Simply a Brothel


The Kreutzer Sonata, Rene Prinet, 1901

From The Boston Review:

In Leo Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata, the time is the 1880s; the place, a train traveling somewhere in Russia; the situation, a middle-aged man with glittering eyes is telling a stranger the true story of why he killed his wife. His tale, in essence, is a diatribe against the immorality of marriage as he knows it.

Men such as himself (of the landowning class), he argues, are raised to lead idle lives of brutal appetite—drinking, gambling, whoring—from which they need to be saved. Women like the narrator’s wife are raised to exploit the weakness behind these appetites because they (the women) must marry. Each is making instrumental use of the other. No matter how we mask it with the claim that marriage is a union of love and purity, it is in fact a contract between a whore and a client. “If we only look at the life of our upper classes as it is,” he cries, “why, it is simply a brothel.”

“The Ancient Dream”, Vivian Gornick, The Boston Review