Anna karenina, p.101
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       Anna Karenina, p.101

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 32

  Levin had long before made the observation that when one isuncomfortable with people from their being excessively amenable andmeek, one is apt very soon after to find things intolerable from theirtouchiness and irritability. He felt that this was how it would be withhis brother. And his brother Nikolay's gentleness did in fact not lastout for long. The very next morning he began to be irritable, and seemeddoing his best to find fault with his brother, attacking him on histenderest points.

  Levin felt himself to blame, and could not set things right. He feltthat if they had both not kept up appearances, but had spoken, as it iscalled, from the heart--that is to say, had said only just what theywere thinking and feeling--they would simply have looked into eachother's faces, and Konstantin could only have said, "You're dying,you're dying!" and Nikolay could only have answered, "I know I'm dying,but I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid!" And they could have saidnothing more, if they had said only what was in their hearts. But lifelike that was impossible, and so Konstantin tried to do what he had beentrying to do all his life, and never could learn to do, though, as faras he could observe, many people knew so well how to do it, and withoutit there was no living at all. He tried to say what he was not thinking,but he felt continually that it had a ring of falsehood, that hisbrother detected him in it, and was exasperated at it.

  The third day Nikolay induced his brother to explain his plan to himagain, and began not merely attacking it, but intentionally confoundingit with communism.

  "You've simply borrowed an idea that's not your own, but you'vedistorted it, and are trying to apply it where it's not applicable."

  "But I tell you it's nothing to do with it. They deny the justice ofproperty, of capital, of inheritance, while I do not deny this chiefstimulus." (Levin felt disgusted himself at using such expressions, butever since he had been engrossed by his work, he had unconsciously comemore and more frequently to use words not Russian.) "All I want is toregulate labor."

  "Which means, you've borrowed an idea, stripped it of all that gave itits force, and want to make believe that it's something new," saidNikolay, angrily tugging at his necktie.

  "But my idea has nothing in common..."

  "That, anyway," said Nikolay Levin, with an ironical smile, his eyesflashing malignantly, "has the charm of--what's one to callit?--geometrical symmetry, of clearness, of definiteness. It may be aUtopia. But if once one allows the possibility of making of all the pasta _tabula rasa_--no property, no family--then labor would organizeitself. But you gain nothing..."

  "Why do you mix things up? I've never been a communist."

  "But I have, and I consider it's premature, but rational, and it has afuture, just like Christianity in its first ages."

  "All that I maintain is that the labor force ought to be investigatedfrom the point of view of natural science; that is to say, it ought tobe studied, its qualities ascertained..."

  "But that's utter waste of time. That force finds a certain form ofactivity of itself, according to the stage of its development. Therehave been slaves first everywhere, then metayers; and we have thehalf-crop system, rent, and day laborers. What are you trying to find?"

  Levin suddenly lost his temper at these words, because at the bottom ofhis heart he was afraid that it was true--true that he was trying tohold the balance even between communism and the familiar forms, and thatthis was hardly possible.

  "I am trying to find means of working productively for myself and forthe laborers. I want to organize..." he answered hotly.

  "You don't want to organize anything; it's simply just as you've beenall your life, that you want to be original to pose as not exploitingthe peasants simply, but with some idea in view."

  "Oh, all right, that's what you think--and let me alone!" answeredLevin, feeling the muscles of his left cheek twitching uncontrollably.

  "You've never had, and never have, convictions; all you want is toplease your vanity."

  "Oh, very well; then let me alone!"

  "And I will let you alone! and it's high time I did, and go to the devilwith you! and I'm very sorry I ever came!"

  In spite of all Levin's efforts to soothe his brother afterwards,Nikolay would listen to nothing he said, declaring that it was better topart, and Konstantin saw that it simply was that life was unbearable tohim.

  Nikolay was just getting ready to go, when Konstantin went in to himagain and begged him, rather unnaturally, to forgive him if he had hurthis feelings in any way.

  "Ah, generosity!" said Nikolay, and he smiled. "If you want to be right,I can give you that satisfaction. You're in the right; but I'm going allthe same."

  It was only just at parting that Nikolay kissed him, and said, lookingwith sudden strangeness and seriousness at his brother:

  "Anyway, don't remember evil against me, Kostya!" and his voicequivered. These were the only words that had been spoken sincerelybetween them. Levin knew that those words meant, "You see, and you know,that I'm in a bad way, and maybe we shall not see each other again."Levin knew this, and the tears gushed from his eyes. He kissed hisbrother once more, but he could not speak, and knew not what to say.

  Three days after his brother's departure, Levin too set off for hisforeign tour. Happening to meet Shtcherbatsky, Kitty's cousin, in therailway train, Levin greatly astonished him by his depression.

  "What's the matter with you?" Shtcherbatsky asked him.

  "Oh, nothing; there's not much happiness in life."

  "Not much? You come with me to Paris instead of to Mulhausen. You shallsee how to be happy."

  "No, I've done with it all. It's time I was dead."

  "Well, that's a good one!" said Shtcherbatsky, laughing; "why, I'm onlyjust getting ready to begin."

  "Yes, I thought the same not long ago, but now I know I shall soon bedead."

  Levin said what he had genuinely been thinking of late. He saw nothingbut death or the advance towards death in everything. But his cherishedscheme only engrossed him the more. Life had to be got through somehowtill death did come. Darkness had fallen upon everything for him; butjust because of this darkness he felt that the one guiding clue in thedarkness was his work, and he clutched it and clung to it with all hisstrength.

 
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