Sergei Ivanovich Koznyshev wanted to rest from intellectual work and, instead of going abroad, as usual, went at the end of May to stay with his brother in the country. He was convinced that country life was the best life. He had now come to enjoy that life at his brother’s. Konstantin Levin was very glad, the more so as he no longer expected his brother Nikolai that summer. But, despite his love and respect for Sergei Ivanovich, Konstantin Levin felt awkward in the country with his brother. It was awkward and even unpleasant for him to see his brother’s attitude towards the country. For Konstantin Levin the country was the place of life, that is, of joy, suffering, labour; for Sergei Ivanovich the country was, on the one hand, a rest from work and, on the other, an effective antidote to corruption, which he took with pleasure and an awareness of its effectiveness. For Konstantin Levin the country was good in that it presented a field for labour that was unquestionably useful; for Sergei Ivanovich the country was especially good because there one could and should do nothing. Besides that, Sergei Ivanovich’s attitude towards the peasantry also made Levin cringe slightly. Sergei Ivanovich said that he loved and knew the peasantry and often conversed with muzhiks, something he was good at doing, without pretence or affectation, and from each such conversation he deduced general data in favour of the peasantry and as proof that he knew them. Konstantin Levin did not like such an attitude towards the peasantry. For Konstantin the peasantry was simply the chief partner in the common labour, and, despite all his respect and a sort of blood–love for the muzhiks that he had probably sucked in, as he himself said, with the milk of his peasant nurse, he, as partner with them in the common cause, while sometimes admiring the strength, meekness and fairness of these people, very often, when the common cause demanded other qualities, became furious with them for their carelessness, slovenliness, drunkenness and lying. If Konstantin Levin had been asked whether he loved the peasantry, he would have been quite at a loss to answer. He loved and did not love the peasantry, as he did people in general. Of course, being a good man, he tended to love people more than not to love them, and therefore the peasantry as well. But it was impossible for him to love or not love the peasantry as something special, because not only did he live with them, not only were all his interests bound up with theirs, but he considered himself part of the peasantry, did not see any special qualities or shortcomings in himself or in them, and could not contrast himself to them. Besides that, though he had lived for a long time in the closest relations with the muzhiks as a master and a mediator, and above all as an adviser (the muzhiks trusted him and came from twenty–five miles away for his advice), he had no definite opinion of the peasantry and would have had the same difficulty replying to the question whether he knew the peasantry as to the question whether he loved the peasantry. To say that he knew them would be the same for him as to say that he knew people. He constantly observed and came to know all sorts of people, muzhik–people among them, whom he considered good and interesting people, and continually noticed new traits in them, changed his previous opinions and formed new ones. Sergei Ivanovich did the contrary. Just as he loved and praised country life in contrast to the life he did not love, so he loved the peasantry in contrast to the class of people he did not love, and so he knew the peasantry as something in contrast to people in general. In his methodical mind certain forms of peasant life acquired a clear shape, deduced in part from peasant life itself, but mainly from this contrast. He never changed his opinion about the peasantry or his sympathetic attitude towards them.
In the disagreements that occurred between the brothers during their discussions of the peasantry, Sergei Ivanovich always defeated his brother, precisely because Sergei Ivanovich had definite notions about the peasantry, their character, properties and tastes; whereas Konstantin Levin had no definite and unchanging notions, so that in these arguments Konstantin was always caught contradicting himself.
For Sergei Ivanovich his younger brother was a nice fellow with a heart well placed (as he put it in French), but with a mind which, though rather quick, was subject to momentary impressions and therefore filled with contradictions. With the condescension of an older brother, he occasionally explained the meaning of things to him, but could find no pleasure in arguing with him, because he beat him too easily.
Konstantin Levin regarded his brother as a man of great intelligence and education, noble in the highest sense of the word, and endowed with the ability to act for the common good. But, in the depths of his soul, the older he became and the more closely he got to know his brother, the more often it occurred to him that this ability to act for the common good, of which he felt himself completely deprived, was perhaps not a virtue but, on the contrary, a lack of something – not a lack of good, honest and noble desires and tastes, but a lack of life force, of what is known as heart, of that yearning which makes a man choose one out of all the countless paths in life presented to him and desire that one alone. The more he knew his brother, the more he noticed that Sergei Ivanovich and many other workers for the common good had not been brought to this love of the common good by the heart, but had reasoned in their minds that it was good to be concerned with it and were concerned with it only because of that. And Levin was confirmed in this surmise by observing that his brother took questions about the common good and the immortality of the soul no closer to heart than those about a game of chess or the clever construction of a new machine.
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 169