Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Last Station

finished: The Last Station by Jay Parini

I love me some Tolstoy! This we know. After all, we owe the existence of this blog to Tolstoy. This Literary Supplement to Linda Without Borders was born when I commenced reading The Book itself, War and Peace, a little more than four years ago now, whilst I was over yonder in Korea. I even called it Linda Without Borders: War and Peace until it outgrew the title and became a place for me to think all my literary thoughts.

So, my boy Leo Tolstoy - love him, as did many others, apparently! The Last Station takes place in and around his Yasnaya Polyana estate duing the last year of his life. He and his wife Sofya are not on the same page with regard to personal property, specifically whether he should give his personal property to the masses of Russia. Nor are they on the same page about his friend Chertkov and the Tolstoyan minions who all hang around living communally and professing Tolstoyan values all day.

The Last Station was not on my radar whatsoever until I started reading about the movie (in EW, naturally); then the movie started getting awards season buzz, so of course I knew I was going to read the book, see the flick, and enjoy one or both.

Check, check, and check - although I would say especially the film. The book is well done though. I'm not a big one for "historical fiction" - with rare exceptions - but I tried to appreciate Jay Parini's desire to write it as an homage of sorts to Tolstoy. I think he really digs Tolstoy's understanding of God-is-love. Rejection of the flawed church, but with an acceptance of the depth of religion. And there's the occasional great quote, often from Tolstoy himself, taken from real life sources, like this one:

"In recognizing Christianity, even in its distorted form as professed today, and in recognizing at the same time the necessity for armies and arms to kill in wars on such an enormous scale, governments express such a crying contradiction that sooner or later, probably sooner, they will be exposed. Then they shall put an end either to Christianity (which has been useful to them in maintaining power) or to the existence of armies and the violence they support." - p. 212-213

A few days after finishing the book, I happened upon the film The Good Soldier, a documentary that ponders that very issue of the violence in war and the injustice of a government asking/forcing its citizens to kill. Would that Tolstoy could be here to watch the film with us and comment wisely. He left us great messages, though, about such things as war, and peace. I just wish everyone would read them.

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