The Kreutzer Sonata

The Kreutzer Sonata - Leo Tolstoy Well, what a strange little book this turned out to be from the master.

Is it a good read? Yes, it is. Structured around a series of short chapters and incidents, it's just right for the shot-away modern attention span (surely, the novella is the perfect form for our age?) You know what's coming, almost from the outset, because the protagonist, Troukhatchevsky, tells you so. And yet, by delaying the crucial moment and delaying it, Tolstoy builds unbearable tension. In other words, the story telling is as masterful as you would expect, as are the characterisation and fine detailing.

The obsessive nature of the protagonist and the bizarre philosophy to which he adheres put me in mind of Raskolnikov. Well, it was after all the century of grand ideas, culminating not long after in that Republic of Ideas, the USSR. These peculiarities made Troukhatchevsky a less tragic, less sympathetic figure than otherwise he might have been. Even the counter-philosophies were rather difficult to take, from a 21st Century perspective. The theme of jealousy and its un-reason, on the other hand, remain powerfully and universally relevant, all the more so when developed by one of the great writers.