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  • The Kreutzer Sonata

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 3 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (229 ratings)

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The Kreutzer Sonata

By: Leo Tolstoy
Narrated by: Simon Prebble
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Summary

One of the world’s greatest novelists, Leo Tolstoy was also the author of a number of superb short stories, one of his best known being “The Kreutzer Sonata.” This macabre story involves the murder of a wife by her husband. It is a penetrating study of jealousy as well as a piercing complaint about the way in which society educates men and women in matters of sex - a serious condemnation of the mores and attitudes of the wealthy, educated class.

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was born in Russia. His parents, who died when he was young, were of noble birth. He served in the army in the Caucasus and Crimea, where he wrote his first stories. He is especially known for his masterpieces, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).

Public Domain (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Kreutzer Sonata

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Sublime!

Very thought provoking and moving, and the performance of the reader is truly captivating. Thank you!

2 people found this helpful

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Deeply Disturbing!

This is not the Tolstoy of Anna Karenina or War and Peace and I think it is important that someone is aware of this, before embarking on reading/listening to it. It is a creepy and unpleasant story. Putting aside the preposterous plot, the tone of this book is disconcertingly bitter and anguished, psychotic, egotistical, and ignorant concerning female sexuality.
It is a disturbing read. The story is a confession of a man whose suspicions and jealousy lead him to carry out a heinous crime, the murder of his wife. There appear to be similarities with Tolstoy's personal life, Tolstoy was very jealous of a musician friend of his wife with whom she played.

2 people found this helpful

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Superb Tolstoy at his best!

Simon Prebble provides an excellent narration, the pace is perfect allowing the listener to sit in on the conversation is almost surreal. Tolstoy has the Nate ability to observe and record conversations and surroundings and present them like no other writer.

1 person found this helpful

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A novella riffing on jealousy and railing on society

Tolstoy is a master and something of a philosopher. This features a long vitriolic attack on the ills of society and blends several characters from Shakespeare including perhaps Leontes, Othello, Timon. It’s worth a listen for sure and it’s free to members but it’s not the best of Tolstoy and the good performance is spoiled by a long monologue playing someone very bitter and full of self loathing. There is a deeper reflective value though

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Satisfactory story, entertaining but not particularly impactful or life changing

Perhaps I did not grasp the story all too well, but I was not obsessed with the story. The characters are very shallow and not developed well, and I didn’t find the story disturbing either. It was entertaining about half way through and that is why I rated it 3 stars.

The performance by the voice actor was great, and I did enjoy listening to him.

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Excellent narration

Simon Prebble is always excellent, this still one of the best of his performances in my opinion. Will continue to select books read by him

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Riveting performance

Good short book, though mostly a monologue of a single character. Stunning narration especially towards the end where Simon Prebble really brings it to life. Intense psychological insights into lust, jealousy, marriage and the illusion of love. Quite macabre and cynical at times but based on a penetrating grasp of human nature. Not for the faint hearted but useful for anyone who wants to explore the attraction and mystery of the sexes.

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" An imperceptible smile."

Tolstoy is so brilliant a writer, I wondered why I had never before found his short stories. Mmm, now I think I know. The Kreutzer Sonata is, indeed, well crafted but disturbingly twisted as a man on a long train journey confesses his obsession with, and murder of his wife, the mother of his children. And is released after the killing is determined to be one of passion.
The excellent writing only further enhanced this reader's emotional repugnance, especially given that the narrator was the also excellent Simon Prebble, who further enhanced the text with his low key performance.
Not a book who's content I would recommend, impartial though it is.

I downloaded a complementary copy of The Kreutzer Sonata as part of the Audible + programme. Thank you, Audible.

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Believable emotion

This is an observation on human relations in 1880's that probably were held until very recently in some countries and unfortunately is much similar to today in some cultures. The narrative includes believable emotions and consideration of internalised reasoning that are insightful but also disturbing.
A good performance, I could image this as a play.

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Not an Easy Listen.

A very dark story.It gets into the mind of a murderer with all his conceit, lack of insight, jealousy and deep hatred of the female sex.It’s quite disturbing and I only finished it as I was hoping that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel.There wasn’t.However, it was superbly narrated.

