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)