Dreams and Anna Karenina

Janet Malcolm writes:

* Tolstoy was obviously well acquainted with the guard who stops us at the border of sleep and awakening and confiscates the brilliant, dangerous spoils of our nighttime creations. The capacity to recreate these fictions in the unprotected light of day may be what we mean by literary genius.

* One of these continuities—perhaps the most significant—is Tolstoy’s keen, almost prying, interest in the sexuality of his characters and the hierarchy he has set in place that runs parallel to, though distinct from, his moral hierarchy. At the top he has set his sexually robust characters—Anna, Vronsky, Oblonsky, Levin, Kitty, and Dolly—and to the bottom he has consigned figures like the creepy Landau and Varenka, a sexless young woman Kitty meets at the spa to which she has been sent to cure her broken heart, and whose limp handshake is echoed a hundred pages later by Landau’s flaccid grip. Levin’s bloodless-intellectual half-brother Sergey Ivanovich Koznishev, a kind of double of the bloodless-intellectual Karenin (as Lydia Ivanovna is a double of another dreadful pious woman named Madame Stahl—the novel is filled with doubles and doublenesses), is another member of the league of the sexually underpowered, though his portrait is a mere sketch in comparison to the full-blown case study of impotence that Tolstoy has fashioned out of his complicated cuckold.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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