I must have ingested the knowledge with my mother's milk, as Russians would say. My grandpa had an old print of a painting hanging in his garage. A young beautiful mysterious woman sitting in a carriage in wintry Moscow and looking at the viewer through her heavy-lidded eyes with a stare that combines allure and deep sadness. Actually, it was "A Stranger" by Ivan Kramskoy - but for me it has always remained the mysterious and beautiful Anna Karenina, the femme fatale of Russian literature. Imagine my childish glee when I saw this portrait used for the cover of this book in the edition I chose!
But Anna gives the book its name, and her plight spoke more to me than the philosophical dealings of an insecure and soul-searching Russian landowner, and so her story comes first. Anna's chapters tell a story of a beautiful married woman who had a passionate affair with an officer and then somehow, in her quest for love, began a downward spiral fueled by jealousy and guilt and societal prejudices and stifling attitudes.
The chief thing I shouldn't like would be for people to imagine I want to prove anything. I don't want to prove anything; I merely want to live, to do no one harm but myself. I have the right to do that, haven't I? Few readers will be surprised that it is Anna who gets the blame for the affair, that it is Anna who is considered "fallen" and undesirable in the society, that it is Anna who is dependent on men in whichever relationship she is in because by societal norms of that time a woman was little else but a companion to her man. There is nothing new about the sad contrasts between the opportunities available to men and to women of that time - and the strong sense of superiority that men feel in this patriarchial world.
No, there is nothing else in that, tragic as it may be. She will be no one's wife, she will be lost! Anna, a lovely, energetic, captivating woman, full of life and beauty, simply crumbles, sinks into despair, fueled by desperation and irrationality and misdirected passion. This is what Tolstoy is a master at describing, and this is what was grabbing my heart and squeezing the joy out of it in anticipation of inevitable tragedy to come.
That love was less; consequently, as she reasoned, he must have transferred part of his love to other women or to another woman—and she was jealous. She was jealous not of any particular woman but of the decrease of his love. Not having got an object for her jealousy, she was on the lookout for it. At the slightest hint she transferred her jealousy from one object to another.
All of it is so unsettlingly well-captured on page that you do realize Tolstoy must have believed in the famous phrase that he penned for this book's opening line: He soon felt that the realization of his desires gave him no more than a grain of sand out of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the mistake men make in picturing to themselves happiness as the realization of their desires.
No, everyone, in addition to their pathetic little ugly traits also has redeeming qualities. Anna's husband, despite appearing as a monster to Anna after her passionate affair, still is initially willing to give her the freedom of the divorce that she needs. Stiva Oblonsky, repulsive in his carelessness and cheating, wins us over with his gregarious and genuinely friendly personality; Anna herself, despite her outbursts, is a devoted mother to her son at least initially.
Levin may appear to be monstrous in his jealousy, but the next moment he is so overwhelmingly in love that it's hard not to forgive him. And I love this greyness of each character, so lifelike and full. And, of course, the politics - so easily forgettable by readers of this book that carries the name of the heroine of a passionate forbidden affair. The dreaded politics that bored me to tears when I was fifteen. And yet these are the politics and the questions that were so much on the mind of Count Tolstoy, famous to his compatriots for his love and devotion to peasants, that he devoted almost half of this thick tome to it, discussed through the thoughts of Konstantin Levin.
But he always felt the injustice of his own abundance in comparison with the poverty of the peasants, and now he determined that so as to feel quite in the right, though he had worked hard and lived by no means luxuriously before, he would now work still harder, and would allow himself even less luxury. Maybe it's because I mentally kept fast-forwarding mere 50 years, to the Socialist Revolution of that would leave most definitely Levin and Kitty and their children dead, or less likely, in exile; the revolution which, as Tolstoy almost predicted, focused on the workers and despised the loved by Count Leo peasants, the revolution that despised the love for owning land and working it that Tolstoy felt was at the center of the Russian soul.
But it is still incredibly interesting to think about and to analyze because even a century and a half later there's still enough truth and foresight in Tolstoy's musings, after all. Even if I disagree with so many of his views, they are still thought-provoking, no doubts about it. He liked and did not like the peasants, just as he liked and did not like men in general.
Of course, being a good-hearted man, he liked men rather than he disliked them, and so too with the peasants. But like or dislike "the people" as something apart he could not, not only because he lived with "the people," and all his interests were bound up with theirs, but also because he regarded himself as a part of "the people," did not see any special qualities or failings distinguishing himself and "the people," and could not contrast himself with them.
Well, because of Tolstoy's prose, of course - because of its wordiness and repetitiveness. Yes, Tolstoy is the undisputed king of creating page-long sentences which I love, by the way - love that is owed in full to my literature-teacher mother admiring them and making me punctuate these never-ending sentences correctly for grammar exercises. But he is also a master of restating the obvious, repeating the same thought over and over and over again in the same sentence, in the same paragraph, until the reader is ready to cry for some respite.
This, as well as Levin's at times obnoxious preachiness and the author's frequently very patriarchial views, was what made this book substantially less enjoyable than it could have been. I highly recommend this film. View all comments. In the beginning, reading Anna Karenin can feel a little like visiting Paris for the first time. Much of what you see from the bus you recognize from pictures and movies and books. You expect to like it. You want to like it. But after a few days, you settle in, and you fee In the beginning, reading Anna Karenin can feel a little like visiting Paris for the first time.
But after a few days, you settle in, and you feel the immensity of the place opening up all around you. You start to trust the abundance of the place, and your anxieties that someone else will have eaten everything up before your arrival relax. This book is not afraid to take up any part of human life because it believes that human beings are infinitely interesting and infinitely worthy of compassion. Tolstoy takes his characters seriously enough to acknowledge that they have spiritual lives that are as nuanced and mysterious as their intellectual lives and their romantic lives.
I knew to expect this dimension of the book, but I could not have known how encouraging it would be to dwell in it for so long. In the end, this is a book about life, written by a man who is profoundly in love with life. Reading it makes me want to live. View all 53 comments. Nov 15, Navessa rated it really liked it Shelves: Blog Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest.
