Sunday, November 9, 2014

Anna Karenina: Part 7, Chapter 10

David Slays Goliath - Gustave Dore
David Slays Goliath, by Gustave Dore

In Part 7, Chapter 10 of Anna Karenina, Konstantin Levin and Stephan Arkadyevich pay a visit to Anna at her Moscow apartment. In the study they are greeted by Anna and introduced to another guest named Vorkuev. Levin admires a portrait of Anna and which was painted in Italy. They all engage in a discussion of the current trend in art. Levin is impressed with Anna and her opinion of realism.
The conversation turned on the new movement in art, on the new illustrations of the Bible by a French artist. Vorkuyev attacked the artist for a realism carried to the point of coarseness. Levin said that the French had carried conventionality in art further than anyone, and that consequently they see a great merit in the return to realism. In the very fact that they do not lie they see poetry. Never had anything clever said by Levin given him so much pleasure as this remark. Anna's face lighted up at one, as at once she appreciated the thought. She laughed.
"I laugh," she said. "as one laughs when one sees a very striking likeness. What you said so perfectly describes French art now, painting and literature too, indeed -- Zola, Daudet. But perhaps it is always so, than men form their conceptions from imaginary, conventional types, and then -- all the combinations made -- they are tired of the imaginary figures and begin to invent more natural, true figures."
 * * * * * 
 illustrations of the Bible by a French artist

According to the footnote in my Modern Library Classics edition, the French artist referred to in this scene is Gustave Dore. He was commissioned to illustrate an English Bible in 1853. The following are some examples of Dore's depictions of biblical scenes.

Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness - Gustave Dore
Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Furnace - Gustave Dore
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace

Sodom - Gustave Dore
The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones - Gustave Dore
The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
Samson and Delilah - Gustave Dore
Samson and Deliah
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel - Gustave Dore
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Ruth and Boaz - Gustave Dore
Ruth and Boaz
Jesus - Gustave Dore

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Anna Karenina: Part 7, Chapter 9

The Wedding - Marc Chagall
The Wedding, Marc Chagall 
In part 7, chapter 9 of Anna Karenina, Levin and Stephan Arkadyevich converse about Anna while en route to her apartment in Moscow.

Stephan Arkadyevich pursued, "I don't hesistate to say that she's a remarkable woman. But you will see. Her position is very painful, especially now."
"Why especially now?"
"We are carrying on negotiations with her husband about a divorce. And he's agreed; but there are difficulties in regard to the son, and the business, which ought to have been arranged long ago, has been dragging on for three months now. As soon as the divorce is over, she will marry Vronsky. How stupid that old ceremony is, walking round and round and singing Rejoice, O Isaiah! that no one believes in and that stands in the way of happiness of people," Stephan Arkadyevich put in. "Well, then their situation will be as regular as mine, and yours."

* * * * *

Rejoice, O Isaiah! 

This is a reference to part of an Orthodox Christian wedding ceremony.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. ( Isaiah 7:14)

The Wedding - Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky
The Wedding, Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky

Marriage becomes more than a mere human institution, existing for whatever purpose a society assigns it. It becomes, like the Church Herself, a sign that God's Kingdom has already begun in our midst . . .
. . . [There is a] triple procession around the center table: the "Dance of Isaiah". The priest, holding the Gospel or Blessing Cross and the clasped hands of the groom and bride, and followed by the best man (or woman) who holds the newlyweds' crowns above their heads, and the bridesmaids holding the lit white candles, walk three counterclockwise turns around the table in a celebratory "dance". Each of the three turns is accompanied by each of the three hymns, which return once more to the theme of martyrdom and union with Christ. These are the hymns that, since ancient times, the Church has used to emphasize God's blessings, and the same ones sung at ordinations to ecclesiastical orders. They signify that this couple has been set apart from the mundane world to live a life in Christ:

Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin is with child,
And shall bear a son Emmanuel,
Both God and Man,
And Orient is His Name,
Whom magnifying we call, the Virgin blessed.
O Holy Martyrs,
who fought the good fight and have received your crowns,
Entreat ye the Lord,
That He will have mercy on our souls.
Glory to Thee, O Christ our God,
The Apostles boast,
The Martyrs Joy,
whose preaching was the Consubstantial Trinity

Though Stephan Arkadyevich mocks this event by referring it as a "stupid old ceremony." It is the very sacredness of this moment that Tolstoy holds up as ideal. The scene is described in detail earlier in the novel during the wedding of Levin and Kitty. It is a moment of great joy and community participation.
They enjoyed hearing the Epistle read, and the roll of the protodeacon’s voice at the last verse, awaited with such impatience by the outside public. They enjoyed drinking out of the shallow cup of warm red wine and water, and they were still more pleased when the priest, flinging back his stole and taking both their hands in his, led them round the lectern to the accompaniment of bass voices chanting: “Isaiah rejoice!” Shcherbatsky and Chirikov, supporting the crowns and stumbling over the bride’s train, smiling too and seeming delighted at something, were at one moment left behind, at the next treading on the bridal pair as the priest came to a halt. The spark of joy kindled in Kitty seemed to have infected everyone in the church. It seemed to Levin that the priest and the deacon too wanted to smile, just as he did.
 In contrast, Anna is now experiencing loneliness and despair as a result of violating her marriage vows.

