creepy (from our viewpoint in 2011). It was probably a fairly 'normal' happening when this was written though. As a matter of fact, if my memory is working right, this story is starting out as a mirror to Tostoy's life. He wrote this before he married (I think), but he married Sofya when she was somewhere around 17 yrs old, and he was 34ish. And I believe he was, like Sergey, a friend of Sonya's parents.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) I feel as through Sasha is building a fantasy world, a fantasy future, and a fantasy Masha. Then she expects Masha to play along with her world. She is bored, sad and expects Masha to bring some excitement into her life.


message 5: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Christi wrote: "He wrote this before he married (I think), but he married Sofya when she was somewhere around 17 yrs old, and he was 34ish. And I believe he was, like Sergey, a friend of Sonya's parents. ..."

Christi I was just about to say that! I'm also still reading the first part.

As for Shanez's comment, I totally agree. There earlier relationship gets in the way for me to see it as a real developed love. It's not the age difference at all. I love Jane and Rochester and many other couples with such age gaps. It's strange he calls her "Violet" one time and then declares he love her.


message 6: by Amalie (last edited Nov 18, 2011 04:42AM) (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Vikz wrote: "I feel as through Sasha is building a fantasy world, a fantasy future, and a fantasy Masha. Then she expects Masha to play along with her world. ..."

Who on earth is Sasha?! I'm still in the first part but did I miss a character?

Honestly how many names does a person has in Russia? I always see about three variations. Here for Mashechka, three again. Mashechka, her name then Marya and Masha. How does the pet names work?

EDIT

Btw, Masha was the name of my favourite doll! LOL
Tragically, I accidentally drowned her while bathing in a river in Kandy :( Never found her.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Amalie wrote: "Vikz wrote: "I feel as through Sasha is building a fantasy world, a fantasy future, and a fantasy Masha. Then she expects Masha to play along with her world. ..."

Who on earth is Sasha?! I'm stil..."


Sorry, I meant Sonya and Sergey. This is what you get from reading too many books at once.


message 8: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Vikz wrote: "Amalie wrote: "Vikz wrote: "I feel as through Sasha is building a fantasy world, a fantasy future, and a fantasy Masha. Then she expects Masha to play along with her world. ..."

Who on earth is ..."


I agree completely :) I have five books in my currently reading shelf.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Hmm, I just posted a comment but it is not here, so I will attempt again.

Amalie, funny you mention Jane Austin; something about this story, and the writing, very much reminds me of Jane Austin!

I have finished the story, and I did like it. I understand what is meant by "family happiness". As a young mother I had that 'aha' moment when I realized my children were 'waxing' while I was 'waning' :) It was a new stage in my life that could be sad in some ways (personally), but was also good, just different from what it had been. But, I did have to little annoyances with this story: 1) The story was told in a woman's voice, yet I did not 'buy' that voice. I don't think it is natural at all. I can't imagine sorting out all the feelings and events in her mind the neat way she does. It felt more like an 'outsiders' voice , adding meaning where a person might not as yet get meaning. And 2) I was bothered by the age difference only in that it is a Tostoy story and I tend to view Tolstoy this way: I think he believed he and his male charcters sowed their wild oats as youths and then had no more oats left. Umm, I mean, I always have the feeling that Tolstoy was making excuses for impotency! Yes, he had a million kids, but I think he did his 'doing' only as he needed, and the dwindling romance he brings up in his stories is an excuse for that which he won't fess up too!! I also think that in his real life, his preoccupation with celebacy was his not wanting others to have what he could not. Oh, how I have digressed.
I did like the character of Sergey though. He seemed kind and I liked that he gave Masha "freedom' to enter into petty society, and to make her own decisions about it.


message 10: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Christi wrote: "Hmm, I just posted a comment but it is not here, so I will attempt again.

I have finished the story, and I did like it. I understand what is meant by "family happiness"..."


Well, this is the first time: I did not like it. You are right Christi, the voice of the narrator is "too imposed". Tolstoy is a good writer but he is terrible with his first person narration of a woman's view point. He is even stereotyping women. Here an example:

"I simply can't understand you," I said, following him with my eyes from where I stood. "You say that you never lose self-control" (he had never really said so); "then why do you talk to me so strangely?

Masha is written like one of Charles Dickens's typical "little women". She crying, trembling, praying, weeping, fainting can't think alone, NEEDS a husband to GUIDE her. I don't get it.

I think male author should not think from a woman's point of view. Paulo Coelho does this and sometimes he is terrible. So here's my thought, because I have issues with the "voice" I can't say anything for or against about the decisions made by Masha. Tolstoy is a good writer but he is not good in this one, which makes me wonder what's his REAL attitude to Anna Karenina? I'd love to revisit it as a group read next year because sometimes he puzzles me, I wonder his attitude to women is the same in earlier novels.

I didn't like Sergey that much. He might have given her freedom but it's like " go ahead, you'll see what I mean" attitude. And I still can't buy he can love her? Can a man love a young girl as a lover/wife if he used to cuddle her as an infant?

I have read this novel called Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. Such a sweet tale! There Adam Ladd realizes he can't court Rebecca because he can't forget the child's face when he saw her for the first time. Jane and Rochester's romance in Jane Eyre I totally understand even the cousins' love in Austen's Mansfield Park. At least Fanny and Edmund are close in their ages. I just didn't get this story in so many levels.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I finished reading. Interesting thoughts here. To start, I do understand Masha's feelings in the end so I agree with Christie there.

I agree with what both of you've said but Amalie, I don't think he gave her the freedom to teach her a lesson. He is a kind man and has lived in this world, which is completely new to Masha. Remember he didn't want to go to St. St Petersburg but when they went there we see Sergey knows that society very well so he was, I think, trying to protect his young wife, who strangely (as we all agree:)still like a child to him.

I'd love to re-read Anna as well. I think many will. Since I think everyone in this group must have read that one at least. There are clashes with Tolstoy the writer and Tolstoy the real person but I don't think his weakness are any greater than other writers has two sides.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Amalie wrote: "I have read this novel called Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. Such a sweet tale! There Adam Ladd realizes he can't court Rebecca because he can't forget the child's face when he saw her for the first time...."

I love that book! Such a nice story. I, for once, don't mind seeing them together. They are exceptional. :)


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I would LOVE to group read Anna Karenina! You have already read this as a group? I missed that, and I have never read it.

As for Family Happiness, I think it may appeal more to married women (and men?) who have been married awhile and who have kids. I do not know what I would have made of this story when I was a younger me. I find it very interesting that he wrote this BEFORE his own marriage! For that, I give him credit for being fairly insightful into a world he had not yet entered. I am also not sure that Tolstoy's treatment of women in his works was much different from other authors of this time. Women were thought of much differently (and they viewed themselves differently too), compared to today's world. I guess I am stating the obvious! But, my point is, I do not find this portrayal of a woman much different from most others of the time, so I don't fault Tolstoy for that. She seemed a true illustration of an upper class woman from a man's perspective.


message 14: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Christi wrote: "I would LOVE to group read Anna Karenina! You have already read this as a group? I missed that, and I have never read it..."

No we didn't read it here. I just assumed it would be a re-read to most because it's famous. Perhaps we can arrange for January and/or February next year.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Amalie wrote: "Christi wrote: "I would LOVE to group read Anna Karenina! You have already read this as a group? I missed that, and I have never read it..."

No we didn't read it here. I just assumed it would be a..."


Hope there is enough interest, because I have a copy here that is just waiting to be read :)


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Same here. I'd love to read it as well.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Amalie wrote: "Christi wrote: "I would LOVE to group read Anna Karenina! You have already read this as a group? I missed that, and I have never read it..."

No we didn't read it here. I just assumed it would be a..."


That would be great. I never miss a chance to re-read this book. Count me in.


message 18: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 26, 2011 05:45PM) (new)

Amalie wrote: "...Honestly how many names does a person has in Russia? I always see about three variations. Here for Mashechka, three again. Mashechka, her name then Marya and Masha. How does the pet names work? ..."


The Russian language loves to play with suffixes, especially in names.
What? Tell you about it?
Yes, I’m telling you about it :)

Part One. Formal names.
A full Russian name consists of three parts.
That is there are three words in a person’s Birth Certificate and/or Passport.
First – the Given Name, or just ‘Name’ (as it’s called in Russia). It corresponds to First Name in English speaking countries. Given Name (Name) is selected from more or less standard set of names and given to you by (usually) your parents. In the literature that we read we see them as Ivan, Olga, Aleksandr, Natalya, Feodor, Maria (Marya), Andrei, Pelageya, Nikolai, Varvara, Piotr, Anna, ..ok.

After the Given Name goes Patronymic (it never comes before the Given Name).
Patronymic is very easy. You can NOT really change it, because it’s just your father’s Given Name plus a certain suffix. And there are only two types of them, one for male and one for female.

Male Patronymic = Father’s Given Name + o(e)vich

Female Patronymic = Father’s Given Name + o(e)vna

Examples: Andrei Ivanovich (Andrei’s father’s Given Name is Ivan), Elena Yuryevna (Elena’s father’s Given Name is Yuriy)

Finally - the Family Name (in Russian – Familiya). It corresponds to the Last Name in English speaking countries. And means just that.

Most typical Russian Family Names have endings ‘-ov’, ‘-in’ for males, and ‘-ova’, ‘-ina’ for females respectively.
Sometimes ‘ov’ is transliterated from Cyrillic as ‘off’ (this variation represents the pronunciation more accurately), so Family Names as Smirnoff, Stroganoff are actually, in the classic transliteration, Smirnov, Stroganov.

Many Russians have Family Names of foreign origin (just happened that way due to mass migrations and other historical kinks), especially, German (Stoltz, Zimmermann, Schwarz etc) and Ukrainian (Yanenko, Pinchuk, Vovrenshchak, Makhno etc). And these don’t have male-female ending changes.
Some Family Names come from several other Slavic nations and have endings that look exactly as Russian patronymics. That can be confusing even for Russians.

For instance: Petrovich Andrei Petrovich.

