‘The sort of farming he was carrying on was nothing but a cruel and stubborn struggle between him and the laborers,’— ‘Anna Karenina’

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In spite of the magnificent harvest, never had there been, or, at least, never it seemed to him, had there been so many hindrances and so many quarrels between him and the peasants as that year, and the origin of these failures and this hostility was now perfectly comprehensible to him. The delight he had experienced in the work itself, and the consequent greater intimacy with the peasants, the envy he felt of them, of their life, the desire to adopt that life, which had been to him that night not a dream but an intention, the execution of which he had thought out in detail—all this had so transformed his view of the farming of the land as he had managed it, that he could not take his former interest in it, and could not help seeing that unpleasant relation between him and the workspeople which was the foundation of it all.…But he saw clearly now…that the sort of farming he was carrying on was nothing but a cruel and stubborn struggle between him and the laborers, in which there was on one side—his side—a continual intense effort to change everything to a pattern he considered better; on the other side, the natural order of things. And in the struggle he saw that with immense expenditure of force on his side, and with no effort or even intention on the other side, all that was attained was that the work did not go to the liking of either side, and that splendid tools, splendid cattle and land were spoiled with no good to anyone. Worst of all, the energy expended on this work was not simply wasted.…It was for his interests that every laborer should work as hard as possible, and that while doing so he should keep his wits about him, so as to try not to break the winnowing machines, the horse rakes, the thrashing mashines, that he should attend to what he was doing. What the laborer wanted was to work as pleasantly as possible, with rests, and above all, carelessly and heedlessly, without thinking.

Anna Karenina, Chapter 24, Part III

The passage goes on in details about the different ways the peasants jack up the workflow at Levin’s farm. I read the whole thing to my boss yesterday evening, as we sat around in the tent grumbling about our ungrateful workers and their inability to follow directions. Our sense of having achieved only half measures during our season at the secret city, and the concomitant frustration, is naturally eased by finding apropos quotes in great world literature.