View all 47 comments. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is not a strict book review, but rather a meta-review of what reading this book led to in my life. Please avoid reading this if you're looking for an in depth analysis of Anna Karenina. I should also mention that there is a big spoiler in here, in case you've remained untouched by cultural osmosis, but you should read my review anyway to save yourself the trouble.
I grew up believing, like most of us, that burning books was something Nazis did though, of course, burning Disco records at Shea stadium was perfectly fine. I believed that burning books was only a couple of steps down from burning people in ovens, or that it was, at least, a step towards holocaust. If I heard the words "burning books" or "book burning," I saw Gestapo, SS and SA marching around a mountainous bonfire of books in a menacingly lit square.
It's a scary image: So I never imagined that I would become a book burner. That all changed the day Anna Karenina, that insufferable, whiny, pathetic, pain in the ass, finally jumped off the platform and killed herself. I'd read Count of Monte Cristo one summer when I was working day camps, Les Miserable one summer when I was working at a residential camp, and Shogun in one of my final summers of zero responsibility.
A summer shifting back and forth between Marc Antony in Julius Caesar and Pinch, Antonio and the Nun which I played with great gusto, impersonating Terry Jones in drag in Comedy of Errors , or sitting at a pub in the mountains while I waited for the matinee to give way to the evening show, seemed an ideal time to blaze through a big meaty classic. I narrowed the field to two by Tolstoy: War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
I chose the latter and was very quickly sorry I did. I have never met such an unlikable bunch of bunsholes in my life m'kay I am applying Mr. You should see how much money I've put in the vulgarity jar this past week. I loathed them all and couldn't give a damn about their problems. By the end of the first part I was longing for Anna to kill herself I'd known the ending since I was a kid, and if you didn't and I spoiled it for you, sorry. But how could you not know before now? I wanted horrible things to happen to everyone.
I wanted Vronsky to die when his horse breaks its back. I wanted everyone else to die of consumption like Nikolai. And then I started thinking of how much fun it would be to rewrite this book with a mad Stalin cleansing the whole bunch of them and sending them to a Gulag in fact, this book is the ultimate excuse for the October Revolution though I am not comparing Stalinism to Bolshevism. If I'd lived as a serf amongst this pack of idiots I'd have supported the Bolshies without a second thought. It was a compulsion I had never been able to break, and I had the time for it that summer. I told myself many things to get through it all: I hated every m'kaying page.
Then near the end of the summer, while I was sitting in the tent a couple of hours from the matinee I remember it was Comedy of Errors because I was there early to set up the puppet theatre , I finally had the momentary joy of Anna's suicide. And I was almost free. But then I wasn't free because I still had the final part of the novel to read, and I needed to get ready for the show, then after the show I was heading out to claim a campsite for an overnight before coming back for an evening show of Caesar.
I was worried I wouldn't have time to finish that day, but I read pages whenever I found a free moment and it was looking good. Come twilight, I was through with the shows and back at camp with Erika and my little cousin Shaina. The fire was innocently crackling, Erika was making hot dogs with Shaina, so I retreated to the tent and pushed through the rest of the book. When it was over, I emerged full of anger and bile and tossed the book onto the picnic table with disgust. I sat in front of the fire, eating my hot dogs and drinking beer, and that's when the fire stopped being innocent.
I knew I needed to burn this book. I couldn't do it at first. I had to talk myself into it, and I don't think I could have done it at all if Erika hadn't supported the decision. She'd lived through all of my complaining, though, and knew how much I hated the book and I am pretty sure she hated listening to my complaints almost as much. So I looked at the book and the fire. I ate marshmallows and spewed my disdain.
I sang Beatles songs, then went back to my rage, and finally I just stood up and said "M'kay it! The fire around the book blazed high for a good ten minutes, the first minute of which was colored by the inks of the cover, then it tumbled off its prop log and into the heart of the coals, disappearing forever.
I cheered and danced and exorcised that book from my system. I was cleansed of my communion with those whiny Russians. And I vowed in that moment to never again allow myself to get locked into a book I couldn't stand; it's still hard, but I have put a few aside. Since the burning of Anna Karenina there have been a few books that have followed it into the flames.
Some because I loved them and wanted to give them an appropriate pyre, some because I loathed them and wanted to condemn them to the fire. I don't see Nazis marching around the flames anymore either. I see a clear mountain night, I taste bad wine and hot dogs, I hear wind forty feet up in the tops of the trees, I smell the chemical pong of toxic ink, and I feel the relief of never having to see Anna Karenina on my bookshelf again.
I feel much better now. In lieu of a proper review of my favorite book, and in addition to the remark that it would be more aptly named Konstantin Levin , I present to you the characters of Anna Karenina in a series of portraits painted by dead white men. People are going to have to remember that this is the part of the review that is entirely of my own opinion and what I thought of the book, because what follows isn't entirely positive, but I hope it doesn't throw you off the book entirely and you still give it a chance.
I picked up this book upon the advice of Oprah and her book club and my friend Kit. They owe me hardcore now. This book was an extremely long read, not because of it's size and length ne People are going to have to remember that this is the part of the review that is entirely of my own opinion and what I thought of the book, because what follows isn't entirely positive, but I hope it doesn't throw you off the book entirely and you still give it a chance. This book was an extremely long read, not because of it's size and length necessarily, but because of it's content.
More often than not I found myself suddenly third a way down the page after my mind wandered off to other thoughts but I kept on reading You know, totally zoning out but continuing to read? The subject I passed over though was so thoroughly boring that I didn't bother going back to re-read it Leo Tolstoy really enjoys tangents.
Constantly drifting away from the point of the book to go off on three page rants on farming methods, political policies and elections, or philosophical discussion on God. Even the dialogue drifted off in that sort of manner. Tolstoy constantly made detail of trifling matters, while important subjects that added to what little plot line this story had were just passed over. Here is a small passage that is a wonderful example of what constantly takes place throughout the book: Give us your theory," demanded Katavasof, evidently provoking Levin to a discussion.