Andrei’s Family Name and his Patronymic happened to be the same – Petrovich.
Andrei’s sister Galina’s full maiden name will be though: Petrovich Galina Petrovna.
Petrovich is her Family Name, Petrovna is her Patronymic.

Full names can go in the order NPF or FNP, for instance:

Andrei Ivanovich Tolstoy, (his sister) Natalya Ivanovna Tolstaya; or Tolstoy Andrei Ivanovich, Tolstaya Natalya Ivanovna.

The short version of the full name (NF or FN) is often acceptable :

Andrei Tolstoy (Tolstoy Andrei), Natalya Tolstaya (Tolstaya Natalya).

And, sometimes, as a semi-familiar address, people may call each other only by their Patronymic (it’s more characteristic for adults towards older age):

“Petrovna, are you coming with us?” “Petrovich, I have a question for you.”


Part Two. The pet names (nicknames).

This is more exciting but also much more complicated subject. I’ll give you only a small part of the much bigger picture.
I’m sure that in any culture people like to play with their names.
My point that I want to express here is basically this:
In Russian, when you give your child a name (Given Name) you also give him/her a whole sequence of pet names that people will be using to address him/her further in his/her life.
Of course, people will play with your child’s name and invent something totally original, but my point here is that apart from that there is already the predetermined set of pet names that is defined only by the child’s Given Name and already built-in-the-language mechanism for constructing nicknames.
OK. Let’s see an example.

Let’s say you name your child Aleksandr.

From that moment it’s guaranteed that your child will be called sooner or later, at some point in his life, by different people, on different occasions:

Sasha, Sashka, Sanya, San’ka, Sashen’ka, Sashura, Shura, Shurik, and plus whatever I don’t remember at the moment.

Let’s call pet name Sasha the First Derivative (or First Pet Name) of the name Aleksandr. First Pet Name is usually a familiar, diminutive, very friendly form of the Given Name. Mostly to address friends, peers, children.

Let me present a number of examples here, maybe it’ll help you recognize the pattern and be less confused when reading Russian lit:

Aleksandr – Sasha, Maria – Masha, Pavel – Pasha, Andrei – Andryusha, Natalya – Natasha, Sergei – Seryozha, etc.

And also:

Aleksandr – Sanya, Nikolai – Kolya, Vladimir – Volodya, Svetlana – Sveta, Tatyana – Tanya, Varvara – Varya, Irina – Ira etc.


OK. Let’s take Second Derivative. For starters, note that the Russian for ‘baby’ is ‘rebyonok’.

Now look at these:

Aleksandr – Sasha – Sashen’ka; Vladimir – Volodya – Voloden’ka; Maria – Masha – Mashen’ka
It also can go as:
Svetlana – Sveta – Svetochka; Nina = Nina – Ninochka; Olga- Olya – Olen’ka/Olechka

You’re right. The suffix ENK is just a distorted form of ‘rebyonok’ (baby). And so the Second Pet Name is even more familiar, intimate. Children, grandchildren, lovers, close friends. Or, it can be just plain sarcastic.

Bored to death? OK. Last derivative – Third (of course, there are more :).

Let’s reduce that ENK suffix to only one sound – ‘K’. And I’ll skip the Second Pet Name. We got:

Aleksandr – Sasha – Sashka; Nikolai – Kolya – Kol’ka; Maria – Masha – Mashka; Fyodor – Fedya – Fed’ka; Pyotr - Petya - Petrushka etc.

(Fyodor – Fed’ka. Hmm. Remember Fed’ka the Convict from DEMONS ? That could’ve been Dostoyevsky’s pet name once for real since he was doing time at some point in his life)

Now. To describe the function of Third Pet Name is very hard in a few words. It can be both familiar or derogatory. Depends on the class, situation, many other things. Before 1917, the nobility never (or almost never) used Third Derivative to address each other, but almost always addressed lower classes with this pet name form of the name. In the Soviet Union and present day Russia the usage of Third Pet Name depends mostly on habits of concrete people. Yet the familiarity with the person you address that way is necessary. Don’t address your boss with Third Derivative. For the nobility who hated Grigoriy Rasputin he was only Grishka Rasputin. As was Grishka Otrepyev – the imposter.
(Grigoriy – Grisha – Grishen’ka – Grishka)

Of course, there is much more to say about Russian nicknames. I hope, for somebody who read Russian lit this stuff I just wrote might be helpful.

Last note: Imagine the nightmare for translators, for the Russian language loves to play with multiple suffixes attaching them not only to names but any noun, indicating that way the nuances of attitude of the speaker.
Glaza, Glazishchi, Glazki, Glazon’ki, Glazochki. All these words mean EYES. And also how much we fear, like, dislike etc them.

Sicerely Yours, Andrew the Bore.


message 19: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Andrew317 wrote: "Amalie wrote: "...Honestly how many names does a person has in Russia? I always see about three variations. Here for Mashechka, three again. Mashechka, her name then Marya and Masha. How does the ..."

Andrew, that's amazing, I mean the clarification and the names as well :) Thank you so much and what an explanation! No more problems with names.


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