Kreutzer Sonata

Author: Tolstoy, Leo Nikolayevich (1828-1910)

Although now considered one of Tolstoy’s best shorter stories, Russian authorities censored The Kreutzer Sonata after its publication in 1889. Similarly, other countries including the United States had banned the book’s translations. The story concerns Pozdnyshev, a cynical young man overcome by passion, rage, and jealousy. The author plumbs the innermost depths of Pozdnyshev’s crumbling mind; the callousness of that mind and its intentions can be profoundly unsettling. Tolstoy explains in the story’s epilogue, however, that the downfall of the twisted Pozdnyshev serves only to show how carnal lust destroys lives. While all readers acknowledge the story’s genius, its intended message of ascetic abstinence remains controversial. G.K. Chesterton, for example, wrote that “Tolstoy is not content with pitying humanity for its pains: such as poverty and prisons. He also pities humanity for its pleasures, such as music and patriotism. He weeps at the thought of hatred; but in The Kreutzer Sonata he weeps almost as much at the thought of love.”

Kathleen O’Bannon
CCEL Staff





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