A few months ago I read Anna in the Tropics, a Pulitzer winning drama by Nilo Cruz Set in 1920s 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 Stiva and Dolly, Vronsky and Anna, and Levin and Kitty, Tolstoy presents the old, changing, and new Russia 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. In lieu of a proper review of my favorite book, and in addition to the remark that it would be aptly named Konstantin Levin, I present to you the characters of Anna Karenina in a series of portraits painted by dead white men.Anna Karenina Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent Alexei Karenin Portrait of Edouard Manet by Henri Fantin Latour Alexei Vronsky Study of a Young Man by John Singer Sargent Konstantin Levin Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife by John Singer SargentKitty Scherbatsky Portrait of Julie Manet by Pierre Auguste Renoir Stepan Arkadyick Oblonsky Monsieur Charpentier by Pierre Auguste Renoir Dolly Oblonsky The Marchioness of Downshire by John William Waterhouse An old muzhik Tolstoy Plowing by Ilya Yefimovich Repin yes, that is really a painting of Tolstoy himself, and he looks like what I imagine an old muzhik to look like. @Free ì Анна Каренина ë A Famous Legend Surrounding The Creation Of Anna Karenina Tells Us That Tolstoy Began Writing A Cautionary Tale About Adultery And Ended Up Falling In Love With His Magnificent Heroine It Is Rare To Find A Reader Of The Book Who Doesn T Experience The Same Kind Of Emotional Upheaval Anna Karenina Is Filled With Major And Minor Characters Who Exist In Their Own Right And Fully Embody Their Mid Nineteenth Century Russian Milieu, But It Still Belongs Entirely To The Woman Whose Name It Bears, Whose Portrait Is One Of The Truest Ever Made By A WriterTranslated By Louise And Aylmer Maude WARNING 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 Thanks 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 an image of censorship, of fear mongering, of mind control an image of evil 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 That summer I was performing in Shakespeare in the Mountains, and I knew I d have plenty of down time, so it was a perfect summer to read another 1,000 page novel 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 kayI admit itI am applying Mr Mackey s lesson You should see how much money I ve put in the vulgarity jar this past week Seriously 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.I found the book excruciating, but I was locked in my life long need to finish ANY book I started It was a compulsion I had never been able to break, and I had the time for it that summer I spent three months in the presence of powerful and or fun Shakespeare plays and contrasted those with a soul suckingly unenjoyable Tolstoy novel, and then I couldn t escape because of my own head I told myself many things to get through it all I am missing the point, Something s missing in translation, I m in the wrong head space, I shouldn t have read it while I was living and breathing Shakespeare, It will get better It never did Not for me 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 Ecstasy She was gone 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 I tossed it into the flames and watched that brick of a book slowly twist and char and begin to float into the night sky 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 felt better 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 any 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 Whew I feel much better now. Not since I read The Brothers Karamazov have I felt as directly involved in characters worlds and minds Fascinating.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 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 realized that what I was reading was pure feeling when we realize that Anna is no longer pushing Vronsky away, when Levin proposes to Kitty, and later when Levin thinks about death 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 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 than anything However, the diction and sentence construction in Pevear and Volokhonsky s translation is poetic and justifies the title masterpiece Through this translation I grew to appreciate Tolstoy not just because he told good, philosophical stories, but because he could do so with utmost subtletly and compactness yes, I think Tolstoy is concise 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. 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 Now my thoughts I picked up this book upon the advice of Oprah and her book club and my friend Kit They owe me hardcore now As does Mr Tolstoy 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 am I the only one with the ability to do that 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 and it didn t affect my understanding of future events taking place later on in the book.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 bookKostia, look out There s a bee Won t he sting cried Dolly, defending herself from a wasp That s not a bee that s a wasp said Levin Come, now Give us your theory, demanded Katavasof, evidently provoking Levin to a discussion Why shouldn t private persons have that right No mention of the wasp is made again Just a small example of how Tolstoy focuses much on philosophical thought, and thought in general, 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 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 All in all I did not enjoy this book, and it earned the names Anna Crapenina and Anna Kareniblah.