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# “Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert

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Intern
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“Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert  [#permalink]

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13 Feb 2019, 05:40
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“Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert, “They have a tranquil aspect like the very products of nature, like large animals and mountains.” He might have been thinking of War and Peace, that vast, silent work, unfathomable and simple, provoking endless questions through the majesty of its being. Tolstoi’s simplicity is “overpowering,” says the critic Bayley, “disconcerting,” because it comes from “his casual assumption that the world is as he sees it.” Like other nineteenth-century Russian writers he is “impressive” because he “means what he says,” but he stands apart from all others and from most Western writers in his identity with life, which is so complete as to make us forget he is an artist. He is the center of his work, but his egocentricity is of a special kind. Goethe, for example, says Bayley, “cared for nothing but himself. Tolstoi was nothing but himself.”
For all his varied modes of writing and the multiplicity of characters in his fiction, Tolstoi and his work are of a piece. The famous “conversion” of his middle years, movingly recounted in his Confession, was a culmination of his early spiritual life, not a departure from it. The apparently fundamental changes that led from epic narrative to dogmatic parable, from a joyous, buoyant attitude toward life to pessimism and cynicism, from War and Peace to The Kreutzer Sonata, came from the same restless, impressionable depths of an independent spirit yearning to get at the truth of its experience. “Truth is my hero,” wrote Tolstoi in his youth, reporting the fighting in Sebastopol. Truth remained his hero—his own, not others’, truth. Others were awed by Napoleon, believed that a single man could change the destinies of nations, adhered to meaningless rituals, formed their tastes on established canons of art. Tolstoi reversed all preconceptions; and in every reversal he overthrew the “system,” the “machine,” the externally ordained belief, the conventional behavior in favor of unsystematic, impulsive life, of inward motivation and the solutions of independent thought.
In his work the artificial and the genuine are always exhibited in dramatic opposition: the supposedly great Napoleon and the truly great, unregarded little Captain Tushin, or Nicholas Rostov’s actual experience in battle and his later account of it. The simple is always pitted against the elaborate, knowledge gained from observation against assertions of borrowed faiths. Tolstoi’s magical simplicity is a product of these tensions; his work is a record of the questions he put to himself and of the answers he found in his search. The greatest characters of his fiction exemplify this search, and their happiness depends on the measure of their answers. Tolstoi wanted happiness, but only hard-won happiness, that emotional fulfillment and intellectual clarity which could come only as the prize of all-consuming effort. He scorned lesser satisfactions..
1. Which of the following best characterizes the author’s attitude toward Tolstoi?
(A) She deprecates the cynicism of his later works.
(B) She finds his theatricality artificial.
(C) She admires his wholehearted sincerity.
(D) She thinks his inconsistency disturbing.
(E) She respects his devotion to orthodoxy.

2. Which of the following best paraphrases Flaubert’s statement quoted in lines 1-4?
(A) Masterpiece seem ordinary and unremarkable from the perspective of a later age.
(B) Great works of art do not explain themselves to us any more than natural objects do.
(C) Important works of art take their place in the pageant of history because of their uniqueness.
(D) The most important aspects of good art are the orderliness and tranquility it reflects.
(E) Masterpieces which are of enduring value represent the forces of nature.

3. The author quotes from Bayley (line 8-20) to show that
(A) although Tolstoi observes and interprets life, he maintains no self-conscious distance from his experience
(B) the realism of Tolstoi’s work gives the illusion that his novels are reports of actual events
(C) unfortunately, Tolstoi is unaware of his own limitation, though he is sincere in his attempt to describe experience
(D) although Tolstoi works casually and makes unwarranted assumption, his work has an inexplicable appearance of truth
(E) Tolstoi’s personal perspective makes his work almost unintelligible to the majority of his readers

4. The author states that Tolstoi’s conversion represented
(A) a radical renunciation of the world
(B) the rejection of avant-garde ideas
(C) the natural outcome of his earlier beliefs
(D) the acceptance of religion he had earlier rejected
(E) a fundamental change in his writing style

5. According to the passage, Tolstoi’s response to the accepted intellectual and artistic values of his times was to
(A) select the most valid from among them
(B) combine opposing viewpoints into a new doctrine
(C) reject the claims of religion in order to serve his art
(D) subvert them in order to defend a new political viewpoint
(E) upset them in order to be faithful to his experience

6. It can be inferred from the passage that which of the following is true of War and Peace?
(A) It belongs to an early period of Tolstoi’s work.
(B) It incorporates a polemic against the disorderliness of Russian life.
(C) It has a simple structural outline.
(D) It is a work that reflects an ironic view of life.
(E) It conforms to the standard of aesthetic refinement favored by Tolstoi’s contemporaries.