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  • Darwin8u
  • 02-02-19

Love, Marriage, Family:: Wine, Women, Music

"Love, marriage, family,—all lies, lies, lies."
- Leo Tolstoy, The Krutzer Sonata

First, let me start this review by stating I think Anna Karenina might just be a perfect novel. So, I love Tolstoy. War and Peace, also amazes me and easily belongs on the list of Great World Novels. But 'The Kreutzer Sonata' plays like the writings of an over-indulged, philosophically-stretched, cranky, Fundamentalist older man. It is the sad, second wife to Anna Karenina*. That said, I enjoyed the structure. It is basically a man, Pozdnyshev, discussing his feelings on marriage, morality, and family on a train ride with some strangers. During this discussion he admits that in a jealous rage he once killed his wife (and was later aquited).

The story was censored briefly in 1890 (its censorship was later overturned), but that didn't stop Theodore Roosevelt calling Tolstoy a "sexual moral pervert". The novel does allude to wanking, immorality, adultery, abortion, etc. Which is funny, because the whole premise of the book is to rage against our moral failings. In a later piece Tolstoy wrote (Lesson of the"The Kreutzer Sonata") defending the novella, he basically explained his views:

1. Men are basically immoral perverts with the opposite sex when young. Society and families wink at their dissoluteness.
2. The poetic/romantic ideal of "falling in love" has had a detrimental impact on morality.
3. The birth of children has lost its pristine significance and the family has been degraded even in the "modern" view of marriage.
4. Children are being raised NOT to grow into moral adults, but to entertain their parents. They are seen as entertainments of the family.
5. Romatic ideas of music, art, dances, food, etc., has contributed and fanned the sexcual vices and diseases of youth.
6. The best years (youth) of our lives are spent trying to get our "freak on" (my term, not Count Tolstoy's). That period would be better spent not chasing tail, butserving one's country, science, art, or God.
7. Chasity and celibacy are to be admired and marriage and sex should be avoided. If we were really "Christian" we would not "bump uglies" (again, my term not the Count's).

It might seem like I am warping Tolstoy's argument a bit, but really I am not. I think the best response to Tolstoy came in 1908 at a celebration of Tolstoy's 80th* from G.K. Chesterton (not really a big libertine; big yes, libertine no):

"Tolstoy is not content with pitying humanity for its pains: such as poverty and prisons. He also pities humanity for its pleasures, such as music and patriotism. He weeps at the thought of hatred; but in The Kreutzer Sonata he weeps almost as much at the thought of love. He and all the humanitarians pity the joys of men." He went on to address Tolstoy directly: "What you dislike is being a man. You are at least next door to hating humanity, for you pity humanity because it is human”

* There are even a couple lines that seem to borrow scenes from, or allude to, Anna Karenina:
"throw myself under the cars, and thus finish everything."
"I was still unaware that ninety-nine families out of every hundred live in the same hell, and that it cannot be otherwise. I had not learned this fact from others or from myself. The coincidences that are met in regular, and even in irregular life, are surprising."
** Which, if the backward math works, means Kreutzer Sonata was written/published when Tolstoy was in his early 60s.

5 people found this helpful

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  • T R Barrett
  • 22-05-20

An in-depth first-person story of a man's psyche.

Simon Prebble (The Narrator) has delivered some great narrations over the years including some other works by Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and The Kreutzer Sonata definitely lives up to his standards!

The Kreutzer Sonata is a slower paced novel compared to some of Leo Tolstoy other works. However, this is an interesting insight on a man's psyche as the protagonist recounts his entire life up to the moment he murders his wife in a jealous rage.

Should you listen to the book? Yes, but just be aware of what type of book this is before you purchase. The novella was published in 1889, and was promptly censored by the Russian authorities, and even Theodore Roosevelt called Tolstoy a "sexual moral pervert" because of this novel.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 30-08-21

Tolstoy is a genius, of course

Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata is disturbing and will make you question the author's views of women. However, the writing is so impeccably written that you cannot help but find yourself immerse in the world of his main character. He is a suspicious, jealous, methodical, and crazed man who is confessing the murder of his wife. Because of its first person narrative and direct style, the book is an intimate look inside the mind of this man. It makes the story feel more claustrophobic and voyeuristic -- and emphasizes the nature of the crime. It is an uncomfortable read, and I believe that made it more powerful.

