eBooks Cube
 
PART THREE - Chapter 1


Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev wanted a rest from mental work, and
instead of going abroad as he usually did, he came towards the
end of May to stay in the country with his brother. In his
judgment the best sort of life was a country life. He had come
now to enjoy such a life at his brother's. Konstantin Levin was
very glad to have him, especially as he did not expect his
brother Nikolay that summer. But in spite of his affection and
respect for Sergey Ivanovitch, Konstantin Levin was uncomfortable
with his brother in the country. It made him uncomfortable, and
it positively annoyed him to see his brother's attitude to the
country. To Konstantin Levin the country was the background of
life, that is of pleasures, endeavors, labor. To Sergey
Ivanovitch the country meant on one hand rest from work, on the
other a valuable antidote to the corrupt influences of town,
which he took with satisfaction and a sense of its utility. To
Konstantin Levin the country was good first because it afforded a
field for labor, of the usefulness of which there could be no
doubt. To Sergey Ivanovitch the country was particularly good,
because there it was possible and fitting to do nothing.
Moreover, Sergey Ivanovitch's attitude to the peasants rather
piqued Konstantin. Sergey Ivanovitch used to say that he knew
and liked the peasantry, and he often talked to the peasants,
which he knew how to do without affectation or condescension, and
from every such conversation he would deduce general conclusions
in favor of the peasantry and in confirmation of his knowing
them. Konstantin Levin did not like such an attitude to the
peasants. To Konstantin the peasant was simply the chief partner
in their common labor, and in spite of all the respect and the
love, almost like that of kinship, he had for the peasant--
sucked in probably, as he said himself, with the milk of his
peasant nurse--still as a fellow-worker with him, while
sometimes enthusiastic over the vigor, gentleness, and justice of
these men, he was very often, when their common labors called for
other qualities, exasperated with the peasant for his
carelessness, lack of method, drunkenness, and lying. If he had
been asked whether he liked or didn't like the peasants,
Konstantin Levin would have been absolutely at a loss what to
reply. He liked and did not like the peasants, just as he liked
and did not like men in general. Of course, being a good-hearted
man, he liked men rather than he disliked them, and so too with
the peasants. But like or dislike "the people" as something
apart he could not, not only because he lived with "the people,"
and all his interests were bound up with theirs, but also because
he regarded himself as a part of "the people," did not see any
special qualities or failings distinguishing himself and "the
people," and could not contrast himself with them. Moreover,
although he had lived so long in the closest relations with the
peasants, as farmer and arbitrator, and what was more, as adviser
(the peasants trusted him, and for thirty miles round they would
come to ask his advice), he had no definite views of "the
people," and would have been as much at a loss to answer the
question whether he knew "the people" as the question whether he
liked them. For him to say he knew the peasantry would have been
the same as to say he knew men. He was continually watching and
getting to know people of all sorts, and among them peasants,
whom he regarded as good and interesting people, and he was
continually observing new points in them, altering his former
views of them and forming new ones. With Sergey Ivanovitch it
was quite the contrary. Just as he liked and praised a country
life in comparison with the life he did not like, so too he liked
the peasantry in contradistinction to the class of men he did not
like, and so too he knew the peasantry as something distinct from
and opposed to men generally. In his methodical brain there were
distinctly formulated certain aspects of peasant life, deduced
partly from that life itself, but chiefly from contrast with
other modes of life. He never changed his opinion of the
peasantry and his sympathetic attitude towards them.

In the discussions that arose between the brothers on their views
of the peasantry, Sergey Ivanovitch always got the better of his
brother, precisely because Sergey Ivanovitch had definite ideas
about the peasant--his character, his qualities, and his tastes.
Konstantin Levin had no definite and unalterable idea on the
subject, and so in their arguments Konstantin was readily
convicted of contradicting himself.

I Sergey Ivanovitch's eyes his younger brother was a capital
fellow, with his heart in the right place (as he expressed it in
French), but with a mind which, though fairly quick, was too much
influenced by the impressions of the moment, and consequently
filled with contradictions. With all the condescension of an
elder brother he sometimes explained to him the true import of
things, but he derived little satisfaction from arguing with him
because he got the better of him too easily.

Konstantin Levin regarded his brother as a man of immense
intellect and culture, as generous in the highest sense of the
word, and possessed of a special faculty for working for the
public good. But in the depths of his heart, the older he
became, and the more intimately he knew his brother, the more and
more frequently the thought struck him that this faculty of
working for the public good, of which he felt himself utterly
devoid, was possibly not so much a quality as a lack of something
--not a lack of good, honest, noble desires and tastes, but a
lack of vital force, of what is called heart, of that impulse
which drives a man to choose someone out of the innumerable
paths of life, and to care only for that one. The better he knew
his brother, the more he noticed that Sergey Ivanovitch, and many
other people who worked for the public welfare, were not led by
an impulse of the heart to care for the public good, but reasoned
from intellectual considerations that it was a right thing to
take interest in public affairs, and consequently took interest
in them. Levin was confirmed in this generalization by observing
that his brother did not take questions affecting the public
welfare or the question of the immortality of the soul a bit more
to heart than he did chess problems, or the ingenious
construction of a new machine.

Besides this, Konstantin Levin was not at his ease with his
brother, because in summer in the country Levin was continually
busy with work on the land, and the long summer day was not long
enough for him to get through all he had to do, while Sergey
Ivanovitch was taking a holiday. But though he was taking a
holiday now, that is to say, he was doing no writing, he was so
used to intellectual activity that he liked to put into concise
and eloquent shape the ideas that occurred to him, and liked to
have someone to listen to him. His most usual and natural
listener was his brother. And so in spite of the friendliness
and directness of their relations, Konstantin felt an awkwardness
in leaving him alone. Sergey Ivanovitch liked to stretch himself
on the grass in the sun, and to lie so, basking and chatting
lazily.

"You wouldn't believe," he would say to his brother, "what a
pleasure this rural laziness is to me. Not an idea in one's
brain, as empty as a drum!"

But Konstantin Levin found it dull sitting and listening to him,
especially when he knew that while he was away they would be
carting dung onto the fields not ploughed ready for it, and
heaping it all up anyhow; and would not screw the shares in the
ploughs, but would let them come off and then say that the new
ploughs were a silly invention, and there was nothing like the
old Andreevna plough, and so on.

"Come, you've done enough trudging about in the heat," Sergey
Ivanovitch would say to him.

"No, I must just run round to the counting-house for a minute,"
Levin would answer, and he would run off to the fields.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
Nabou.com: the big site