The following is a clip of an Orthodox wedding procession. Notice the similarities to the wedding Tolstoy describes above. This modern couple could be Kitty and Levin. I love how, while sipping the wine, the bride beams at the priest before he leads the couple around the lecturn.  Hear the congregation sing, "Rejoice, O Isaiah!" 

(Start at 2:55)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chaper 27

Anna's son Seryozha ponders death while his father drills him in a Bible lesson on the Old Testament patriarchs:
In death, of which they talked to him so often, Seryozha disbelieved entirely. He did not believe that those he loved could die -- above all, that he himself would die. That was to him something utterly inconceivable and impossible. But he had been told that all men die; he had asked people, those whom he trusted, and they too had confirmed it; his old nurse, too, said the same, though reluctantly. But Enoch had not died, and so it followed that not everyone did die. "And why cannot anyone else so serve God and be taken alive to heaven? thought Seryozha. Bad people, that is, those Seryozha did not like, they might die, but the good might all be like Enoch.
And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
Genesis 5:24 

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 25

Several weeks have passed since Anna Karenina left her husband for Count Vronsky. She has begun to deeply miss her son, Seroyzha. She hopes her husband, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Karenin, will permit her to have access to him. She has sent a letter of appeal to the Countess Lydia Ivanovna, who is now managing all of Karenin's household affairs.

After some words of preparation, Countess Lydia Ivanovna, breathing hard and flushing crimson, put into Aleksey Aleksandrovich's hands the letter she had received.
After reading the letter, he sat a long while in silence.
"I don't think I have the right to refuse her," he said, timidly raising his eyes.
"Dear friend, you never see evil in anyone!"
"On the contrary, I see that all is evil. But whether it is fair --"
His face showed irresolution, was seeking counsel, support, and guidance in a matter he did not understand.
"No," Countess Lydia Ivanovna interrupted him, "there are limits to everything. I can understand immorality," she said, not quite truthfully, since she never could understand that which leads women to immorality, "but I can't understand cruelty, and to whom? To you! How can she stay in the town where you are? No, the longer one lives, the more one learns. And I'm learning to understand your loftiness and her baseness."
"Who is to throw a stone?" said Aleksey Aleksandrovich, unmistakably pleased with the part he had to play. "I have forgiven all, and so I cannot deprive her of what is exacted by love in her -- by her love for her son . . ."
"But what is love, my friend? Is it sincere? Admitting that you have forgiven -- that you forgive -- have we the right to work on the feelings of that angel? He looks on her as dead. He prays for her, and beseeches God to have mercy on her sins. And it is better so. But now what will he think?
"I had not thought of that," said Aleksey Aleksandrovich, evidently agreeing.

 "Who is to throw a stone?" 

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
John 8:3-11

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 24

After his wife left him, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Karenin went through a deep emotional valley. He felt scorned and ostracized by society. Now that he has found faith, his perspective has changed.
Aleksey Aleksandrovich did not merely fail to observe his hopeless position in the official world, he was not merely free from anxiety, he was positively more satisfied than ever with his own activity.
"He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife," says the Apostle Paul, and Aleksey Aleksandrovich, who was now guided in every action by Scripture, often recalled this text. It seemed to him that ever since he had been left without a wife he had in these very projects of reform been serving the Lord more zealously than before.

"He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
 I Corinthians 7:32-34

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 23

Seated woman (Olga) - Pablo Picasso
Seated Woman (Olga), Pablo Picasso

The news that Anna Karenina has left her husband, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Karenin, and is now living with Count Vronsky is now commonly known. The pair have spent a "honeymoon" in Italy and are passing through Petersburg. Anna has begun to deeply miss her son, Seroyzha. In hopes of being granted permission to visit him, see sends a letter of appeal to Karenin's close friend, The Countess Lydia Ivanovna, who is now managing all of Karenin's household affairs.

"Madame La Comtesse --
The Christian feelings with which your heart is filled give me the, I feel, unpardonable boldness to write to you. I am miserable at being separated from my son. I entreat permission to see him once before my departure. Forgive me for recalling myself to your memory. I apply to you and not to Aleksey Aleksandrovich simply because I do not wish to cause that generous man to suffer in remembering me. Knowing your friendship for him, I know you will understand me. Could you send Seryozha to me, or should I come to the house at some fixed hour, or will you let me know when and where I could see him away from home? I do not anticipate a refusal, knowing the magnanimity of him with whom it rests. You cannot conceive the craving I have to see my son, and so cannot conceive the gratitude your help will arouse in me.
                                                                                                                               Anna "                                                                                                                            
Everything in this letter exasperated Countess Lydia Ivanovna; its contents and the allusion to magnanimity, and especially what seemed to her its free and easy tone.
"Say that there is no answer," said Countess Lydia Ivanovna, and immediately opening her blotting pad, she wrote to Aleksey Alexandrovich that she hoped to see him at one o'clock at the levee.
"I must talk with you of a grave and painful subject. There we will arrange where to meet. Best of all at my house, where I will have your tea ready. Urgent. He sends a cross, but He sends the strength to bear it. " she added, so as to prepare him somewhat.


