Posted by: Corri van de Stege | October 17, 2007

TWO QUITE DIFFERENT BOOKS

A really busy beginning of the week  – after my visit to Leipzig over the weekend (about which more I hope) I covered Yorkshire, Milton Keynes and Doncaster for various meetings.  Train journeys provide not only opportunities to do work (e-mails and all sorts) but also, and I think time much better spent, reading.   Don’t ask me why but I picked up ‘Tender is the Night’, by Scott Fitzgerald whilst in Leipzig and have nearly finished this (for the second time: it’s a book I read aeons ago).  I am still struck by the fact that it is a story so very well told, the character developments, but also the wayward living of this particular group of people, quite unreal when you think about it, but it is brought with such wonderful prose that I, at least, don’t get bored reading it for a second time.   Also, the slow but relentless descent of the main character, Dick, into a life not worth living, as against the recovery of his wife, Nicole out of near madness, is extremely well traced.  I haven’t quite finished it yet, but will either tonight or tomorrow, I’m sure.

At the same time, I’m still dipping in and out of Milan Kundera’s The Curtain, I think I’ve mentioned this book before.  The book is definitely high brow but nevertheless I enjoy the short pieces on individual books and authors and I hit on ‘The Beauty of Death’ which asks the question why Anna Karenina kills herself.  This is of course quite an interesting question in the light of the Russian Reading Challenge and quite recently I mentioned that Anna Karenina is one of my favourite books.  I always assumed that it was inevitable that she killed herself; it was the story, the tragedy of the story of a very unhappy woman who feels neglected and terribly unhappy about where she is in life.  Milan Kundera says however ‘Even if we understand the depth of her sorrow, Anna’s suicide remains an enigma’.  Why?  Because trapped people are not necessarily driven to suicide.  The greatness about Tolstoy’s writing is of course that the course of events and thoughts right up to the actual suicide are so masterfully described and, as Kundera points out, he is in fact one of the first writers to introduce what fifty years later will be called the ‘stream of consciousness’, when Anna lets thoughts flow freely in the carriage on her way to the station. 

I think the essay is a gem as far as its insight into this particular part of the novel is concerned.  Yes, I did enjoy that on my train journey this week!

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Responses

  1. Maybe Anna has “lived enough” that she wants to end her life.

  2. Matt: I know, but it is quite wonderful how Tolstoy describes her thought processes that lead up to it – her decision is not logical by any means!


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