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Grisha Freidin on Leo Tolstoy

Gregory “Grisha” Freidin is professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University. He received his PhD from UC-Berkeley in 1979, writing a dissertation on Osip Mandelstam. He has taught at Stanford since then, and has, in that time, distinguished himself as scholar, teacher, and administrator. He has edited and translated many important volumes, including […]

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Our show today is about an author we should have featured on this program a long time ago.
Leo Tolstoy.
And I apologize for our Russian friends for calling him Leo.
I haven't done nearly enough shows on Russian writers, artists, thinkers, and scientists.
Maybe they are simply too big for me. Maybe the Russian soul is too big for me.
It spreads over the spiritual landscape of the West like a primordial forest covering a huge continental landmass.
Tolstoy is a gigantic part of that forest, and I'm looking forward to today's conversation with him, with my friend and colleague, Grecia Frieden.
Grecia is a professor of Slavic literature here at Stanford.
Many of you will remember him from the show we did a few years ago on the writer, Isaac Babel.
He has just finished teaching a course on Anacadena, so we'll be talking a lot about that novel in particular, and about Tolstoy in general.
Grecia, welcome to the program.
Thank you, great to be here.
You drew my attention to Max Weber, the German late 19th, early 20th century sociologist, philosopher and political economist, who in an essay of his, called Science as Vocation, makes a reference to Tolstoy in the context of his discussion of his famous theory of disenchantment, that the modern world, or for a long time, through the forces of reason, science,
technology, progress, that there has been this gradual disenchantment of the world.
It's been evacuated of its spiritual and magical forces and so forth.
And in that context, he writes the following, let me quote the passage that you drew my attention to originally.
He says, "Now this process of disenchantment, which has continued to exist in western culture for millennia, and in general, this progress, to which science, but the
belongs, as a link and motive force, do they have any meaning that go beyond the purely practical and technical?"
You will find this question raised in the most principled form in the works of Leo Tolstoy.
Tolstoy came to raise the question in a peculiar way.
All his broodings increasingly revolved around the problem of whether or not death is a meaningful phenomenon.
And his answer was, "For civilized man, death has no meaning."
It has none because the individual life of civilized man placed into an infinite progress, according to its own imminent meaning, should never come to an end.
For there is always a further step ahead of one who stands in the march of progress.
And no man who comes to die stands upon the peak that lies in infinity.
Abraham, or some peasant of the past, died old and satiated with life, because he stood in the organic cycle of life, because his life, in terms of its meaning, and on the eve of his days, had given to him what life had to offer.
Because for him there remained no puzzles he might wish to solve, and therefore he could have had enough of life.
Whereas civilized man placed in the midst of the continuous enrichment of culture by ideas, knowledge, and problems may become tired of life but not satiated with life.
He catches only the most minute part of what the life of the spirit brings forth ever anew, and what he sees as his always something provisional and not definitive, and therefore death for him is a meaningless occurrence.
And because death is meaningless, civilized life as such is meaningless.
By its very progressiveness it gives death the imprint of meaninglessness.
Throughout his late novels one meets with this thought as the keynote of the Tolstoyan art.
A lot we can talk about there, let me ask the first question that comes to my mind about Tolstoyan's life.
Did he experience his own life as something that had been deprived of meaning because he lived in a civilized era?
He did. I think Weber was right on the button there.
Death has a very special meaning in Tolstoy's life.
He had a huge life, a vibrant life. He has done absolutely everything that any human being can or any man could wish for.
He has experienced just about everything, and he has developed skills in the whole variety of professions, writing was just one of them.
There was military agriculturalism.
He did kill in the military.
He was an artillery officer in the Crimean War.
He had fought in North Caucasus against the Chitians.
He was a teacher, an author of textbooks.
He was obviously an novelist, we know that.
He was a farmer or a state owner, an essentially head of a vast agricultural enterprise.
He was a reformer in the field of education.
He actually had done some early sociological work on his own.
He had taken surveys of peasants.
He participated in the collection of census data.
He wrote articles for newspapers, advocating for some tribes, you know, and so on.
So he has done absolutely everything, including coming up with his own religion, and being a prophet at the end of his life, being a prophet of his own form of rational Christianity.
