In response to:
Notes on Tolstoy from the February 25, 1971 issue
To the Editors:
Edmund Wilson’s article in your February 25 number on Tolstoy was, as Wilson’s stuff always is, rib-sticking.
A demurrer or two. On page eleven, in the fourth paragraph, Wilson, unless my dictionary and Russian instruction at Columbia University are faulty, goofs. He writes Voskresenia means both “Sunday” and “resurrection.” Firstly, the transliteration is wrong. The title of the Tolstoy novel is transliterated Voskresenie. And it does not mean both “Sunday” and “resurrection.” It means only “resurrection.” The word for “Sunday” is Voskresen’e. So it would appear Wilson’s cunning “insight” into the non-existent play on words is a faux pas. Apparently a lapsus memoriae on Wilson’s part.
Wilson’s memory fails him…or at least claudicates in his discussion of the Father Sergius story. On page 11, Wilson says Sergius “cannot restrain himself from raping or at least having intercourse with a sick girl….” In the story, of course, the girl seduces Sergius…no rape.
But a lovely article, notwithstanding.
Michael J. Valenti
New York, New York
Edmund Wilson replies:
Voskresen’e and voskresenie are actually the same word—both given in Dahl under voskresit‘. The second is the old church form; the first is the colloquial native form. Russians often seem uncertain about the spelling. I don’t of course really know what was in Tolstoy’s mind. About Father Sergius: it is not quite clear who took the initiative, though the girl certainly to some extent nestled up to Father Sergius. You are not told what happened then. I am not sure that Mr. Valenti hasn’t confused this incident with the earlier one in which the girl has made a bet that she will spend the night in his cell and, instead of going to bed with her, he chops off his finger.
May 20, 1971