Just a small example of how Tolstoy focuses much more on philosophical thought, and thought in general, more than any sort of action that will progress the story further. That's part of the reason the story took so long to get through. The editing and translation of the version I got also wasn't very good. Kit reckons that that's part of the reason I didn't enjoy it as much, and I am apt to agree with her.
If you do decide to read this book, your better choice is to go with the Oprah's Book Club edition of Anna Karenina. The characters weren't too great either and I felt only slightly sympathetic for them at certain moments. The women most often were whiny and weak while the men seemed cruel and judgemental more often than not.
Even Anna, who was supposedly strong-willed and intelligent would go off on these irrational rants. The women were constantly jealous and the men were always suspicious. There's not much else to say that I haven't already said. There were only certain spots in the book which I enjoyed in the littlest, and even then I can't remember them. But remember this is just one girl's opinion, if it sounded like a book you might enjoy I highly advise going out to read it.
Just try and get the Oprah edition. View all 76 comments. Oct 14, Nayra. Hassan rated it really liked it Shelves: View all 42 comments. Not since I read The Brothers Karamazov have I felt as directly involved in characters' worlds and minds. I was hooked on Anna Karenina from the opening section when I realized that Tolstoy was brilliantly portraying characters' thoughts and motivations in all of their contradictory, complex truth.
Anna Karenina / Spanish Edition
However, Tolstoy's skill is not just in characterization--though he is the master of that art. His prose invokes such passion. There were parts of the book that took my breath because I re Not since I read The Brothers Karamazov have I felt as directly involved in characters' worlds and minds. There were parts of the book that took my breath because I realized that what I was reading was pure feeling: The book effectively threw a shroud over me and sucked me in--I almost missed my train stop a couple of times. That being said, there were some parts that were difficult to get through.
I felt myself slowing down in Part VI. I was back in through the remainder of the book once I hit Part VII, but I understand how the deep dive into politics and farming can be off-putting. Still, in those chapters Tolstoy's characters are interacting, and it's incredible to see them speak and respond to one another. It's not only worth the trouble, but deep down, it's no trouble at all. It's to be savored, and sometimes we must be forced to slow down and think about the characters' daily life as they navigate around in their relationships. A word about this translation.
When I was in college I attempted to read the Constance Garnett translation. I didn't stop because it was awful I think finals came up, then the holidays, then more classes, etc. However, I never really felt like the words were as powerful as they should have been. Years later, the only image that stuck in my mind was of Levin meeting Kitty at the ice skating rink.
I just never really entered the world of Anna Karenina , perhaps my fault more than anything. However, the diction and sentence construction in Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation is poetic and justifies the title "masterpiece. Each word has its place. Understandably, many are unwilling to give themselves to this book.
Many expect it to do all of the work. But it's an even better read because if the reader works, the experience of reading this book is incredible. View all 15 comments. Set in s Florida, a lector arrives at a cigar factory to read daily installments of Anna Karenina to the workers there. Although the play takes place in summer, the characters enjoyed their journey to Russia as they were captivated by the story. Even though it is approaching summer where I live as well, I decided to embark on my own journey through Leo Tolstoy's classic nineteenth century classic novel.
Although titled Anna Karenina after one of the novel's principle characters, this long classic is considered Tolstoy's first 'real' novel and his take on a modernizing country and on people's lives within it. The novel begins as Anna Karenina arrives in Moscow from Petersburg to help her brother and sister-in-law settle a domestic dispute. Members of Russia's privileged class, Darya "Dolly" Alexandrovna discovers that her husband Stepan Arkadyich "Stiva" Oblonsky has engaged in an affair with one of their maids.
Affairs being a long unspoken of part of upper class life, Dolly desires to leave her husband along with their five children. Anna pleads with Dolly to reconcile, and the couple live a long, if not tenuous, marriage, overlooking each other's glaring faults. While settling her brother's marriage, Anna is reminded of her own unhappy marriage, setting the stage for a drama that lasts the duration of the novel. Tolstoy sets the novel in eight parts and short chapters with three main story lines, allowing for his readers to move quickly through the plot.
In addition to Stiva and Dolly, Tolstoy introduces in part one Dolly's sister Kitty Shcherbatsky, a young woman of marriageable age who is forced to choose between Count Vronsky and Konstantin Dmitrich Levin. At a ball in Kitty's honor, Vronsky is smitten with Anna, temporarily breaking Kitty's heart. Even though Levin loves Kitty with his whole heart, Kitty refuses his offer in favor of Vronsky, and falls into a deep depression.
Levin, seeing the one love of his life reject him, vows to never marry. Anna becomes a fallen woman and rejects her husband in favor of Vronsky, fathering his child, leaving behind the son she loves. Even those closest to her, including family members, are appalled. A G-D fearing woman in a religious society is supposed to view marriage as sacred. Yet, Anna does not value her loved ones' advice and chooses to live with Vronsky.
Despite a comfortable, upper class life, Anna is in constant internal turmoil. Spurned by a society that clings to its institutions as marriage and the church, Anna chooses love yet isolation from all but Vronsky and their daughter. Her ex-husband is viewed as a strict adherent to the law, cold, and unsympathetic, and will not grant a divorce. Even though Anna is clearly in the wrong, Tolstoy has his readers sympathizing with her situation, rooting for a positive outcome. He brings to light the plight of lack of women's rights, especially in regard to divorce, and has one hoping that Russia changes her ways as she modernizes.
If Anna's situation sheds light on the worst of Russian society and Dolly's reveals its stagnation, then Kitty, who later marries Levin, shows how the country begins to modernize. Kostya and Kitty marry for love, rather than gains in society. Believed by many to be Tolstoy's alter ego, Levin is an estate farmer who is well aware of the rights of his tenant farmers called muzhiks. Along with his brother Sergei Ivanovich, Levin works toward agrarian reform. Both men, Sergei Ivanovich especially, is swept up in the communist ideals that are beginning to form, in rejection of the tsarist governing of the country.
