Resurrection (novel)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wiki Commons

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Resurrection (Template:Lang-ru, Voskreseniye), first published in 1899, was the last novel written by Leo Tolstoy.

The book is the last of his major long fiction works published in his lifetime (it was first serialized in the popular weekly Niva). Tolstoy intended the novel as an exposition of injustice of man-made laws and the hypocrisy of institutionalized church. It was first published serially in the magazine Niva as an effort to raise funds for the resettlement of the Dukhobors.

Plot outline

The story is about a nobleman named Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, who seeks redemption for a sin committed years earlier. His brief affair with a maid resulted in her being fired and ending up in prostitution. The book treats his attempts to help her out of her current misery, but also focuses on his personal mental and moral struggle.

Framed for murder, the maid, Maslova, is convicted by mistake, sent to Siberia. Nekhlyudov goes to visit her in prison, meets other prisoners, hears their stories, and slowly comes to realize that all around his charmed and golden aristocratic world, yet invisible to it, is a much larger world of oppression, misery and barbarism. Story after story he hears and even sees of people chained without cause, beaten without cause, immured in dungeons for life without cause—and all punctuated like lightning flashes by startling vignettes—a ten year old boy sleeping in a lake of human dung from an overflowing latrine because there is no other place on the prison floor, but clinging in a vain search for love to the leg of the man next to him—until the book achieves the bizarre intensity of a horrific fever dream.

Popular and critical reception

In this section, the facts about popular reception and the modern critics' evaluation are taken from Ernest J. Simmons, Introduction to Tolstoy's Writings.

No book was more eagerly awaited. "How all of us rejoiced," one critic wrote on learning that Tolstoy had decided to make his first fiction in 25 years not a short novella but a full-length novel. "May God grant that there will be more and more!" Few books sold better. It outsold Anna Karenina, outsold War and Peace. And yet, while Anna Karenina has become, like Hamlet and Oliver Twist, more famous than real people, like Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, who once ruled half the world, Resurrection is more or less forgotten.

Those modern-day critics who write about Resurrection deem it second-rate because they say the characters are stick figures created to make a point. They don't have that tang of reality, the critics say, they don't live on their own. But in his guilt, in his philosophy, even in the chance fact of having ruined the life of a maid and later feeling guilty about it, Nekhlyudov's life copies Tolstoy's own. And the characters are indeed uncomfortably real, and what they do is unpredictable. There are no saints here. Even the girl, Maslova, has fits of petty anger, jealousy, times when she drinks far too much liquor and then does God knows what.

So why forgotten? Hovering around the edges of every page is the fearsome idea that all of society, everything that the reader loves and most admires, is all a trick, a shambling, lumbering sham whose only purpose is to allow the exploitation of the poor by the rich. A vast "justice" system has come into being which allows moral men—lawyers, judges, prison guards, prisoners, even you, gentle reader—to perpetrate barbaric outrages day after day after day and feel not guilt but pride in their work. A sharp, incisive and sarcastic account of a prison chapel service is followed by "it never occurred to anyone here that what was going on was the greatest blasphemy and mockery" (Heritage edition, page 121) -- and this is elaborated in great detail, page after page, in extremely lacerating language. It is possible that many contemporaneous critics were offended. Also, these critics worked from bowlderized, inaccurate copies of the book. The complete and accurate text was not published until 1936. Much was cut by the Russian censors, and much was added to the over 50 pirated versions of the novel. Some publishers even added love scenes to increase sales. Many publishers printed their own editions because they assumed that Tolstoy had given up all copyrights as he had done with previous books. Instead, Tolstoy kept the copyright and donated all royalties to Doukhobor,who were Russian pacifists hoping to emigrate to Canada.


Operatic adaptations of the novel include the Risurrezione by Italian composer Franco Alfano, Vzkriesenie by Slovak composer Ján Cikker, and Resurrection by American composer Tod Machover. Additionally, various film adaptations have been produced. The well known version is a Russian film Resurrection directed by Mikhail Shveitser with Evgeniy Matveyev, Tamara Semina and Pavel Massalsky.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Resurrection (novel)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools