Monday, April 6, 2009

Tolstoy about "debauchery"


He paused and gave vent to his peculiar sound, as he evidently did whenever a new idea occurred to him.
“And you know, that's the chief abomination!" he exclaimed. "Dissoluteness does not lie in anything physical - no kind of physical misconduct is debauchery; real debauchery lies precisely in freeing oneself from moral relations with a woman with whom you have physical intimacy. Such emancipation I regarded as a merit. I remember how l once worried because I'd not had an opportunity to pay a woman who gave herself to me (having probably taken a liking to me) and how I only calmed down after having sent her some money - thereby intimating that I didn't consider myself morally bound to her in any way... "Don't nod as if you agreed with me," he suddenly shouted at me. “Don't I know these things? We all, and you too unless you're a rare exception, hold those same views, just as I used to. Never mind, I beg your pardon, but the fact is that it's terrible, terrible, terrible!"
“What’s terrible?" I asked.
"That abyss of error in which we live regarding women and our relations with them. No, I can't speak calmly about it, not because of that ‘episode,' as he called it, in my life, but because since that 'episode' occurred my eyes have been opened and I've seen everything in quite a different light. Everything reversed, everything reversed!"
He lit a cigarette and began to speak, leaning his elbows on his knees.
It was too dark to see his face, but, above the jolting of the train, I could hear his impressive and pleasant voice.
Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata, edited and with revised
translations by Michael R. Katz, Norton, 2008

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