Tolstoy’s Prescient Critique of Postmodern Sexual Ethics

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy tells the story of the adulterous romance between the title character and the dashing Alexei Vronsky. Experiencing true love for the first time, Karenina leaves her stifling marriage to a religious, conservative, and cruel husband, while Vronsky leaves behind his life of womanizing. Yet not all is happy in the relationship between these two consenting adults. Joshua Pauling sees in the novel a powerful corrective to Western morality in the era after the sexual revolution:

Several of the book’s main characters reject marital and familial commitments, and their choices leave themselves and their families deeply broken. Vronsky and Anna’s affair, with its unrestrained and disordered desire, ultimately consumes them both, as Vronsky confesses: “As a man, I’m a wreck, [stuck in] a wholly useless remorse never to be effaced.”

The book also explores how sexual liberation affects children. To Vronsky, “a man is in duty bound to live for himself, as every man of culture should live,” and children are inconveniences that should not “prevent their parents from enjoying life.”

As Anna and Vronsky begin their affair, Anna’s son Seryozha haunts them. Vronsky often notices the child’s “bewildered glance fixed upon him, . . . as though the child felt that between this man and his mother there existed some important bond, the significance of which he could not understand.” Despite being pricked in their consciences by Seryozha, they refuse to reorder their desires; instead they flee to Italy. Seryozha becomes a casualty of their self-serving love.

Alongside Vronsky and Anna’s libertine relationship, Tolstoy portrays a contrasting experience of marriage and family through the character of Konstantin Levin. Levin’s thoughts on marriage are quite different from those of his aristocratic friends. Levin was “so far from conceiving of love for woman apart from marriage that he positively pictured to himself first the family, and only secondarily the woman who would give him a family.” While the [members of Vronsky’s urbane and aristocratic circle] saw marriage as a life accessory, “for Levin it was the chief affair of life, on which its whole happiness turned.”

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Leo Tolstoy, Literature, Sexual ethics, Sexual revolution


As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas