woensdag 29 augustus 2012

A.B. Goldenveizer -- 30 augustus 1902

Yasnaya Polyana, August 30th. I have been here now for three days, Tolstoi talked with Ilya Lvovich and some one else about farming and about the new machine called "The Planet."
Tolstoi said: "It is surprising how few technical inventions and improvements have been made in agriculture, compared with what has been done in industry." Afterwards Tolstoi said: "Ruskin says how much more valuable human lives are than any improvements and mechanical progress."
Then Tolstoi added: "It is difficult to argue with Ruskin : he by himself has more understanding than the whole House of Commons."
Tolstoi went for a walk, and I fetched him his overcoat. I met him on the road. We walked home together and walked through the fields. Tolstoi looked at the bad harvest and said : "My farmer's eye is exasperated : God alone knows how they sowed!"
When we reached the boundary of the Yasnaya Polyana forest, we heard the loud voices of children, and soon we saw a motley crowd of village boys discussing something. They noticed Tolstoi and began urging one another to go up to him—then they felt shy and hid themselves. Tolstoi became interested in them and beckoned to them. They began to approach, at first timidly and one by one, but gradually all came together. I particularly remember one of them dressed in grey calico striped trousers, in a ragged cap and shirt, with huge heavy boots, probably belonging to his father.
Tolstoi showed them his camp stool, which was a great success. He asked them what they were doing there. It appeared they had been picking pears and the watchman ran after them. Tolstoi walked with them. On the way he enquired about their parents. One boy turned out to be the son of Taras Fokanich.
Tolstoi said to me: "He was one of my very best pupils. What a happy time that was I How I loved that work ! And, above all, there was nobody in my way. Now my fame is always in my way: whatever I do, it is all talked about. But at that time nobody knew or interfered, neither strangers nor my family—though, there was no family then."
When we reached the spot Tolstoi told the children to gather the pears. They climbed the trees, some knocking down the pears, others shaking them down, others again picking them up. There was a hubbub, a happy noise of children ; and the figure of the good old Tolstoi lovingly protecting the children from the attack of the watchman moved one to tears. Then two or three peasants came to ask his advice on some legal point.

Tolstoi, Nikitin, and I talked of Dostoevsky. Tolstoi said: "Certain characters of his are, if you like, decadent, but how significant it all is!"
Tolstoi mentioned Kirilov in The Possessed, and said: "Dostoevsky was seeking for a belief, and, when he described profoundly sceptical characters, he described his own unbelief."
Of Dostoevsky's attitude to Liberalism Tolstoi observed: "Dostoevsky, who suffered in person from the Government, was revolted by the banality of Liberalism."
Tolstoi said: "During the sixty years of my conscious life a great change has come over us in Russia — I am speaking of the so-called educated society — with regard to religious questions: religious convictions were differentiated; it is a bad word, but I don't know how to express it differently. In my youth there were three, or rather four, categories into which society in this respect could be divided. The first was a very small group of very religious people, who had been freemasons previously, or sometimes monks. The second, about 70 per cent of the whole, consisted of people who from habit observed church rituals, but in their souls were perfectly indifferent to religious problems. The third group consisted of unbelievers who observed the conventions in cases of necessity; and, finally, there were the Voltairians, unbelievers who openly and courageously expressed their unbelief. The latter were few in number — about 2 or 3 per cent. Now one has no idea whom one is going to meet. One finds the most contrary convictions existing side by side. Recently there have appeared the latest decadents of orthodoxy, the orthodox churchmen like Merezhkovsky and Rosanov.
"Many people were attracted to orthodoxy through Khomyakov's definition of the Orthodox Church, as a congregation of people united by love. What could be better than that? But the point is that it is merely the arbitrary substitution of one conception for another. Why is the Orthodox Church such a congregation of loveunited people ? It is the contrary rather."


A.B. Goldenveizer (1875-1961) was een Russische componist. Van zijn gesprekken met schrijver Leo Tolstoi deed hij verslag in Talks with Tolstoi.

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