So you would think that someone who lived such a full and long life would be lie, Mike's favor is point, which is that we do not live, or we do not die in the fullness of our years anymore.
And that if anyone seems to have had the good luck or benefit or privilege of dying, according to the organic cycle of life, it would seem to be Tolstoy, no?
Well, yes, yes and no.
We were able to write a book about Tolstoy. He died early and never finished it.
And there are some articles by him, some essays by him that seem to map themselves very nicely on Tolstoy's novels, especially on Anna Karen.
But for Tolstoy, death was, you know, if we're talking only about the writer.
His earliest, I think one of his earliest pieces was called Three Deaths.
It was the death of a lady, a noble woman who didn't want to die. She was afraid of death because death for her had no meaning. She was a civilized woman.
There was the death of a peasant that was acquired to death, not much thrashing there.
But the best death was the death of a tree in that story, okay? Because the tree was graceful and did not complain as it fell down.
And one of his last works is, of course, the death of Anilich, everybody knows that.
There's no more profound, more moving work of literature that deals with the moment of dying than that work.
So these are bookends of Tolstoy's art. And everywhere in between, he tried to figure out what that meant.
It probably had to do something to do with his own life. He lost his mother when he was two. His father when he was three.
So there were lots of deaths around him. He lost many children.
He was about five children of his died in an infant's early childhood out of 13.
But do you agree that the key note of his entire art could be found in this question of the meaninglessness of death and hence the meaninglessness of life or is Max Weber exaggerating when he's...
No, he's not exaggerating at all. He's not exaggerating at all.
No, I just made a note for myself in on the Korean.
You remember how the novel starts, right? All happy families are alike or long happy families are in happy each and its own way.
Well, this one unhappy family that is the Korean family and maybe Anna Vronsky family and a Blonsky Dolly family.
But there is one happy family and that's Constantine Levin, he's Constantine Lordin, has Talstoy would have liked us to pronounce it because he was modeled on Talstoy himself.
He was his alter ego in Talstoy's own words.
It would seem that this is a happy family but it turns out when we get to the final part of the part eight of the book, it turns out that it wasn't a happy family either.
Because Lordin after he had married Katie, had a child with her lived, it would seem happily on his estate but drew from the city which he detested for many reasons and found himself the Potter family.
So, we're happy, extended family on his own ancestral estate. Suddenly he is stuck again by the meaninglessness of his life because of his death.
He has to hide from himself, a piece of rope so that he wouldn't hang himself.
He stopped going hunting because he didn't want to shoot himself.
And he put away all sharp instruments because he did not want to stab himself to death.
So, we're already talking about Anacadhenia here and we know that the protagonist Anacadhenia herself is one of many deaths in the novel.
Do you find that novel works out this problem of the meaninglessness of death because in Vapers' essay, I don't want to insist too much on Vapers' last time I'll mention him,
but he goes on in this essay to say that science cannot help us at all come up with a meaning of life and either science or technology.
What it can best do is help us clarify the issues at stake.
Now, you have told me that you believe that in a certain sense Anacadhenia, the novel does that as well.
I think that in many ways Vapers had Tolstoy in mind, not only Tolstoy, I mean Vapers was a thinker of Tolstoy's caliber in his own right.
I mean, he is also a very contradictory thinker and therefore, you know, people also interpret him.
For a whole century, people have been interpreting his statements and his essays, his writings.
But I think they bamaps wonderfully on Tolstoy and Tolstoy, of course, anachronistically, maps brilliantly on Vabers.
I specifically have in mind Vabers 1916 essay on the religious abnegations of the world and their directions.
Essentially, it's a essay that postulates a religious ethic in a modern man that is perhaps a survival of a religious era, but we, you know, what Vabers calls brotherly love.
And I want to say that it is precisely that brotherly love that Tolstoy grants religion in Anacadhenia.
The law of God is in the religious man.
He is not a believer, okay?
And this is what Tolstoy said about himself in Confessions.
It's the work that he wrote two years after Anacadhenia and essentially disclosed his, the fact that he was the alter ego for law of God.
So for law of God because the words are exactly the same. This is what he says.
That whenever I went to church and there was a period in Tolstoy's life when he followed, you know, all the prescriptions of a man of Russian Orthodox religion and, you know, went to church, you know, every day and so on, did everything, observed all the rituals.
In the, during the liturgy, the most important words for me, I'm quoting Tolstoy were, let us love each other with our common love.
But what went after that, because we believe when the father and son and the Holy Ghost, that I dropped, that meant nothing to me.
This was incomprehensible and meant nothing to me. So Tolstoy also, like Weber, he believes that there is this ultimate ethic.
The ethic, Tolstoy calls it a cosmic, a vapor called it a cosmic, unworldly love.
That is to say love that is above the pragmatic relations among people.
And for Weber, it was this love that was constantly coming against, constantly was in conflict, especially in developed societies.
It was constantly in conflict with the logic of other values, fears of political life, of economic life, of aesthetics, of erotic sphere.
This fear of erotic value, and this is the sphere very much at the center of Tolstoy's novel, and he ends with the intellectual sphere.
And this is what you were talking about. At the beginning, that is to say, we live in the world which is largely intellectualized by science, technology, by its incredible achievement, by its incredible reach, by its incredible power.
And in this world, meaning cannot be generated from it, from that progress of knowledge in intellectual life.
It has to be generated from other sources, and I can understand that, and those other sources would come from our deep rooted humanity, perhaps this common love, which makes neighborly love possible.
But of course, already going back to Augustine, who in the city of God said that there are two forms of love, it's either love of God or it's love of self.
So, you can take God, the love of God out of this picture, and you could still remain with this sort of stark alternative, that either you tap into this common love of others, brotherly love.
Or you are bound up with self-love, which takes many forms of economic, political, erotic, and so forth.
Let's talk about love now with regard to the love affair that she engages in, that puts into crisis the family, where there's a kind of familial love, let's say the love that binds a family together, and this erotic love, which has more to do with self-love.
In a certain sense, is Tolstoy working out the dynamic tensions between different kinds of love in this novel, according to you?
Well, the novel is about love.
I mean, in a deeper, platonic sense, not unrelated to the, to what Augustine has to say.
And what is interesting is that the adultery, that is at the heart of the novel, at the love of Anna and Ronsky, is not the first adultery.
Actually, the novel begins with the story of an adultery by somebody else.
I mean, he's Anna's brother, and Lord of mine's future sister-in-law.
But that's how the novel begins. Everything was confusion in that Blonsky household, because the wife had found a note from her husband, the love note for the French governess.
That's important that it's French.
So Tolstoy, right away, tells us kind of where the erotic, this fear of a erotic value comes from.
He gives us the address that comes from France, like all good things.
Yes, and it is interesting that, of course, he was aware of Madame Bouldery.
This is the adultery role.
And like other writers, what he tried to do, he tried to create an ideal situation for an adultery.
Not like Floubert, you know, as Emma has affairs with really second-rate men.
They're not real knight.
She may imagine them to be knight in shining armor, but they are obviously not.
And so Tolstoy creates a situation in which nothing interferes with the real expression of love.
Okay, Vronsky is an excellent man. He is a real knight in shining armor. He never betrays on him.
He's always in support of her. And yet, that relationship, founders.
So I just want to draw our listeners' attention that, you know, Henry James, the portrait of a lady, uses the same dynamic.
You know, let us take this woman, let's give her absolutely everything and see what happens.
So, Grecia, before she commits suicide, this is not a spoil or alert.
If you haven't read Anakarayan, you can go ahead and read it without it being spoiled in the least by knowing these details.
But she undergoes the character.
The main character undergoes a very market experience of disenchantment.
If not in the Vibers terms, that her belief in love now gives way to a sense that there is no love in the world.
That it was all a kind of, if not an illusion, then...
Say, "Just facts, no way, I bet I."
Satisfaction of appetite. So she actually disenchants the whole myth of love and comes to a conclusion that everything is cynical.
And this leads to the logic that brings about the suicide.
There is a wonderful metaphor that she honor users.
She sees kids trying to buy ice cream and the ice cream is dirty and she says, "Oh, yes.
You will have ice cream even if it's dirty. Everybody wants ice cream."
Two questions. One, how does this kind of love that gets disenchanted in the mind of Anakarayan?
Relate to the sermon, the part of the sermon that Tolstoy responded to the most about loving each other through a common love.