Tolstoy diverges pages at a time to farming reforms and one can see in these pages his own beliefs for the future of Russia in the late 19th century. Through the three principle couples: Having Levin introduce farming mechanisms from the west and Vronsky participate in a Slavic war, Tolstoy presents a Russia that is no longer completely isolated. He reveals how communism begins to shape up as farmers are no longer happy as tenants and many privileged classes adhere to newer values. Meanwhile, through Dolly, Anna, and Kitty, Tolstoy also presents how a woman's role in this society changes, including schooling and her place in a marriage.
As the twentieth century nears, Russian life is no longer set in antiquated ways. Had I not read a drama set in the tropics, I most likely would not have journeyed to 19th century Russia. I enjoyed learning about Leo Tolstoy's views on life there and how he saw late 19th century Russia as a changing society. I found the plight his title character depressing while reading about Levin and Kitty to be uplifting as Russia moves toward the future. Tolstoy's words are accessible in spite of the novel's length, a testament to the stellar translation done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
A true classic, I enjoyed my time with the characters in Anna Karenina, and rate Tolstoy's premier novel 5 shining stars. View all 26 comments. If you have read this book, please proceed. If you are never going to read this novel be honest with yourself , then please proceed. If you may read this novel, but it may be decades in the future, then please proceed.
Trust me, you are not going to remember, no matter how compelling a review I have written. If you need Tolstoy talking points for your next cocktail party or soiree with those literary, black wearing, pseudo intellectual friends of yours, then this review will come in handy. If they pin you to the board like a bug over some major plot twist, that will be because I have not shared any of those. If this happens, do not despair; refer them to my review. Exchange them for other more enlightened intellectual friends.
This fulfillment showed him the eternal error men make in imagining that their happiness depends on the realization of their desires. She dutifully produced a son for him and settled into a life of social events and extravagant clothes and enjoyed a freedom from financial worries. Maybe this life would have continued for her if she had never met Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky, but more than likely, her midlife crisis, her awareness of the passage of time, would have compelled her to seek something more.
If he killed me, if he killed him, I could bear it all, I could forgive it all, but no, he…. Maybe he was too contented with their life together and, therefore, took their relationship for granted. She wanted passion from him even if it was to murder her lover and herself. Even if it was something tragic, she wanted something to happen, something that would make her feel The same face was always going to greet her in the mirror.
The same thoughts were always going to swim their way back to the surface. We can not mask the problems within ourselves by changing lovers. The mask will eventually slip, and all will be revealed. Ugly can be very pretty. Is there such a thing as being too beautiful? Can being so beautiful make someone cold, disdainful, and unable to really feel empathy or even connected to those around them? Her type of beauty is a shield that insulates her even as her insecurities swing the sword that stabs the hearts of those who despise her and those who love her.
He was a well meaning, wealthy landowner who, unusually for the times, went out and worked the land himself. He got his hands dirty enough that one could actually call him a farmer. He was led to believe by his friends and even the Shcherbatsky family that their youngest daughter, Kitty, would be an affable match for him. Stiva was recently caught and forgiven for having a dalliance with a household staff, but no sooner was he out of that boiling water of that affair before he was having liaisons with a ballerina. This did lead me to believe that life would never be satisfying for either Stiva or his sister Anna because there was always going to be pretty butterflies to chase as the attractiveness of the one they had began to fade.
That was like catching a molotok hammer right between the eyes as a serp sickle swept Kostya off his feet. It was almost enough for me start chain smoking Turkish cigarettes or biting my nails down to the quick while I waited for the outcome. Tolstoy was brilliant at rounding out characters so our preconceived notions or the projections of ourselves that we place upon them are forced to be modified as we discover more about them. Levin had his own problems. He had been reading the great philosophers, looking for answers. He found more questions than answers in religion.
He abandoned every lifeboat he climbed into and swam for the next one. And I cannot know that, therefore I cannot live. Well, there is a lot of eternal lying down going on, but no duplicity. None of us are going to escape the reaper. No one is ascending on a cloud or going to the crossroads to make a deal with the Devil. So the question that Levin ended up asking himself, the Biggest question even beyond, why am I here?
Without immortality, everything we attempt to do can seem futile. Some would make the case that we live on in our kids and grandkids. I say bugger to that. I want more time! Well, there are ways to be immortal, and one of them is to write a masterpiece like Anna Karenina that will live forever. By the end, I am ready to throttle Anna until her pretty eyes bug out of her head and her cheeks turn a vibrant pink, but at the same time, she seemed to be suffering from a host of mental disorders.
She was so cut off from everyone and so disdainful of everyone. I had to believe her loathing of people was a projection of how she felt about herself. She needed to find some satisfaction in the ordinary and quit believing that a change in geography or in lovers was ever going to fix what was wrong with herself. She had such a destructive personality. Two men tried to kill themselves over her. Her feelings of being stifled were perfectly natural.
We all feel that way at points in our lives. We feel trapped by the circumstances of our life. She sacrificed everything to chase a dream. The dream ate her. This book is a masterpiece, not just a Russian masterpiece but a true gift to the world of literature. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews visit http: View all 39 comments.
Tolstoy draws a portrait of three marriages or relationships that could not be more different. Anna Karenina is rightly called a masterpiece. Moreover Tolstoy does not spare on social socialism and describes the beginnings of communism, deals with such existential themes as birth and death and the meaning of life. He also seems like a close observer of human passions, feelings and emotions. All in all I was touched by his b Tolstoy draws a portrait of three marriages or relationships that could not be more different. All in all I was touched by his book because it was one of the most impressive books I have ever read.
View all 23 comments. Alright, I'm going to do my best not to put any spoilers out here, but it will be kind of tough with this book. I should probably start by saying that this book was possibly the best thing I have ever read. It was my first Tolstoy to read, and the defining thing that separated what he wrote from anything else that I've read is his characters. His characters are unbelievably complex. The edition of this book that I read was over pages, so he has some time to do it.
Anna Karenina / Spanish Edition : Lev Tolstoi :
His characters aren't static Alright, I'm going to do my best not to put any spoilers out here, but it will be kind of tough with this book. His characters aren't static, but neither are they in some kind of transition from A to B throughout the book. They are each inconsistent in strikingly real ways.
