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After the Dance

Sivan Beskin On:

After the Dance by Leo Tolstoy

This short tale from 1903 is one of those classics which Russian students are required to read at school. The sharp contrast between the impressive officer who dances so lovingly with his beautiful and charming daughter, and the officer who forces his soldiers to brutally torture their friend, is permanently etched in memory; and unfortunately, has not lost its actuality since it was introduced. Over the decades since, many impressive and charming men engaged in torture and mass murder in their routine work, while they danced in balls, loved their wives and kissed their children afterward. In fact, before us is a refined, early formula to the notion of “the banality of evil,” which took its name only decades later. In fact, in this short story Tolstoy also manages to offer a solution: if the course of life of any person who witnesses such an act of cruelty change as a result – as the path of this protagonist’s life has – perhaps too many people did not read the story or did not understand that it was telling their story, too.

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