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. What is the most important thing about Anna Karenina Is it the first line, Happy families are all alike every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way This sounds so true but it isn t really Is it that Anna experiences much intolerance for her unfaithfulness and leaving her husband than does her brother who screws around like a dog Is it Konstantin Levin s attempts to marry into the aristocracy and his problem with religion Or is the entire story just Tolstoy s way of seducing the reader into reading the political nub of the story, the feudalism that was at the heart of all politics, morality and social position I enjoyed the book when I read it, but I have to say I skimmed over a lot of the politics and did wonder which in Tolstoy s heart is the story he wanted to tell, love stories or political ones How I came to read Anna Karenina, appendicitis and an air hostess ending with a rotten tomato view spoiler I read this book when I was 13 I had a test on it in two days and hadn t even opened it so I said I had stomach ache and went to the school sick room This was a tall, narrow room with a tiny window about 8 up and painted with shades of olive green and aubergine eggplant If you weren t sick going in those colours But I was away in Russia with Anna, her husband Alexei and Count Vronsky whom I swooned over In the early hours of the morning, I really had stomach ache At 4 a.m I had an emergency appendectomy in a nursing home with an operating theatre I was very sick indeed and in bed for weeks Had I brought it on myself Never mind Next day three things happened, one bad and one good and one fantastic My period came on for the first time I was a Woman Yes I told my mother and my grandmother leaned over from the visitor chair and slapped my face very hard, That s to take the shock of the blood away She said Then the good My mother said I had been waiting for this day and she really let loose at my grandmother They had a very fierce row It was wonderful My mother didn t love me and she never ever defended me or involved herself with me in any way Memories of being slapped herself I suppose My mother was very pretty and was the first of her family to be married On her wedding day, her mother slapped her face as she put the veil on her Ruth should have been married first, not you Ruth was her much less attractive and zealously religious older sister She mellowed.Everyone else in the nursing home was old except for an air hostess of 21 She didn t have a private room and didn t like being with the old people so would wander into mine to sit and read and eat all my chocolates, of which I had endless boxes She brought her books Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Mrs Gaskell and Zola So for nearly three weeks my days were filled with reading, talking about books with my new friend and eating chocolates all day long.I was actually thrown out of the nursing home The food there was terrible One lunchtime there was something forgettable and salad The tomato was perfect looking but mushy, almost liquid so I threw it out of the window and it landed on one of the nuns who was beside herself with anger I didn t care, my friend had left a few days before, left her books for me too in exchange for some fancy ribbon bowed boxes of chocolates We wrote for a bit, were penpals, but eventually that died The age gap and where we were in our lives was too far apart But I will always remember her and the fabulous books she introduced me too Thank you Helen hide spoiler
Tolstoy draws a portrait of three marriages or relationships that could not be 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.Tolstoy s narrative art and his narrative charm are at the highest level He also seems like a close observer of human passions, feelings and emotions All in all I was touched by his book because it was one of the most impressive books I have ever read Kendi y celi inin y ksekli inden bana bakmas na bay l yorum Sayf 55 Belki de sahip Oldu um eylere sevindi im, sahip olmad klar ma da z lmedi im i in mutluyum Sayf 167 Kad n dedi in yle bir yarat k ki istedi in kadar incele, gene de hi bilmedi in yanlar yla kar la yorsun Sayf 168 Insana ak l, onu huzursuz eden eylerden kurtulmas i in verilmi tir Sayf 758 In the beginning, reading Anna Karenin can feel a little like visiting Paris for the first time You ve heard a lot about the place before you go Much of what you see from the bus you recognize from pictures and movies and books You can t help but think of the great writers and artists who have been here before you You expect to like it You want to like it But you don t want to feel like you have to like it You worry a little that you won t But after a few days, you settle in, and you feel the immensity of the place opening up all around you You keep having this experience of turning a corner and finding something beautiful that you hadn t been told to expect or catching sight of something familiar from a surprising angle You start to trust the abundance of the place, and your anxieties that someone else will have eaten everything up before your arrival relax Maybe that simile reveals about me than I d like My favorite discovery was the three or four chapters out of the book s 239 devoted to, of all things, scythe mowing chapters that become a celebratory meditation on physical labor When I read those chapters, I felt temporarily cured of the need to have something happen and became as absorbed in the reading as the mowers are absorbed in their work Of course, the book is about Anna and Vronsky and Levin and Kitty and Dolly and poor, stupid Stepan Arkadyich It s about their love and courtship and friendship and pride and shame and jealousy and betrayal and forgiveness and about the instable variety of happiness and unhappiness But it s also about mowing the grass and arguing politics and hunting and working as a bureaucrat and raising children and dealing politely with tedious company To put it accurately, it s about the way that the human mind or, as Tolstoy sometimes says, the human soul engages each of these experiences and tries to understand itself, the world around it, and the other souls that inhabit that world 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 And, what I found stirring, the book s fearlessness extends to matters of religion 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.