Sunday, December 3, 2017

What Tolstoy Knew

This bit from Anna Karenina, which I am re-reading for a course I'm taking, makes clear that that modern day division between the hedonists and the squares--between the Harvey Weinsteins and the Ben Shapiros--isn't so new after all:
In [Vronsky's] Petersburg world people were divided into two quite opposite sorts. One--the inferior sort: the paltry, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people who believe that a husband should live with one wife to whom he is married, that a maiden should be pure, a woman modest, and a man, manly, self-controlled and firm; that one should bring up one's children to earn their living, should pay one's debts, and other nonsense of that kind. These were the old-fashioned and ridiculous people. But there was another sort of people: the real people to which all his set belonged, who had above all to be well-bred, generous, bold, gay, and to abandon themselves unblushingly to all their passions and laugh at everything else.
Tolstoy, of course, is being facetious here. He actually thinks the hedonists are ridiculous and the squares are the ones to admire, a fact that makes the passage all the more delicious.

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