The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
Pages – 144 pages
Genre – Novel
Publish date – August 2007
The Kreutzer Sonata was my first taste of Russian literature. Leo Tolstoy is a well known Russian writer and some of his notable works, in addition to The Kreutzer Sonata, are War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
The Kreutzer Sonata is a story of one man’s jealous rage against his wife and how that rage lead to him murdering her. He suspected her of having an affair with a violinist whom she performed some pieces with at their home. Along with justifying his reasons for killing her, he had so many analogies about love, marriage and sex, few of which I agreed with, the others in my opinion were too extreme. He made it seem like love and marriage, true marriage, are only fairytales, an illusion, something that people aspire to have but never really achieve.
The writer, Tolstoy showed his beliefs through the main character, Pozdnyshev – one of such beliefs was that sexual immorality was a disease that seeped into humanity and rather than us rejecting it and looking for ways to combat it, we indulge in it, give excuses for our actions and look for cures to whatever diseases may arise thereafter. I agree with this analogy and it got me thinking about what would have happened if people took his concern about sexual immorality serious back in 1889 when the book was first published. Would the world have been as morally degraded as it is now? Would it have caused one sex to rule unjustly over the other, making zombies out of humans? Would the society still have the moral values it once had? Or would it have degraded anyway?
Pozdnyshev’s views were too skewed sometimes and I believe they only portrayed his insecurities and the personal demons he was fighting. For example, he believed that 99% of the marriages were like his, flawed and full of pretense and hatred and that it was impossible for a man to love one woman all his life. In some parts it seemed like he was against sex altogether and believed that people should live, fulfilling their purpose on earth without procreating. That part I did not understand or agree to.
I believe that what drove Pozdnyshev to killing his wife was not just jealousy but fear. He was afraid that the sexual immorality he practiced as a youth would come back to haunt him in form of his wife’s infidelity. He had little or no trust in her and even though he strongly believed that she was having an affair with the violinist, he could not prove it. Unfortunately it was never said if Pozdnyshev’s suspicions of his wife were true or if he was just insecure and what he saw in the study that evening he murdered her, his wife in the violinist’s arms, was what his mind wanted him to see.
Overall, I would give the book an average rating. The first half of the book was very interesting, where he laid the foundation for his beliefs and why he thought that way but in the second half, as Pozdnyshev narrated the story of his marriage, I was left confused, disagreeing with almost all of his beliefs. It was not the most enjoyable read but was very thought provoking.