I know that the story mirrors a bit too closely some of Tolstoy's own views on marriage and women, but I did not find the book to be too autobiographical or reflective of the writer. I was able to read the book without thinking about Tolstoy, and although I am a proud feminist I was able to set aside my modern views and enjoy the book for what it is.

2 people found this helpful

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  • TiffanyD
  • 12-11-18

Leo Tolstoy was kind of a monster

I understand he was a great writer, but in real life he was also kind of a terrible human being and this novella is the best example of that I've read so far.

The narrator is so anti-human sexuality and so ridiculously rationalizing of his own insane behavior that I almost want to believe that it's deliberate. That we have here an unreliable and unaware narrator like the guy from The Telltale Heart or John Fowles' The Collector. But having read Anna Karenina and knowing a little bit about Tolstoy's real-life marriage, I suspected that this might not be the case and a quick bit of internet reading confirms it. These are Tolstoy's actual views.

I wish I could say the views on marriage and women and sexuality were left in the age of the Tsars, but alas, a peek into the darker corners of Twitter will expose you to the same views, less artfully expressed. Contraception is bad because it degrades women! Uh-huh. Sure. It's totally not because it gives women freedom over their own bodies that makes some men uncomfortable.

The views ARE artfully expressed and the performance is quite good but I never want to return to this book or even see it in my audible library. I will be exchanging it posthaste, preferable for something written by a woman.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cody A. Connell
  • 06-04-21

so good!

nice and short, very well read. a great story about love, jealousy, and revenge. and the human condition.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tim Martin
  • 25-05-20

Dark polemic

Less a narrative, more a 3.5 hour dark polemic on love, sex, marriage and murder. Well written, well narrated (Prebble is one of the best), but this purchase was not my cup of chai.

1 person found this helpful

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  • waelse1
  • 26-02-16

Very good short story

Tale of a man's jealousy over his wife's affections for another man. Tremendous reading, enjoyed it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • cama9362
  • 15-01-23

Classic, dramatic, and profound

The story is powerful and insightful, even for its time. Simon Prebble did a fantastic job with this novel!

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  • Stephen Zelnick
  • 05-10-22

A grim work

Kreutzer Sonata is terrifying, and this performance brings its pain and power. Tolstoy wrote this novella to advocate sexual abstinence; his premise is bizarre but his observations grim and too close for comfort. This book was immediately banned, and maybe should be.

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  • Robert Lynch
  • 24-04-22

Raving lunatic who reflects his society very well

Tolstoy plumbs the depths of misogyny and patriarchy in this surprisingly vicious little novella. The murderer at the center of the story recounts his opinions on marriage, children, religion and gender before describing the events leading up to killing his wife. What is frightening is not the portrayal of a man who has lost his humanity, but rather how similar his views are to a huge number of men in 2022 in the country where I reside, the U.S.A.
He blames women for all of the problems in society. He describes women, including his wife, as savage animals who cannot be restrained. He blames them for immorality, poverty and disease. He claims that the way they dress incites men to lust and violence. He even proposes that doctors, science and the field of medicine are just tools that women use to deceive and bludgeon men. His stupidity grows over time and fuels an incendiary rage which eventually leads him to murder.
I constantly hear the same ideas expressed today by men I encounter every day in person, as well as politicians and celebrities who pander to the same ignorance. Toxic masculinity and rape culture are not figments in the imagination of feminists, and they disgust every person that has goodness in his heart. Kudos to Tolstoy for exposing this sickness in the society he lived in, as well as issuing a warning to us in the future that this kind of pathology must be addressed so that our mothers, sisters and daughters can live in a safe world without being harrassed, humiliated, raped, beaten and murdered.
Although the story is quite dark, the narrator is absolutely brilliant. He inhabits the madman in a performance that is astounding in its range and power. The delusion, the self pity, the absurd religious justifications and pontifications of the psychopath are remarkable in their intensity and authenticity in Simon Prebbles interpretation. I see he also voiced Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" so I must give that great short story another listen.