In the Prose of a Dead Russian

The other night I skimmed through passages of Anna Karenina. I don’t tell you this to impress you – I confess I have never read the entire 736-page tome written by Leo Tolstoy a century before I was born, nor do I plan to. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

So I turned to a page at random, read a few lines, moved on, turned to another page, read a few lines, moved on. Then I found myself in Tolstoy’s words, I saw myself in the scene, heard myself speaking. I furrowed my brows and read on. That’s me!

“This was not mere supposition, she saw it distinctly in the piercing light, which revealed to her now the meaning of life and human relations,” writes Tolstoy of his anti-heroine, of me.

I closed the book. How did a long dead Russian man come to write about me?

How many similar moments have you had in your life – whether reading Jane Austen or Barbara Kingsolver, Williams Wordsworth or Billy Collins, studying “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt or “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange? How many of you see a bit of yourselves in Scarlett O’Hara, Jay Gatsby, and Hunter S. Thompson?

I used to think of art as an escape – a refuge from our troubles, insecurities, broken hearts. It’s anything but. Art is about finding yourself and something of the collective, timeless human condition in the prose of a long dead Russian.

Truly great art moves us, pulls at us, draws us forward, then asks us to look inside. “You can’t get away from yourselves,” said Anna Karenina. And I’ll add, ‘whether you want to or not.’

I challenge you to open yourself up to the art featured in the following pages – prose, poetry, and photographs carefully created and crafted by strangers and peers, young and old, male and female, who have something to share, to say about the world around them, about you.