7. According to the passage, the explanation of Tolstoi’s “magical simplicity” (line 55) lies partly in his
(A) remarkable power of observation and his facility in exact description
(B) persistent disregard for conventional restraints together with his great energy
(C) unusual ability to reduce the description of complex situations to a few words
(D) abiding hatred of religious doctrine and preference for new scientism
(E) continuing attempt to represent the natural in opposition to the pretentious

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Re: “Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert  [#permalink]

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13 Feb 2019, 08:43
pathy - Can you please tell the GMAC paper code, this passage belongs too ?
_________________
Thanks!
Do give some kudos.

Simple strategy:
“Once you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

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My Notes:
Reading comprehension | Critical Reasoning | Absolute Phrases | Subjunctive Mood
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Joined: 24 Jul 2018
Posts: 32
Location: India
Re: “Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert  [#permalink]

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13 Feb 2019, 22:29
pathy wrote:
“Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert, “They have a tranquil aspect like the very products of nature, like large animals and mountains.” He might have been thinking of War and Peace, that vast, silent work, unfathomable and simple, provoking endless questions through the majesty of its being. Tolstoi’s simplicity is “overpowering,” says the critic Bayley, “disconcerting,” because it comes from “his casual assumption that the world is as he sees it.” Like other nineteenth-century Russian writers he is “impressive” because he “means what he says,” but he stands apart from all others and from most Western writers in his identity with life, which is so complete as to make us forget he is an artist. He is the center of his work, but his egocentricity is of a special kind. Goethe, for example, says Bayley, “cared for nothing but himself. Tolstoi was nothing but himself.”
For all his varied modes of writing and the multiplicity of characters in his fiction, Tolstoi and his work are of a piece. The famous “conversion” of his middle years, movingly recounted in his Confession, was a culmination of his early spiritual life, not a departure from it. The apparently fundamental changes that led from epic narrative to dogmatic parable, from a joyous, buoyant attitude toward life to pessimism and cynicism, from War and Peace to The Kreutzer Sonata, came from the same restless, impressionable depths of an independent spirit yearning to get at the truth of its experience. “Truth is my hero,” wrote Tolstoi in his youth, reporting the fighting in Sebastopol. Truth remained his hero—his own, not others’, truth. Others were awed by Napoleon, believed that a single man could change the destinies of nations, adhered to meaningless rituals, formed their tastes on established canons of art. Tolstoi reversed all preconceptions; and in every reversal he overthrew the “system,” the “machine,” the externally ordained belief, the conventional behavior in favor of unsystematic, impulsive life, of inward motivation and the solutions of independent thought.
In his work the artificial and the genuine are always exhibited in dramatic opposition: the supposedly great Napoleon and the truly great, unregarded little Captain Tushin, or Nicholas Rostov’s actual experience in battle and his later account of it. The simple is always pitted against the elaborate, knowledge gained from observation against assertions of borrowed faiths. Tolstoi’s magical simplicity is a product of these tensions; his work is a record of the questions he put to himself and of the answers he found in his search. The greatest characters of his fiction exemplify this search, and their happiness depends on the measure of their answers. Tolstoi wanted happiness, but only hard-won happiness, that emotional fulfillment and intellectual clarity which could come only as the prize of all-consuming effort. He scorned lesser satisfactions..
1. Which of the following best characterizes the author’s attitude toward Tolstoi?
(A) She deprecates the cynicism of his later works.
(B) She finds his theatricality artificial.
(C) She admires his wholehearted sincerity.
(D) She thinks his inconsistency disturbing.
(E) She respects his devotion to orthodoxy.

2. Which of the following best paraphrases Flaubert’s statement quoted in lines 1-4?
(A) Masterpiece seem ordinary and unremarkable from the perspective of a later age.
(B) Great works of art do not explain themselves to us any more than natural objects do.
(C) Important works of art take their place in the pageant of history because of their uniqueness.
(D) The most important aspects of good art are the orderliness and tranquility it reflects.
(E) Masterpieces which are of enduring value represent the forces of nature.

3. The author quotes from Bayley (line 8-20) to show that
(A) although Tolstoi observes and interprets life, he maintains no self-conscious distance from his experience
(B) the realism of Tolstoi’s work gives the illusion that his novels are reports of actual events
(C) unfortunately, Tolstoi is unaware of his own limitation, though he is sincere in his attempt to describe experience
(D) although Tolstoi works casually and makes unwarranted assumption, his work has an inexplicable appearance of truth
(E) Tolstoi’s personal perspective makes his work almost unintelligible to the majority of his readers

4. The author states that Tolstoi’s conversion represented
(A) a radical renunciation of the world
(B) the rejection of avant-garde ideas
(C) the natural outcome of his earlier beliefs
(D) the acceptance of religion he had earlier rejected
(E) a fundamental change in his writing style