Does it belong ontologically to a completely different kind of love?
And what does her disenchantment have to do with Tolstoy's metaphysical vision of the potential meaninglessness or potential meaningfulness of either life or death?
Well, the whole novel is built out of contradictions and this is what Tolstoy, you know, I want to think that I believe that this is what he was exploring.
And you see how when you look at the drafts of the novel, you see how he may and this throws out certain things and reshuffles.
So he was trying to find out what the world is like.
And love, obviously, is one way in which modern man creates meaning.
The erotric value sphere is open to us and Tolstoy, of course, being a modern man, understands that within Mary,
within Mary's disenchantment is very likely to occur.
And how one, the erotric value increases in direct proportion in the...
Inverse proportion.
Inverse proportion to the disenchantment. So an adultery has this added value because it breaks down the disenchantment, the irrationalization of marriage within the bonds, the rationalization of love of the erotric within the bonds of marriage.
And this is, of course, he's 19th century writer, he's a modern writer, he's a late 19th century writer.
And of course, everywhere in the opera, in literature, in theater, adultery is the main theme.
Right? This is how the disenchantment is compensated for, at least in representation.
One could dream of it. And what is interesting is that Anna begins her affair by reading the novel.
A novel, of course, it's an English novel, it's an English of female virtue and about marriage and so on.
But it is the novel that excites her imagination and she responds to Ronsky's and treaties.
That's an old story going back to Dante's fifth contour in the Inferno with the Owen Francesca reading the tale of Lancelot.
And they read no more. And I want you to point out, even though we may be somewhat diverging from our main avenue,
that tells to a head in mind Lancelot and Gwynorvier. Because the affair of Ronsky,
in Anna, is really scripted, according to the romance to the old romance script.
Right. Okay. So they read no more. And this is what Anna does. She reads, and then she reads no more because she wants to live that life, as Talestore says.
Even though the life that she begins to live after that is somewhat different from the English novel.
So Talestore, you mentioned that the bonds that hold together the family or it could be the erotic bond that there's a corrosion of that through.
The marriage as such is a rationalization of the erotic sphere. It creates, it has laws, it has...
No, I understand. And it's a long standing institution. Here I'd like to bring up Karl Marx and the political economic dimensions of Anna cutting.
Because for your own students in your course, you bring in Marx in a big way. And I'm referring to something that you actually passed out to your own students about...
For Marx and Engels, the force that propels society through history is class struggle. And so we have the forces of production, the modes of production and relations of production.
And Anna cutting Russia is on the move in a capitalist direction. And this change from a traditional agrarian society to a modernized capitalist economy is very important in the novel.
According to Marx, if you read the Communist Manifesto, "Capital" is such a powerful agency that it's able to corrode any pre-capitalist social bonds and societies no matter how elemental or deep.
And I know you agree with me because I'm actually paraphrasing something there.
So to what extent does Tolstoy agree with Marx on this and to what extent might he disagree with that assertion?
And then again, it's a very wonderful question. Thank you. Again, he's very similar to Weber.
Weber paid attention to Marx. But essentially as we know from his work, the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, he thought that religion was much more important for capitalism.
At least for its origins and that, and Tolstoy thinks likewise, he sees the corrosive influence of capitalism.
And the family of a Blonsky is that family is clearly corroded by the arrival of capitalism and Russia.
The Steve Ablonsky who goes back to the beyond Roman offs to the Rubik family of the first Russian princes and so on, he at the end has to ask for a job on the banking board from a Jewish railroad magnate.
So, and he realizes that for the first time, he betrays the honor of his own family and his ancestors who had always served the state.
Now he will be serving himself. So this is the, you know, the Augustinian self-love.
So he needs capital. The modern world is so full of excitement and seduction and he falls for all of them.
So he needs capital and he's willing to trade his honor for capital. But the main story that of honor and Blonsky has nothing to do with capital.
Blonsky is loaded to the gills. He's very rich. He has everything. And he's a very honorable man. He's a real lance allowed in the sense that even though, you know, their relationship,
of course, undergoes changes and that's the whole story of the novel that love cannot stay at that high pitch that it becomes routinized to use varying words.
Even though they love routinizes and finally, you know, they become enemies. But his commitment to honor never wavers.
