Leo Tolstoy, the Kreuzer Sonata

The Kreuzer Sonata is about two things: one, a man past his prime who allows himself to be cucked by a musician, kills his wife, and blames it all on Beethoven; and two, a past due morality in sexual affairs written by a man who struggled to reconcile mortality with religion and right passion.

Kreuzer SonataThe Kreuzer Sonata · Leo Tolstoy · 1889
Pevear and Volokhonsky translation · Vintage, 2009 · 71 pages, paperback

How he came to murder his wife: the perspective of the novella is one year after the fact. Pozdnyshev is a fornicator turned loyal husband who got his comeuppance in a disloyal wife, and now, while on the train, he finds in a fellow passenger a man willing to listen to him as he reasons out his moral penury. Continue reading

Wedding bells, they ring a death knell

Santiago Nasar was already dead when they came for him. He was lost in the hubbub of one celebration melting into another. How could this murder have happened when everyone knew it would? Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold contains the death of a man, the guilt of a town and the machismo that celebrates one sin at the behest of another.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Chronicle of a Death Foretold · Gabriel García Márquez · 1982
Gregory Rabassa translation · Vintage, 2003 · 120 pages, paperback

The revelries of the previous night’s nuptials pour into the wee hours of the morning like so much cane liquor, and the sex is a release, and the sex is without its agonies and now realization dawns and the flows of revelry and purity are stoppered by a mute pause.

There’s no blood on the bedsheet.

And it’s rage as Bayardo San Roman returns his deflowered virgin to the house of her parents. And now the noise is not wedding bells, but instead the clangor of the docks that travels inland as the five o’clock hour wanes. The whistles scream and the bishop’s arrival is sounded in the square and Santiago Nasar is dead.

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Political theater, poetic farce

Orhan Pamuk’s Snow begins as a novel that had a good shot at feeding the intellect but instead contorted itself into a soap opera complete with convenient fixes for its weaknesses.Snow - Kar

Snow · Orhan Pamuk · 2002
Maureen Freely translation · Vintage, 2005 · 463 pages, paperback

A political coup that manipulates the theater to confuse and gain power? A string of suicides inspired by Turkey’s uncertain position on the East-West divide? An exiled poet who just might find enlightenment in the forsaken streets of his home town? Pamuk’s writing in Snow (originally published in Turkey as Kar) is too placid for the story he wanted to tell. We read the few moments of heightened drama in this novel in a detached way, as if we’re too tired to keep our eyes open and our brains can’t hold onto the words we’re reading: we just don’t care.  Continue reading