They think things and then change their minds. They believe something and then lose faith in it. Their opinions of each other are always swirling. They attempt to act in ways that align with something they want, but they must revert back to who they are. But who a character is is a function of many things, some innate and some external and some whimsical and moody. So all the characters seem too complex to be characters in a book. It's as if no one could write a character that could be so contradictory and incoherent and still make them believable, so no one would try to write a character like Anna Karenina.
But people are that complex, and they are incoherent and that's what makes Tolstoy's characters so real. Their understandings of each other and themselves are as incoherent as mine of those around me and myself. One of the ways that Tolstoy achieves this is through incredible detail to non-verbal communication. He is always describing the characters movements, expressions, or postures in such a way that you subtly learn their thoughts. He does an amazing job in the internal monologues the characters experience. You frequently hear a character reason with himself and reveal his thoughts or who he is to you in some way, and all the while you feel like you already knew that they felt that or were that.
Even as the characters are inconsistent. There are times when he can describe actions that have major implications on the plot with blunt and simple words and it still felt rich because the characters are so full. It also speaks interestingly on social classes or classism. There is just so much to wrestle with here. And you go through a myriad set of emotions and impressions of the characters as you read.
At times you can love or hate or adore a character. You can be ashamed of or ashamed for or reviled by or anxious with or surprised by a character. And you feel this way about each of them at points. But it isn't at all a roller coaster ride of emotion. It's fluid and natural and makes sense. One of the many points that the book seemed to reach to me was the strength and power of love. Tolstoy displays it in all its power and all its inability. In the end love is not sufficient enough to sustain. He writes tremendous triumphs for it, and then he writes the months after when the reality of human failings set in.
But love is good, and there is hope. Life can be better with love in it. Should I have kids one day I think I'll make reading this book a precondition for them to start dating that and turning I was also surprised by a section towards the end of the book where Tolstoy through Levin, my favorite character and the one that I identified with the most, makes a case for Christianity that was so simple but at the same time really impacted me.
I guess I'll leave that alone here. Basically, I don't have high enough praise for this book. I hope everyone reads it. It is very long, and I found the third quarter or so slow. But I could definitely read it again. Not soon but it could become a must read every 15 years or so for me. Between he nature of the content and the quality of the words, I would say that this is the greatest masterpiece in words that I've ever found. View all 10 comments.
Sep 17, Kevin Ansbro rated it it was amazing Shelves: You see, I was force-fed Tolstoy at college his writing, not his flesh, silly! Mine wasn't a college for cannibals! So, how amazed was I that Anna K has s "Leo Tolstoy would meet hatred expressed in violence by love expressed in self-suffering. He is slyly hilarious. How did I not know this? Please note that I haven't read this novel in Russian Cyrillic. I acknowledge that my perception owes a great deal to the amazing interpretive work of the translators, but let's imagine that we in the West have enjoyed his work as the great man intended.
The title is something of a misnomer and doesn't do justice to an endearing love story that also captures the disparity between city and country life in 19th-century Russia. For a start, Anna K isn't the star of the show. That billing falls to our anti-hero, Konstantin Dmitrich Levin, a socially awkward, highly-intelligent loner who considers himself to be an ugly fellow with no redeemable qualities.
Despite being weighed down by all this existential angst, he worships Kitty Shcherbatskaya, an attractive young princess whom he believes to be out of his league. Kitty is described as being "as easy to find in a crowd as a rose among nettles. Levin's love rival, raffishly handsome Count Vronsky, couldn't be more dissimilar. He is socially adept and careful not to offend, whereas Levin could probably start an argument with a goldfish. What a fabulous read this is. Tolstoy's levity and perspicacity shines from every page and the badinage between the main characters is exquisitely observed.
He does though have an idiosyncratic way of writing: Anna herself is fascinating, and to affirm just how fascinating she is, Tolstoy employs the word fascinating seven times in one paragraph! I've even started doing it myself! When not beating you about the head with repetition, the Russian master can do majestic descriptive imagery as good as anyone.
One simple scene, where Kitty collapses into a low chair, her ball gown rising about her like a cloud, was just perfectly captured. This is a wonderful story of fated love and aristocratic hypocrisy. Tolstoy uses Levin as his political mouthpiece to rail against the ills of late 19th-century Russia, and the author's philosophy of non-violent pacifism also had a direct influence on none other than Mahatma Gandi.
Anna Karenina is often cited as 'one of the best books ever written'. So who am I to disagree? This is a book that I was actually dreading reading for quite some time. It was on a list of books that I'd been working my way through and, after seeing the size of it and the fact that 'War And Peace' was voted 1 book to avoid reading, I was reluctant to ever get started. But am I glad that I did. This is a surprisingly fast-moving, interesting and easy to read novel.
The last of which I'd of never believed could be true before reading it, but you find yourself instantly engrossed in this kind This is a book that I was actually dreading reading for quite some time. The last of which I'd of never believed could be true before reading it, but you find yourself instantly engrossed in this kind of Russian soap opera, filled with weird and intriguing characters. The most notable theme is the way society overlooked mens' affairs but frowned on womens', this immediately created a bond between myself and Anna, who is an extremely likeable character.
I thought it had an amazing balance of important meaning and light-heartedness. Let's just say, it's given me some courage to maybe one day try out the dreaded 'War And Peace'. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment Tolstoy's negative views of Russian volunteers going to fight in Serbia ; therefore, the novel's first complete appearance was in book form in So, I have this ongoing etiquette problem.
Though sometimes I think it is a matter of respect. Or maybe social awkwardness. Post got that deeply into the protocol of neurotic bibliophiles. Anyway, the question is.. That is, are discussants more likely So, I have this ongoing etiquette problem. That is, are discussants more likely to assume a first name basis when conversing about women authors rather than male authors?
If so, does this mean a sign of disrespect? What about when this happens as a discussion among women? Is this more or less problematic? It also, obviously, happens sometimes with two authors by the same name, or with an author that someone happens to know personally. But my question doesn't just have to do with this situation. I'm more interested as to why readers feel the impulse to do this to start with. The answer I've come up with is maybe an obvious one, but its worth stating: But its hard to pinpoint when that happens.