So he is in the night and shining armor to the very end of the novel. So in that sense, Tal's story is talking about something else.
Something else. But at the same time, he lamented a great deal, the arrival of this kind of aggressive, wild capitalism in Russia, no?
Absolutely. Like many of his contemporaries, including Marxists, you know, the first Russian Marxists in those days.
Tal's story's position was very simple. He believed that Russia was not ready for capitalists and that the Russian people will pay very high price for this.
He could not quite explain it in the novel because the novel after all was not political economy. But he made it absolutely clear that the Russian peasant,
and he calls in using Marxist terms, in the law of the peasants, that this is the best Russian class, the most honorable Russian class, that the peasant is going to be crushed by this industrialization.
And Soviet communism in the name of Marx did a great deal in its militancy against capitalism to bring about the worst nightmare of the crushing of the peasant class.
Precisely. Precisely. That is quite interesting, isn't it?
I didn't want our Russian friends out there to think that we are giving a nice Orthodox Marxist reading.
But this is exactly what happened in Russia. It was a crude, brutal, all-out modernization and it was done on the backs of the peasants.
So in that sense, it is neither capitalism or communism. It is really the forces of modernization, industrialization, technology.
But it was done altogether more brutally without tug this form.
Took the form, precisely because it was an ideology of revolution that ruptured with the past.
The absolute rupture was good, any forms of continuity, bad.
What is interesting is that Logan, I just little footnote, but Logan thinks of a revolution.
He wants his own revolution. He wants essentially some kind of a socialist cooperative revolution in agriculture.
He is one of the full daydreaming. He dreams about how first people do it on his farm.
He sees already that things are usually beginning to work, although Tal's story says, "He thought so."
And he said, "Well, then it will be the district, then it will be the whole of Russia and then the whole world."
And you know what comes next? His brother arrives. His dying brother, the brother who is dying of consumption, arrives.
And all of these dreams disappear. And this is the first time that Logan begins to think about death.
And he says, "What am I doing here? Why am I trying to do something? I will be dead and all of this will be meaningless."
So does Tolstoy work out the, does he work through the problem of a meaningless death, hence a meaningless life, in this novel?
Or do we have to wait to read other things like his confessions and later think that his conversion or his change of perspective?
Is there something in Anakarina, the reader at the end of whether it's through Logan or someone else that we can point to a Tolstoy in direction in which to think beyond the nihilism of the time?
I think I want to say yes and no. We are unbelievably lucky that he finished the novel as he was undergoing the conversion, not after he had gotten the conversion.
Because the novel remains ambiguous, open to interpretation. And his own artistic sense of a novelist precluded him from offering a prescription.
In a way, so this is to say no, to say yes, he does show Logan overcoming his depression, his annuée in two ways.
One through illusion, through the illusion of belief.
There are two instances in this, in this novel. One, when his wife, Kichi, is giving birth, it's a very difficult birth, and she is close to death there.
And Logan prays and she doesn't die. He understands that Anakarina makes us understand there that the prayer had nothing to do with the resolution of the pregnancy.
But at the moment of the prayer, Logan experienced its efficacy. At the second time we see it in the last book of the novel. When Kichi and the baby out for a stroll, there is a horrible thunderstorm, and the oak tree under which they usually rested and hid from the rain was hid by lightning and collapsed on them.
So, Logan is a totally crushed and he out of the prayer, "Oh God, let them be saved."
He, of course, at the same time, almost at the same time, he did not believe in the efficacy of prayer, but when he walked out and he saw both his wife and child alive, they actually did not go into that part of the forest anymore.
He was unbelievably relieved. So, that story shows both the psychology of the need for the charismatic intervention, for the intervention of the divine, but at the same time a man of modern man of reason who understands that was not the prayer.
He was not telling us that there is magic, but the positive prescription was the rejection of all intellectualism until all that is left of religion is it ethical, very basic, ethical teaching.
And this is what Tolstoy tries to suggest at the very end. He does not quite formulate it, but he is essentially, "Lululean lowers himself down to the level of a peasant."
And at that point, at that point, feels a relief that he senses some ethical consonance between himself and the peasants.