5. According to the passage, Tolstoi’s response to the accepted intellectual and artistic values of his times was to
(A) select the most valid from among them
(B) combine opposing viewpoints into a new doctrine
(C) reject the claims of religion in order to serve his art
(D) subvert them in order to defend a new political viewpoint
(E) upset them in order to be faithful to his experience

6. It can be inferred from the passage that which of the following is true of War and Peace?
(A) It belongs to an early period of Tolstoi’s work.
(B) It incorporates a polemic against the disorderliness of Russian life.
(C) It has a simple structural outline.
(D) It is a work that reflects an ironic view of life.
(E) It conforms to the standard of aesthetic refinement favored by Tolstoi’s contemporaries.

7. According to the passage, the explanation of Tolstoi’s “magical simplicity” (line 55) lies partly in his
(A) remarkable power of observation and his facility in exact description
(B) persistent disregard for conventional restraints together with his great energy
(C) unusual ability to reduce the description of complex situations to a few words
(D) abiding hatred of religious doctrine and preference for new scientism
(E) continuing attempt to represent the natural in opposition to the pretentious

Please provide OE's for Q2, Q3 and Q7...
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“Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert  [#permalink]

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Updated on: 14 Feb 2019, 22:18
This passage felt like 3 years of study of literature !!! I mean what just happened !! ..there are 2 questions which are wayyyyyyy beyond the comprehensive ability , i mean is GMAT assuming we are Elliots???

1. Which of the following best characterizes the author’s attitude toward Tolstoi?

author's overall atiitude twoards T is positive so delete all the nagtives !!
(A) She deprecates the cynicism of his later works.- negative

(B) She finds his theatricality artificial.- NO direct reference to "theatrically arificial" ; author instead says that T adheres to his own truth !! but is that artificial??

(C) She admires his wholehearted sincerity.- POE remaining + "Admires" is positive !!

(D) She thinks his inconsistency disturbing. - negative + B's point of view towads T

(E) She respects his devotion to orthodoxy.- opposite !! author says that T wants to be more UNCONVENTIONAL !! (para 2 last line)

Originally posted by AdityaHongunti on 14 Feb 2019, 21:00.
Last edited by AdityaHongunti on 14 Feb 2019, 22:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: “Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert  [#permalink]

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14 Feb 2019, 22:13
1
I think literature passages need to be read slowly and carefully, so here is one cmpletely expanded,disected passage summary !!

Quote:
“Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert, “They have a tranquil aspect like the very products of nature, like large animals and mountains.” He might have been thinking of War and Peace, that vast, silent work, unfathomable and simple, provoking endless questions through the majesty of its being.

Explanation : F says Masterpeices are dumb !! why?? because masterp's have the same unconfusing ,free from any emotional content that the products of nature have.. F means that if we can discern the meaning and the purpose of the products of nature (for eg: which animal is this , why is it here?? what does it eat?) then how is a WORK a masterpiece??? i mean shouldnt it be something more interesting something which would awe you by the intricate nature of the work !! This view is supported by the later part " He might have been thinking" ...by comparing the masterpiece to another work war and peace , he is making his claim by implying that masterpeices have nothing MORE to give to us like there is nothing so extraodinary about it. This view is supported by the later line " provoking endless questions through the majesty of its being."

para gist : By reading this all i am aware of is this passage is LITERATURE !! author talks about a point of view towards a certain work ..now whose work it is we dont know yet !! now is the author going to contrast this point of view? or is this point of view elaborated and expanded later?? let's see !!

Tolstoi’s simplicity is “overpowering,” says the critic Bayley, “disconcerting,” because it comes from “his casual assumption that the world is as he sees it.”

B says T's simplicity is somewhat disconcerting (confusing) ...why??? because T makes his own assumptions by viewing the world accrding to him ...NO the truth of the world may or MAY NOT be the same as T assumes , so it is somewhat confusing to B .Coz the truth of the world may be different and T's truth may be different !!!

para gist: So another point of view. And this point of view is for Tolstoi. B is critiquing T's work. Maybe the earlier POV was for T only. MAybe...just connceting dots. lets read !!

Like other nineteenth-century Russian writers he is “impressive” because he “means what he says,” but he stands apart from all others and from most Western writers in his identity with life, which is so complete as to make us forget he is an artist. He is the center of his work, but his egocentricity is of a special kind. Goethe, for example, says Bayley, “cared for nothing but himself. Tolstoi was nothing but himself.”

AUthor says that though T is similar in some respects to other writers he is unique in one respect : his idenetity with life( ow tolstoi views life/world)
Autor says that this identity woth life is so COMPLETE , it makes us wonder if this is real life event or just a made up story as "Artists" are believed to make up stries !! author says that Tolstoi is the primary person in his work (now that might mean he is the one who controls every aspect of the work or he is the one in the work towards whom the story revolves ) .

Para gist : author is mildly awed and impressed by Tolstoi's work. He makes certain claims about TOLSTOI . Now as these claims were positive mostly as in the attitude of the author is impressive twards the work !!
Connecting the dots : F's POV is presented. B critiques T's work !! Although author may not disagree with B , he is impressed by T's work.
SO by presenting two somewhat opposing viewpoints towards a work , author makes his counter point and is positive towards the work (T's work)

Para 2:
Quote:
For all his varied modes of writing and the multiplicity of characters in his fiction, Tolstoi and his work are of a piece.

para gist : Author says that T's work has VARIED modes of writing ( different modes ) and has MULTIPLICITY in characters( now this may mean that same character plays multiple roles OR there are multiple characters for multiple roles !! ) . By stating aathis author again makes a ostibe remark on T's work

The famous “conversion” of his middle years, movingly recounted in his Confession, was a culmination of his early spiritual life, not a departure from it. The apparently fundamental changes that led from epic narrative to dogmatic parable, from a joyous, buoyant attitude toward life to pessimism and cynicism, from War and Peace to The Kreutzer Sonata, came from the same restless, impressionable depths of an independent spirit yearning to get at the truth of its experience.

Para gist : author says that there was a converion in his works , a move not meant as a culmination( bringing together) of his early spiritual life and not a departure from it !! author means that T's work is not a departure from his beliefs but a culmination of all his EARLIER BELEIFES"
He support this claim (culmination of.... ) by providing a descriptive support in the next sentece : the changes that lef to ..... came form the SAME restless...independednt spirit (adhering to his won truth) ....

“Truth is my hero,” wrote Tolstoi in his youth, reporting the fighting in Sebastopol. Truth remained his hero—his own, not others’, truth. Others were awed by Napoleon, believed that a single man could change the destinies of nations, adhered to meaningless rituals, formed their tastes on established canons of art. Tolstoi reversed all preconceptions; and in every reversal he overthrew the “system,” the “machine,” the externally ordained belief, the conventional behavior in favor of unsystematic, impulsive life, of inward motivation and the solutions of independent thought.

para gist: Author says that "ohers" the public looks at a certin personaity with the general knowledge , BUT TOLSTOI adhers to his won point of vie which may differ from the conventional belief !!! In his works T reverses such "general knowledge , knowledge which is more f an agreement rathe han self investigated belief." , he also overthros the conventinal behavior IN FAVOR of "inward motivation(self investigated belief) of independednt (non-general) thought.

para summary : author tells us how t's work is unique and how his work represent his "identity with lfe"

para 3:
Quote:
In his work the artificial and the genuine are always exhibited in dramatic opposition: the supposedly great Napoleon and the truly great, unregarded little Captain Tushin, or Nicholas Rostov’s actual experience in battle and his later account of it. The simple is always pitted against the elaborate, knowledge gained from observation against assertions of borrowed faiths.

para gist : in T's work his own beleif "geneunine:" and the "truth" (artificial) are kept on the opposite sides or are contrasted . This view is supported by : the "supposedly" great Napolean (T may not agree with this) and the opposite is " truly "great Captian.
Most of his works have this opposing characters !!

Tolstoi’s magical simplicity is a product of these tensions;
para gist : Such above mentioned opposing strategues are what make T;s work simplistic !!!

his work is a record of the questions he put to himself and of the answers he found in his search. The greatest characters of his fiction exemplify this search, and their happiness depends on the measure of their answers. Tolstoi wanted happiness, but only hard-won happiness, that emotional fulfillment and intellectual clarity which could come only as the prize of all-consuming effort. He scorned lesser satisfactions..

para gist ":T's wprk had a theme or a predefined arrangement :using characters to ultkmately answer soem questions !!

para summary : Author is furthering his view about T's work "identity with life" , how T's work is themed !!! and how his own idenetity is conctrasted with the general belief in his works !!

Passage summary : Beginning with counter points towards a writesr's work , author makes presents his positive points of view towards that work by exapnading on his claim by elaborating the remark " identity with life"

Passage structure :
COunter point
counter point
AUthor's point (positive towards T)
expansion/sipport towards author's point !!
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Re: “Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert  [#permalink]

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25 Mar 2019, 22:55
My question is whether these types of passages come in the exam , because this is way too tough for me and goes beyond my head.
Though i got 5 correct but i took lots of time.
I have encountered tough passages in the official guide and elsewhere but this is at a next level .
Re: “Masterpieces are dumb,” wrote Flaubert   [#permalink] 25 Mar 2019, 22:55
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