Usually, for me, I only see it when I write my review. Usually I self-consciously delete it later once I realize it. But it is always revealing of how much the novel got to me. Virginia Woolf is the ultimate example of this for me. My experience with Mrs. I had the same experience with Austen and the Brontes and Graham Greene and a few others. I've read this before, but that time my impression of Tolstoy as an intimidating, distant Big Russian Author intact.
This read was different. I believe that the translation work of Paevar and Volokhonsky deserves credit for that. My first read was with the Garnette translation. And unfortunately, it turns out that graceful late-Victorian prose reads rather… well.. Intelligently done, but often intimidating and cold. At least, it is not the Tolstoy that Paevar and Volokhonsky showed me. I remember those Leo moments.
There are many things I loved about this novel. As I understand it, writing this novel was a great struggle for Tolstoy. Originally, he meant this to be a straightforward morality tale. Anna was meant to be an ugly, vulgar old adulteress who represented Evil Womankind, and Karenin a model of sainted Christianity. But the longer the writing went on, the more this black and white purpose acquired shades of grey.
Anna became beautiful, then sympathetic at the beginning, and then in the middle, and then all the way into the end. Vronsky no longer twisted his mustache, but became a man with a code who wanted very much to be allowed to keep that code and live a life. He found his way from rigid morality to what makes a tragedy a tragedy. There are moments where he shows that he could have gone full on Oscar Wilde if he wanted to, but he takes it back.
Judge not, lest ye be judged. Some of them I sympathized with from the beginning-Anna, Dolly, Levin- and some snuck up on me-Karenin, Kitty- and some-Vronsky, Oblonsky- took me awhile, but I got there. The book is set up as a dance where these seven people come together, go through the motions and then change partners again.
How they come together, why, and what the two partners want from each other in that moment reveals everything about these two characters. As our two anchors who represent the two choices that you can come to resolve the existential crises of life, Levin and Anna get to meet everyone and everyone gets to reflect them back to themselves.
Other characters experience them and make their own choices by evaluating their experience. Their resolutions represent the spectrum of other choices that you can make in between Ecstasy starts as Anna, moves to Levin and Death which moves from Levin to Anna. What happens in the scene is beautiful and makes a lot of sense. Like that circle you always see done with fascism and communism-in-reality where despite whatever they may say, they are not the opposites that they claim.
Someone is always going to be left on the outside, or being the third wheel to one of the pairs. Everyone has a turn with this. Anna starts it, then Levin continues it, then Kitty, then Karenin and full circle until we come back to Anna standing by herself once again. Through the odd man out, we get an exploration of how loneliness, rejection, and mistaken choices to reject others affect these characters. The two choices seem to be either that it will transform them, or that it will gradually harden the worst parts about them until they become an unbreakable diamond.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the space and time to do that. Levin gets to do it eventually. Anna is the diamond. Karenin shatters to pieces and then rebuilds himself into one again. Surprisingly, in the end, Karenin was the one who broke my heart. He shows these peoples' attempts at understanding each other and failing again and again. Characters frequently make assumptions that other people are mind-readers or that they are, and some even go so far as to tell them so. The ones who can communicate with each other are the ones who drive the novel- Anna, Levin, Kitty.
Our author stand-in, Levin, is the most socially anxious being. He frequently doubts every word that comes out of his mouth, blushes and embarrasses himself with his boyish pride, and puts his foot in his mouth on about a million occasions. But all these little moments add up to a more thorough condemnation of social conventions than view spoiler [anybody throwing themselves under a train at the end could possibly have managed hide spoiler ].
Only Connect in eight hundred pages at full volume. Only a few people manage it, and usually not for long. He shows us why succeeding is a gift, not something that we can take for granted. And as for the writing… Tolstoy gets away with so much that other authors can't. He tells rather than shows for at least half the novel, and that is a conservative estimate. He repeats himself constantly. He chooses isolated moments and lets them go on for fifty pages longer than anyone on earth needs.
A two day hunting trip takes twice that. For which reasons we leave a great blank here, which must be taken to indicate that the space is filled to repletion. That is, what he does to Anna because he could not himself decide what he wanted her to be, and really what he wanted himself to be. Even his generosity failed him here. He went gloriously, full-tilt into a wall wrong, but it was wrong. It seemed like his original stern morality got the best of him. At first, I wanted to think that it was just a plot mechanics decision in the sense that Anna was the big outlier in the story and social structure, and the way he had written the people around her there was no way for anyone to move forward unless she herself changed.
But in the end, I think that I'm wrong and it was just him feeling like he had to condemn her for her sins in the end. He couldn't let it be about what he said it was the whole novel because that was too dangerous. About how to rationally believe in God as a man of science. It makes sense that they would. I know why, actually. But I'm still not a fan. I can mostly forgive Tolstoy for what he did to Anna and Levin and their complex struggles because of one thing: Even when his generosity of spirit uncharacteristically fails him with Anna, or when powerful intellect goes off the rails toward crazytown with Levin and his peasant-worship, he has this great ability to celebrate things great and small.
This is most evident in the Levin sections where we get long odes to the harvest and to his love for Kitty. And really, despite the all that earnest, existential angst and all the terror of death, the ultimate conclusion that I think Tolstoy wants me to walk away with from that last Levin chapter is Life. Even with the problems with it I mentioned above, its such a relief to see Levin finally just let himself rest that its difficult to hate it completely.
Kitty gets to be wrapped up on it. Oblonsky walks around with an apparently unshakeable foundation of it. Tolstoy complements this with a sly sense of humor that sneaks into the prose in between the other seven hundred and fifty pages of Seriously Considering the World. He pokes fun at men showing off their manliness to each other. He has some fun with mysticism, laughs about the ridiculousness of politics. He makes me laugh with the extremes to which he carries his insistence that we think about the feelings of everybody.
Awhile ago, I saw Jon Stewart give a speech in tribute to Springsteen.
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This book is a book of statements, but it feels like a book of questions. Do you know any better? Often, with Tolstoy, I think that a lot of us feel like we do. With rare exceptions, he deals with everything on earth as if it is the most serious thing alive. We can even feel that we know better about communism, idealization of manual labor or even just his ideas about cooperative farming.