So, is that what Tolstoy converts to, after Anakadina, to a ethical understanding of brotherly love or neighborly love and not a conversion to God, per se?
Here he rejects all magic, all miracles, all mysteries, and he distills Christ teaching to its basic ethical principles.
But they are, of course, for him, the divine principles, the ultimate principles. They have to be grounded in some kind of transcendence, I suppose.
Yes. Whereas I believe that personally, the transcendence in which these kind of ethical principles, it's grounded, could be our own finite transcendence as what Aitur calls "design." We'll leave that out of the picture now.
So, I have a question for you about the presence of Russia in the novel and of Tolstoy's relationship to his motherland as well as to the West.
Was Tolstoy a Russian nationalist in any kind of broad understanding of that term? Did he have a fierce attachment to the Russian land or its traditions or its past?
Did he have a very common fascination with the West and a kind of love-hate relationship with the Western Europe? Where did he stand on those national issues?
In order to handful, in a kind of a value-neutral sense, yes, he was a Russian nationalist, or rather I would say he was a Russian patriot. He loved his country, he identified with it.
He did not think that it was just a version of France or England or Germany.
So that having said that, one can say also that he was not a Russian nationalist. That is to say his conversion, his religion, was the religion that denied the political.
It was really the denied the political, the denied the economic actually.
So essentially it was the withdrawal from civilization. It actually denied the erotic.
And when somebody asked him, "Well, if it's continents, well, this would be the end of the human race," he said, "Well, sometimes you have to sacrifice for what you believe in."
And this is what we able to call the ethic of ultimate ends, no compromises there.
So it was to be good for the Alstór one had to give up all of these elements.
And certainly one had to give up nationalism and politics.
Paul Stuendes stood in war and peace. War and peace was in many ways about meaning of nationalism.
It was a modern world which has no meaning, but one meaning was possible.
And he had to stand the stood that very well, and again, way we picked it up.
That in the political sphere, especially in the sphere of nationalism, death ceases to be meaningless.
Death becomes meaningful because you have the band of brothers who are dying and you are dying for a cause.
So this is how he ends on a carangina, except he ends it by saying that this is not a value that he agrees with anymore.
Ronsky crushed by on a suicide, just as she intended him to be.
Well, having already attempted this suicide once, this time decides to kill himself by volunteering to fight on the Balkans.
And he says completely openly that he is not really, he doesn't really believe in the cause, but he is going there simply to be useful for somebody.
Right? So this was false. And Luvin is very much against volunteering for the Balkan war.
So I can't resist where we are opening up a parentheses here and then we will close it because Russia is much in the news these days.
And I'm wondering in the post-89, the post breakup of the Soviet Union where you could say that in its most idealized moments, the ideology that sustained the Soviet Union was one that
I mean, you could force the argument maybe beyond credibility by saying that it gave a certain meaning to a heroic death of you died in the name of a cause like that.
Well, chimeism was very much a religion.
But nowadays is I don't know how much you may be able to pronounce on this, but has death become more meaningless than ever today in Russia.
Not in Russia.
Not in Russia.
Not in Russia. I was, you know, I just received an email from a friend of mine telling me that the grandchildren of my very good old friend, our mutual friend, are saying, "Oh, we'd love to go and fight their Americans and die for our country."
So the nationalism was back. It creates meaning. And that's why people feel such a great relief.
You know, it doesn't seem a little contrived to you. Or is it genuine and...
It's contrived at the top. You know, the political elite that always knows better, you know, chooses this road. I would consider it a low road.
But among the people, you know, these kinds of moments have a great attraction. I looked up yesterday the polling of the Americans on the eve of the Iraq War in 2003.
Actually, 80% of the polls were confident that the United States was doing the right thing by invading Iraq.
And this is exactly the 80% is exactly the positive polling on the Crimea in Russia today.
So where I was seeing a kind of a peak of nationalist fervor of jingoism and so on, it will pass.
It will be the day after, you know, I mean, the morning after.
So, no, everything works in many ways. Nothing really has changed. The same love-hate relationship with the West.
In a way, tell a story, you know, we don't like thinking about on the Caribbean in these terms.
But the West is the seducer, the ultimate seducer in on the Caribbean.
Because, you know, everything that really...
Everything that the characters undergo in that novel has an association with the West. I mean, the technology comes from the West.
The adultery comes... The adultery comes from the West.
The seductions come from the West.
Ablonsky's governess as French. The woman who sits at the cash register in the restaurant that he hates is a French woman with false hair.
He feels it's like standing next to an open toilet, you know, standing next to her.
The Ablonsky's dream that opens the novel is a restaurant in probably in Moscow, but definitely in Moscow, but it's called Darshot.
So this is Germany, you know, and Keith says, no, it wasn't really Darshot.
It was somewhere in America. So there's a whole... You know, the West, the abroad exists in on the Caribbean.
As the area, even worse than St. Petersburg, you know, the novel is really set up, you know, it has a... It has a specific geography of value with the countryside.
But are you suggesting that Tolstoy, believe that the West had a demonic hold on the Russian imagination that...
I don't think that's the belief in demons, but he understood and wasn't part, you know, impaled on the horns of the dilemma of Russia's westernization.
The Russian elite and he belonged to it was westernized. He spoke French in English and German. He was a man of the world. He had traveled abroad.
He read widely and for the most part, it was... It came from the West, but he was a Russian.
And Russia was a follower, not a leader in the game of modernization.
So he could not help being resentful about it.
And in some sense also, being afraid of what the competition, the nationalist competition, you know, among great powers, the prestige of great powers,
what this procedural great powers is doing to Russia. It forces Russia into modernization because it has to match the West technologically.
But it is crushing for its culture and for its indigenous population that had not been touched by westernization.
I have to say, my allegiance is to a principle, and it's not a principle. It's what Nietzsche called "good Europeanism."
And good Europeanism is a lack of attachment to any specific given fatherland where it's a form of cosmopolitanism where Europe or the West is one large place of belonging with great diversity, local diversity, but that there's a European wholeness to it.
And that would include Russia, it would include the Western European countries. And can I ask a naive question? All this westernization we were referring to that Tolstoy had grieved doubts about was that westernization, the necessary condition of possibility for the great flourishing of Russian literature, especially in the 19th century in the Russian novel?
There's no question about that Russia did not have novels before Westernization. It did poetry as well.
And poetry, well, it had some before Peter the Great, but many of its origins really were from the West, from Poland for the most part.
The Baroque influenced, came from that. Obviously, there was folklore, there were Russian lays and so on that had common European origins of that.
But as a westernization made Tolstoy possible.
It made Russia possible. Russia would have been taken apart into small little pieces if it had not been for Peter the Great Westernization.
Russia became a great power in the Polernic Wars, essentially it liberated Europe. I don't know whether liberation is the right word for it.
But it did defeated Napoleon's armies and became a great power. The Western Europe resented that fact right away.
So, and the kind of anti-Russian sentiment coalesced around Russia's rape of Poland in 1830 and later on in 1860 and so on.
It marks to say, "Scratch a Prussian and you'll get a Russian."
And Marquis de Cristin said, "Who went there in 1837?" said, "Well, scratch your Russian and you'll get a platter."
So, the Russians are not true wheels, Europeans. Well, they are. But they're different from Germans and the Dutch and the Spanish and the Portuguese and so on.
Do you believe that there is a sense among, if not the Russian people, at least the Russian political ruling class, that the West doesn't love them enough?
That is a problem, you know, because one has to love the West because this is where...
And vice versa.
Where good things come from and but on the other hand, there is a suspicion always that you are not quite of the West, that you are not really quite European.
And sometimes that is a reasonable suspicion and a lot of times it isn't. A lot of times it's just, you know, paranoia.
But European or an American reading Tolstoy or Dosuyevsky, many of the novel, certainly sticking with Anacarena would recognize the world under description at least vast parts of the society under description as perfectly Western, hardly all that different from the...
Yeah, so that Westernization is part of the mentality of many of the characters as part of their behavior.
And you can say that there is not just this superficial adoption of a foreign element that Russia at that point was part of this Europeanism,
that Nietzsche was calling for a kind of citizenship of in a broader sense.
Yeah, well there are two things. I mean, in one sense, you know, many of those who belong to the Russian educated elite would go with Nietzsche.
I mean, they were very at home abroad.
They spoke the languages which you did by, you know, French or Swiss or German tutors and so on and so forth. So English.
So it's... Yes.
But, you know, when the bugle sounds, when the bugle sounds and the flag is waved, something else happens in the age of nationalism.
And the 19th century is in the 20th, other age of nationalism.
And people call us around the flag and Nietzsche himself as you recall, volunteered and served in the Franco-Prussian War.
Yes, but he was anything but a father-landish type. In fact, his whole concept of good Europeanism is against any father-landish sentiment.
He was brutally critical of the Russian rallying around the flag.
German rallying around the flag. He was absolutely against German nationalism and despised it, especially its anti-Semitism.
I'm aware of that, but I'm just saying that this is not one can't just abstractly, you know, if you look at the life of these people.
I'm thinking of Freud, for example, who could be more European than Freud, right?
But he rallied around the flag. I mean, he, of course, later on, you know, came to your eximals, rallied around the flag.
Weber himself, you know, who understood absolutely everything, okay? Was a German nationalist for a moment, at least?
Well, I believe in the first half of the 20th century, Europe basically went into a paroxism and lost its mind.
And the kinds of catastrophes that the first and second World War represented, when you think of what someone like Nietzsche prior to these disasters was saying about good Europeanism.
And the horrors of a father-landish sentiment, it would seem that the 19th century was a far more modern century than the early half of the 20th century, which retreated into forms of barbarism.
However, we have very few minutes left. So can I ask you about going back to Tolstoy?
You said that he denies or retreats from capitalism, from society, westernization, and that's very true.
From the city, from the city. From the city.
So is it an ascetic ideal that he is proposing not only for himself, that he proposed not only for himself as an individual, but for all humanity.
And that ascetic ideal would do what for us?
Well, it will take us back to the country and Pinissilin and everything else and pasteurized milk.
So all the blessings of civilization?
Yeah, but his sense was, and in many ways you cannot really, it is hard to disagree with him.
His sense was that the logic of modern industrialization and modernization of great state, you know, it had to be a great state.
That that great state becomes an imperialist state, and that was the case of the 19th century.
I mean, you are saying Europe did not, you know, after the unipolaring course, it was really all piece and quite.
Well, it was piece and quite in Europe, but it was not piece and quite in Africa or in India or in China, you know, and so on.
But the wars as my friend and our colleague James Shrin says, you know, the wars have gone out of Europe.
In Russia, however, it was all happening within Russia. It was a continental empire.
Anyway, so he was right that there is a, you know, the prestige of great powers based on this technology will lead to war.
So we have to guard ourselves against it.
By now when I understand that, I saw it was very interesting as I was teaching, finishing, teaching this class.
Putin sent the troops to retake Crimea. Okay. It's clear, Russia has, you know, spent 10 time zones.
You know, I mean, there are Russians everywhere, you know, not necessarily within the boundaries of Russia.
Why did he need this postage stamp? Okay, except for the sake of the prestige of great power and to prove the point and, you know, get from under his resentment, you know, being, you know, having lost the cold war or something of something of that sort.
It was very interesting to read Tolstoy and Tolstoy in that sense, you know, she's clearly this dynamic. His prescription, his prescription became in the 20th century was not unusual.
It sounds very much like the early Christian hermits who found their salvation in turning their backs on the world.
Or it goes back to the early Greek pessimists who said, life itself is a long illness. It's better to die young. Best of all is not to have been born.
No, not all. Yes. But this is a life denying and I would hope that there would be something a little more life affirming in the final Tolstoy.
Well, the life affirming in the final Tolstoy is the ethic of brotherly love. That is life affirming. He affirmed that he became the prophet of it and he took it to the extreme. Okay.
And I think that the world needs profit and this was part of Weber's fascination with Tolstoy because for Weber really the key to understanding modernity was the understanding of religion.
And he saw in Tolstoy contemporary who became really a modern day prophet similar to the Old Testament prophets.
Okay. Well, that's good enough for me, Grecia. Fascinating discussion we've been having here on Leo Tolstoy with Professor Grecia Fragen from the Department of Slavic here at Stanford.
So thanks for tuning in and Grecia, I look forward to being here. Robert, it was wonderful. Yes, and I'll make something up. Okay. Just to give here. Take care. Bye. Bye. Bye.
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