Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was utterly amazing. In my opinion, one of the finest pieces of Russian fiction I have ever read and definitely my favorite Tolstoy story I have read so far. It depicts a Russian noble's attempt at redemption and is indictment of the state, prison system, the police, the Russian Church, land ownership, and capitalism.
"Having captured hundreds who were evidently guiltless and who could not be dangerous, the Government kept them in prison for years, where they became consumptive, went out of their minds, or committed suicide; keeping them only because the officials had no inducement to set them free, but thought that safe in prison they might possibly be of use to elucidate some question at a judicial inquiry"
Im not even sure how Tolstoy was able to get this book past the tsar's censors, because its brutal attacks on state institutions barely holds any punches (except maybe against the tsar personally, but even then is pretty openly hostile to the state and authority).
The other main character in the story is a sex worker who becomes politicized in prison by revolutionaries. Maslova's relationship with the political prisoners opens the door to some amazing conversations and depictions of the different viewpoints of anarchists and socialists at the time as to the reorganization of life, while also being a view into the utter degradation of prison life.
The book doesn't have a perfect view of sex work, but what it does is preserve the humanity of the sex worker in a way that most 2nd wave feminists cannot even manage.
"And what seemed most surprising was that all this was not being done accidentally, nor by mistake, nor only once, but had been done continuously for centuries, with only this difference, that at first people's nostrils used to be slit and their ears cropped; then a time came when they were branded and fastened to iron bars; and now they were manacled, and transported by steam instead of on carts
The arguments brought forward by those in Government service who said that the things which aroused his indignation were simply due to the imperfect arrangements of the places of confinement, and that they would all be put to rights if prisons of a modern type were built did not satisfy Nekhlyudov, because he knew that what revolted him was not a consequence of a better or worse arrangement of prisons. He had read of model prisons with electric bells, of executions by electricity as recommended by Tarde, and this refined violence revolted him yet more"
View all my reviews