He reminds me of David Foster Wallace, in that respect. That Consider the Lobster essay, with all that serious questioning and pain, thrown out to the readers of Gourmet. Both these guys are really asking. This was a surprisingly vulnerable book in that way. For every opinion Tolstoy pronounced, he retracted two and asked four questions. That is the sort of mind I want to be around. But his amazing writing ability, his sharp insight, and his ability to reason through as far as he could go are powerful enough that I will always let it go.
View all 77 comments. According to this myth, the gods get involved in our existence by using a red cord. In Japanese culture, such cord is tied around the little finger; in China, around the ankle. Be it as it may, that string binds one person to the other; people who were always destined to meet, regar [Turn the volume up; open me in new tab] There is a well-known belief that, brimming with the romanticism of bygone days to which reason acquiesces in silence, attempts to explain the elusive nature of human relations. He wrestles with the idea of falseness, wondering how he should go about ridding himself of it, and criticising what he feels is falseness in others.
He develops ideas relating to agriculture , and the unique relationship between the agricultural labourer and his native land and culture. He comes to believe that the agricultural reforms of Europe will not work in Russia because of the unique culture and personality of the Russian peasant. When Levin visits Dolly, she attempts to understand what happened between him and Kitty and to explain Kitty's behaviour.
Levin is very agitated by Dolly's talk about Kitty, and he begins to feel distant from Dolly as he perceives her loving behaviour towards her children as false. Levin resolves to forget Kitty and contemplates the possibility of marriage to a peasant woman. However, a chance sighting of Kitty in her carriage makes Levin realise he still loves her.
Petersburg, Karenin refuses to separate from Anna, insisting that their relationship will continue. He threatens to take away Seryozha if she persists in her affair with Vronsky. When Anna and Vronsky continue seeing each other, Karenin consults with a lawyer about obtaining a divorce.
During the time period, a divorce in Russia could only be requested by the innocent party in an affair and required either that the guilty party confessed—which would ruin Anna's position in society and bar her from remarrying in the Orthodox Church—or that the guilty party be discovered in the act of adultery. Karenin forces Anna to hand over some of Vronsky's love letters, which the lawyer deems insufficient as proof of the affair.
Stiva and Dolly argue against Karenin's drive for a divorce. Karenin changes his plans after hearing that Anna is dying after the difficult birth of her daughter, Annie. At her bedside, Karenin forgives Vronsky. However, Vronsky, embarrassed by Karenin's magnanimity , unsuccessfully attempts suicide by shooting himself. As Anna recovers, she finds that she cannot bear living with Karenin despite his forgiveness and his attachment to Annie.
When she hears that Vronsky is about to leave for a military posting in Tashkent , she becomes desperate. Anna and Vronsky reunite and elope to Europe, leaving Seryozha and Karenin's offer of divorce. Meanwhile, Stiva acts as a matchmaker with Levin: Levin and Kitty marry and start their new life on his country estate.
Although the couple are happy, they undergo a bitter and stressful first three months of marriage. Levin feels dissatisfied at the amount of time Kitty wants to spend with him and dwells on his inability to be as productive as he was as a bachelor. When the marriage starts to improve, Levin learns that his brother, Nikolai, is dying of consumption. Kitty offers to accompany Levin on his journey to see Nikolai and proves herself a great help in nursing Nikolai. Seeing his wife take charge of the situation in an infinitely more capable manner than he could have done himself without her, Levin's love for Kitty grows.
Kitty eventually learns that she is pregnant. In Europe, Vronsky and Anna struggle to find friends who will accept them. Whilst Anna is happy to be finally alone with Vronsky, he feels suffocated. They cannot socialize with Russians of their own class and find it difficult to amuse themselves.
Vronsky, who believed that being with Anna was the key to his happiness, finds himself increasingly bored and unsatisfied. However, Vronsky cannot see that his own art lacks talent and passion, and that his conversation about art is extremely pretentious. Increasingly restless, Anna and Vronsky decide to return to Russia. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky stay in one of the best hotels, but take separate suites. It becomes clear that whilst Vronsky is still able to move freely in Russian society, Anna is barred from it.
Even her old friend, Princess Betsy, who has had affairs herself, evades her company. Anna starts to become anxious that Vronsky no longer loves her. Meanwhile, Karenin is comforted by Countess Lidia Ivanovna, an enthusiast of religious and mystic ideas fashionable with the upper classes. She advises him to keep Seryozha away from Anna and to tell him his mother is dead. However, Seryozha refuses to believe that this is true. Anna visits Seryozha uninvited on his ninth birthday but is discovered by Karenin. Anna, desperate to regain at least some of her former position in society, attends a show at the theatre at which all of St.
Petersburg's high society are present. Vronsky begs her not to go, but he is unable to bring himself to explain to her why she cannot attend. At the theatre, Anna is openly snubbed by her former friends, one of whom makes a deliberate scene and leaves the theatre. Unable to find a place for themselves in St. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky leave for Vronsky's own country estate.
Dolly, her mother the Princess Scherbatskaya, and Dolly's children spend the summer with Levin and Kitty. The Levins' life is simple and unaffected, although Levin is uneasy at the "invasion" of so many Scherbatskys. He becomes extremely jealous when one of the visitors, Veslovsky, flirts openly with the pregnant Kitty. Levin tries to overcome his feelings, and succeeds to a large extent during a hunt Veslovsky, Oblonsky and he engage in, but eventually succumbs to them on their return and makes Veslovsky leave his house in an embarrassing scene. Veslovsky immediately goes to stay with Anna and Vronsky at their nearby estate.
When Dolly visits Anna, she is struck by the difference between the Levins' aristocratic-yet-simple home life and Vronsky's overtly luxurious and lavish country estate. She is also unable to keep pace with Anna's fashionable dresses or Vronsky's extravagant spending on a hospital he is building. In addition, all is not quite well with Anna and Vronsky. Dolly notices Anna's anxious behaviour and her uncomfortable flirtations with Veslovsky.
