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Recently I have started to wake up early (even on my days off) and have discovered a golden two hours or so entirely to myself. The dog is still asleep and the cat and I can enjoy a nice glass of kefir or cup of coffee and a few chapters of a book. The world is asleep and it is perhaps the only time of the day I can read entirely without disruption.
After my post yesterday I found my copy of Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse. The first time I read this feminist literary landmark I was surprised and pleased at what I had found. Intercourse reads as a collection of gendered literary criticism and the first chapter “Repulsion” parallels Tolstoy and his wife Sophia with the married couple in his short work of fiction The Kreutzer Sonata.
In short, Tolstoy and Sophia had a rotten marriage where he only was “warm” towards her when he wanted to have sex and was “cold” to her much of the time. The couple had thirteen children (I guess that is “warm” enough), which Sophia took care of. Even Anna Karenina seems similar to the situation as the only passion in Anna’s life is consistently directly related to sex or men’s desires for her. That is, Anna does not exist independently of Vronsky, Karenin , Oblonsky, or even her son Seryozha.
I have also read here and there how autobiographical some of Tolstoy’s works are and Intercourse mentions how in both The Kreutzer Sonata as well as in Tolstoy and Sophia’s relationship that a diary was kept of the man’s past sexual liaisons and general wickedness of sorts and that this diary was later given to the woman. Last evening I finished book four of Anna Karenina and Levin also gives such a journal to the pure, sheltered, and dove-like Kitty.
I am not sure how Tolstoy wants the audience, at least the modern audience, to feel about Anna. The introduction warns the weary reader that the black and white lines of society that existed in Russia in this period are certainly much more blurred in modern society. Regardless of Tolstoy’s intent, by this point in the book (where Anna has rejected her lover Vronsky for her husband Karenin!?) I can feel Anna’s suffocation. Her relationship with her lover is perhaps more passionate but ultimately has little difference than her relationship with Karenin. (Oddly I have become more secure in this opinion each time Tolstoy mentions that Vronsky is balding as Karenin is already bald.) Anna is still trapped no matter her decision. It seems Anna does not know her own mind because she desires freedom of self to exist beyond this narrow scope of sex. The back and forth discussion of women’s emancipation seems to contribute to this idea also.