The state of blissful absurdity, ‘Anna Karenina’

‘Then relations arrived, and there began that state of
blissful absurdity from which Levin did not emerge till the day after
his wedding. Levin was in a continual state of awkwardness and
discomfort, but the intensity of his happiness went on all the while
increasing. He felt continually that a great deal was being expected
of him—what, he did not know; and he did everything he was told, and
it all gave him happiness. He had thought his engagement would have
nothing about it like others, that the ordinary conditions of engaged
couples would spoil his special happiness, but it ended in his doing
exactly as other people did, and his happiness being only increased
thereby and becoming more and more special, more and more unlike
anything that had ever happened.…

 ‘What was extraordinary was that everyone not only liked him, but even
people previously unsympathetic, cold, and callous, were enthusiastic
over him, gave way to him in everything, treated his feeling with
tenderness and delicacy, and shared his conviction that he was the
happiest man in the world because his betrothed was beyond
Anna Karenina, Part IV, chapter 16.

 As I was reading this chapter sitting in my folding armchair in the
sunshine outside the tent yesterday morning, the oracular shuffle
feature brought up this Monty Alexander classic, which is on a
collection called “Strange Funky Games and Things,” right after Sam
Mangwana singing “Marie Kembo.” The songs seemed to match like lock to
key the delirious, yet organized nature of the happiness that Tolstoy
describes Levin as being in the throes of as he plans his marriage to

‘She loved him as a woman can love when love has outweighed for her all the good things of life’—‘Anna Karenina’

How often he [Vronsky] had told himself that her love was
happiness; and now she loved him as a woman can love when love has
outweighed for her all the good things of life—and he was much further
from happiness than when he had followed her from Moscow. Then he had
thought himself unhappy, but happiness was before him; now he felt
that the best happiness was already left behind. She was utterly
unlike what she had been when he first saw her. Both morally and
physically she had changed for the worse.…He looked at her as a man
looks at a faded flower he has gathered, with difficulty recognizing
in it the beauty for which he picked and ruined it. And in spite of
this he felt that then when his love was stronger, he could if he had
greatly wished it, have torn that love out of his heart; but now, when
as at that moment it seemed to him he felt no love for her, he knew
that what bound him to her could not be broken.

This quote, from Chapter 3 of Part IV of Anna Karenina, is set
as Vronsky and Anna are responding individually to her revelation of
her affair to her husband, Alexey Alexandrovitch.

 Vronsky’s has surrendered utterly: not to love, not to affection, but
to the unbreakable bonds of his human alliance in misfortune with
Anna. Calling this emotion ‘love,’ and this story a ‘love story’ is
completely understating the obvious, that love is just a short band of
the range of emotional frequencies on which human beings relate.
Tolstoy uses Anna and Vronsky’s terrifying and doomed love, as
contrasted with the paralleling sedate and constructive love of Levin
and Kitty, to explore human emotions at the point where they are
rubbed raw. It takes careful and deliberate writing to get the novel
to such a point, the point at which we know Anna and Vronsky’s tragedy
on many different levels and can see how it has affected their entire
society: a couple pages earlier Anna is even described as “a real
heroine of romance” in conversation with her friend Betsy Tverskaya.
If she could only know how true that epithet has proven to be.