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Vronsky makes an emotional request to Dolly, asking her to convince Anna to divorce Karenin so that the two might marry and live normally. Anna has become intensely jealous of Vronsky and cannot bear it when he leaves her even for short excursions. When Vronsky leaves for several days of provincial elections, Anna becomes convinced that she must marry him to prevent him from leaving her. After Anna writes to Karenin, she and Vronsky leave the countryside for Moscow. While visiting Moscow for Kitty's confinement, Levin quickly gets used to the city's fast-paced, expensive and frivolous society life.
He accompanies Stiva to a gentleman's club , where the two meet Vronsky. Levin and Stiva pay a visit to Anna, who is occupying her empty days by being a patroness to an orphaned English girl. Levin is initially uneasy about the visit, but Anna easily puts him under her spell. When he admits to Kitty that he has visited Anna, she accuses him of falling in love with her. The couple are later reconciled, realising that Moscow society life has had a negative, corrupting effect on Levin. Anna cannot understand why she can attract a man like Levin, who has a young and beautiful new wife, but can no longer attract Vronsky.
Her relationship with Vronsky is under increasing strain, because he can move freely in Russian society while she remains excluded. Her increasing bitterness, boredom, and jealousy cause the couple to argue. Anna uses morphine to help her sleep, a habit she began while living with Vronsky at his country estate. She has become dependent on it. Meanwhile, after a long and difficult labour, Kitty gives birth to a son, Dmitri, nicknamed "Mitya". Levin is both horrified and profoundly moved by the sight of the tiny, helpless baby. Stiva visits Karenin to seek his commendation for a new post. During the visit, Stiva asks Karenin to grant Anna a divorce which would require him to confess to a non-existent affair , but Karenin's decisions are now governed by a French " clairvoyant " recommended by Lidia Ivanovna.
The clairvoyant apparently had a vision in his sleep during Stiva's visit and gives Karenin a cryptic message that he interprets in a way such that he must decline the request for divorce. Anna becomes increasingly jealous and irrational towards Vronsky, whom she suspects of having love affairs with other women. She is also convinced that he will give in to his mother's plans to marry him off to a rich society woman. They have a bitter row and Anna believes the relationship is over. She starts to think of suicide as an escape from her torments. In her mental and emotional confusion, she sends a telegram to Vronsky asking him to come home to her, and then pays a visit to Dolly and Kitty.
Anna's confusion and anger overcome her and, in a parallel to the railway worker's accidental death in Part 1, she commits suicide by throwing herself under the carriage of a passing train. Sergei Ivanovich's Levin's brother latest book is ignored by readers and critics and he joins the new pan-Slavic movement. Stiva gets the post he desired so much, and Karenin takes custody of Vronsky and Anna's baby, Anna.
A group of Russian volunteers, including the suicidal Vronsky, depart from Russia to fight in the Orthodox Serbian revolt that has broken out against the Turks. A lightning storm occurs at Levin's estate while his wife and newborn son are outdoors and, in his fear for their safety, Levin realizes that he does indeed love his son as much as he loves Kitty. Kitty's family is concerned that a man as altruistic as her husband does not consider himself to be a Christian. After speaking at length to a peasant, Levin has a true change of heart, concluding that he does believe in the Christian principles taught to him in childhood and no longer questions his faith.
He realizes that one must decide for oneself what is acceptable concerning one's own faith and beliefs. He chooses not to tell Kitty of the change that he has undergone. Levin is initially displeased that his return to his faith does not bring with it a complete transformation to righteousness. However, at the end of the story, Levin arrives at the conclusion that despite his newly accepted beliefs, he is human and will go on making mistakes. His life can now be meaningfully and truthfully oriented toward righteousness.
Tolstoy's style in Anna Karenina is considered by many critics to be transitional, forming a bridge between the realist and modernist novel. As such, each of the novel's eight sections contains internal variations in tone: Much of the novel's seventh section depicts Anna's thoughts fluidly, following each one of her ruminations and free associations with its immediate successor. This groundbreaking use of stream-of-consciousness would be utilised by such later authors as James Joyce , Virginia Woolf , and William Faulkner. Anna Karenina is commonly thought to explore the themes of hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, family, marriage, society, progress, carnal desire and passion, and the agrarian connection to land in contrast to the lifestyles of the city.
Levin is often considered a semi-autobiographical portrayal of Tolstoy's own beliefs, struggles, and life events. Moreover, according to W. The events in the novel take place against the backdrop of rapid transformations as a result of the liberal reforms initiated by Emperor Alexander II of Russia , principal among these the Emancipation reform of , followed by judicial reform, including a jury system; military reforms, the introduction of elected local governments Zemstvo , the fast development of railroads, banks, industry, telegraph , the rise of new business elites and the decline of the old landed aristocracy, a freer press, the awakening of public opinion, the Pan-Slavism movement, the woman question , volunteering to aid Serbia in its military conflict with the Ottoman Empire in etc.
These contemporary developments are hotly debated by the characters in the novel. The suburban railway station of Obiralovka, where one of the characters commits suicide, is now known as the town of Zheleznodorozhny, Moscow Oblast. Writing in the year , academic Zoja Pavlovskis-Petit compares the different translations of Anna Karenina on the market. Commenting on the revision of Constance Garnett's translation she says: Their edition shows an excellent understanding of the details of Tolstoy's world for instance, the fact that the elaborate coiffure Kitty wears to the ball is not her own hair—a detail that eludes most other translators , and at the same time they use English imaginatively Kitty's shoes 'delighted her feet' rather than 'seemed to make her feet lighter'—Maude; a paraphrase.
This emended Garnett should probably be a reader's first choice. She further comments on the Maudes' translation: Yet she lacks a true sensitivity for the language There is occasional awkwardness This is a good translation. The advantage is that Wettlin misses hardly any cultural detail. McLean's recommendations are the Kent—Berberova revision of Garnett's translation and the Pevear and Volokhonsky version.
Kent and Berberova did a much more thorough and careful revision of Garnett's translation than Gibian did of the Maude one, and they have supplied fairly full notes, conveniently printed at the bottom of the page.