He sends a cross, but He sends the strength to bear it.

The Countess Lydia Ivanovna misuses Scripture here. She hopes to ease Karenin's conscience and conform his thoughts to her own agenda. She desires that Seryozha should never see his mother again.

The idea of "bearing one's cross" come from the Gospel of Luke.
23 And [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Luke 9:23-24
The promise that God will not put on us more than we can bear is from 1 Corinthians.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 19

Levin has received word from his brother's former mistress, Marya Nikolaevna, that his brother Nikolai is dying. Nikolai is in a filthy hotel far away in a provincial town. Levin decides immediately to go to him alone. Kitty wants to go too. A heated discussion ensues.

LevinIt's out of the question.

KittyI tell you that if you go, I shall come with you; I shall certainly come . . . Why out of the question?

LevinBecause it'll be going God knows where, by all sorts of roads and to all sorts of hotels. You would be a hindrance to me.

KittyNot at all. I don't want anything. Where you can go, I can --

LevinWell for one thing, then, because this woman's there whom you can't associate with.

KittyI don't know and I don't care to know who's there and what. I know that my husband's brother is dying and my husband is going to him, and I go with my husband too . . .

Levin: Kitty! . . . If you'll be bored alone, go to Moscow.

KittyThere, you always ascribe base, vile motives to me . . . I feel that it's my duty to be with my husband when he's in trouble, but you try on purpose to hurt me, you try on purpose not to understand . . .

The argument escalates.

Levin:  This is awful! To be such a slave!

KittyThen why did you marry? You could have been free. Why did you if you regret it?

Now Kitty is sobbing. Levin kisses her hand, her hair, her hand again.
Levin takes her face in both his hands --"Kitty!"
She recovers herself.
They are reconciled.

So she goes with him on his journey to the dingy provincial town.

And she shines.

Upon arrival at the his brother's sickroom, Levin begins to unravel.
He smelled the awful odor, saw the dirt, disorder, and miserable condition, he heard the groans, and thought that nothing could be done to help.
His blood runs cold. He is in agony. He paces in and out of the room. He cannot be natural and calm in his brother's presence.

But Kitty thought and felt and acted quite differently.
On seeing the sick man, she pitied him. And pity in her womanly heart did not arouse at all the feeling of horror and loathing that it aroused in her husband, but a desire to act, to find out the details of his condition, and to remedy them. And since she had not the slightest doubt that it was her duty to help him, she had no doubt either that it was possible, and immediately set to work. The very details, the mere thought of which reduced her husband to terror, immediately engaged her attention . . .
Kitty sends for the doctor and the chemist. She orders her maid and Marya Nikolaevna to sweep and dust and scrub. She begins washing things. By her direction, items are carried into the sickroom and out. She fetches sheets, pillow cases, towels, and shirts from her room. And then, when she sees that Marya Nikolaevna and a servant are struggling to get Nikolai's long limp arm into the sleeve of his shirt, she swiftly closes the door (to prevent Levin from interfering) and comes to his aid.

She realizes that Nikolai is ashamed at being naked before her.

"I'm not looking. I'm not looking!" she said, putting the arm in.

And what does the dying Nicholai think of Kitty?
When the doctor had gone away, the sick man said something to his brother, of which Levin could distinguish only the last words -- "your Katya." By the expression with which he gazed at her, Levin saw that he was praising her. He asked Katya, as he called [Kitty], to come closer.
"I'm much better already," he said. "Why with you I should have got well long ago. How nice it feels!" He took her hand and drew it toward his lips, but as though afraid she would dislike it, he changed his mind, let it go, and only stroked it. Kitty took his hand in both hers and pressed it.
In his last moments he mutters something. Kitty understands what he needs although no one else in the room can make out what he is saying. He wants to be turned over. As Levin lifts his heavy, powerless form,  Kitty turns his pillow and fluffs it. She sits by his side and smooths his hair as he dies.

After Nicholai's death, Levin ponders what he was witnessed. He is amazed by Kitty's confidence -- how she dealt with death without fright or delay. He believes Kitty understands the nature of death.  He knows he is more intelligent than his wife. But he knows too "that the brains of many great men, whose thoughts he had read, had brooded over death, and yet knew not a hundredth part of what his wife and [his housekeeper] knew about it."

"Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." So Levin thought about his wife as he talked to her that night.


"Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."

Here Levin is referring to Luke 10:21-24 in which Christ commissions seventy disciples to preach the Gospel:
21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. 
22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.
23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:
24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)