The Fruits of Culture
A Comedy in Four Acts
Large Print Edition
By Leo Tolstoy
University of Michigan Library, 200 pages Genre: Literature
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - April 13, 2010
This Tolstoy comedy in four acts is about a family of a well-to-do man that is in disarray. There are all kinds of ridiculous humorous discussions, about microbes, hypnotism, and marriage, among others. People make jokes repeatedly and the peasants speak in funny ways. There is even a hilarious discussion about the dangers of smoking and the need to wash hands to remove germs. The word "culture" in the play's title is obviously used ironically. But the key plots focus on the husband who believes in the existence of spirits and makes decisions based on séances and on one of his female servants who wants to marry a male servant.
Three peasants come to the husband's house and beseech the husband to sell them land. He consults the spirits and, based upon what he understands is their reply, refuses. The peasants beg him saying that they need the land to sustain their life, but their plea does not help. One of the peasants is the father of the male servant. The female servant wants his permission for the marriage and says that she will try to persuade the master to sell the land. She devises a trick. She tells her master that her fiancée is a spiritualist, and the master believes her and decides to use the servant's supposed abilities to contact dead spirits. When he does so, the female servant intends to have her fiancée tell him to sell the land.
Will the plan work? Who sees her manipulations? Does one observer help her? Does another observer try to ruin her efforts because she refuses his sexual advances? If the latter man reveals her manipulations, will the master believe him?
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.