Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

Acclaimed by many as the world's greatest novel, Anna Karenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky t...

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Title:Anna Karenina
Author:Leo Tolstoy
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Anna Karenina Reviews

  • Trevor

    Not since I read

    have I felt as directly involved in characters' worlds and minds. Fascinating.

    I was hooked on

    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 re

    Not since I read

    have I felt as directly involved in characters' worlds and minds. Fascinating.

    I was hooked on

    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 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

    , 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." 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.

  • Terry

    In the beginning, reading

    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 fee

    In the beginning, reading

    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 more 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 more 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.

  • Brett

    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 900 pages, so he has some time to do it. 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. 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 900 pages, so he has some time to do it. 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.

    The book takes on love, marriage, adultery, faith, selfishness, death, desire/attraction, happiness. It also speaks interestingly on social classes or classism. He also addresses the clash between the pursuit of individual desires and social obligations/restraints. 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 25).

    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.

  • Christopher

    Anna Karenina (

    by John Singer Sargent)

    Alexei Karenin (

    by Henri Fantin-Latour)

    Alexei Vronsky (

    by John Singer Sargent)

    Konstantin Levin (

    by John Singer Sargent

    Kitty Sch

    Anna Karenina (

    by John Singer Sargent)

    Alexei Karenin (

    by Henri Fantin-Latour)

    Alexei Vronsky (

    by John Singer Sargent)

    Konstantin Levin (

    by John Singer Sargent

    Kitty Scherbatsky (

    by Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

    Stepan Arkadyick Oblonsky (

    by Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

    Dolly Oblonsky (

    by John William Waterhouse)

    An old muzhik (

    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.)

  • Brina

    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. Altho

    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.

  • İntellecta

    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.

    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 b

    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.

    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 yüceliğinin yüksekliğinden bana bakmasına bayılıyorum". Sayf 55

    "Belki de sahip Olduğum şeylere sevindiğim, sahip olmadıklarıma da üzülmediğim için mutluyum."

    Sayf 167

    "Kadın dediğin öyle bir yaratık ki istediğin kadar incele, gene de hiç bilmediğin yanlarıyla karşılaşıyorsun..."

    Sayf 168

    "Insana akıl, onu huzursuz eden şeylerden kurtulması için verilmiştir."

    Sayf. 758

  • Jeffrey Keeten

    ***Spoiler alert. 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 c

    ***Spoiler alert. 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. I’ll take the heat for you. If they don’t know who I am, then they are, frankly, not worth knowing. Exchange them for other more enlightened intellectual friends.***

    Anna Arkadyevna Oblonsky married Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, a man twenty years her senior. 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.

    Her husband was enamored with her, but then so was everyone who met her, male or female. Maybe he was too contented with their life together and, therefore, took their relationship for granted. He was two decades older, so the passions of romance didn’t burn with as hot a flame. 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... something.

    I couldn’t help thinking early on that the problem wasn’t with her husband, certainly nothing that a new lover could fix for very long. 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.

    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.

    My favorite character in this epic was Konstantin (Kostya) Dmitrich Levin. 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. Kitty’s older sister Dolly was married to Stepan (Stiva) Arkadyich Oblonsky, who was the brother to Anna Karenina.

    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.

    Before Vronsky became gobsmacked by Anna, he was leisurely chasing after Kitty and leading her on just long enough for Kitty to turn Levin’s marriage proposal down flat. That was like catching a molotok (hammer) right between the eyes as a serp (sickle) swept Kostya off his feet. Interestingly enough, later in the book Levin met Anna Karenina, after he has married Kitty (you’ll have to read the book to discover how this comes about), and he was captivated by Anna.

    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. Substitute Anna for Jolene, and you’ll know what I was humming.

    If she was irritated with Vronsky, one day maybe she would just seduce Levin for entertainment... because she could.

    I must say that I didn’t think much of Vronsky at the beginning of the novel, but as the plot progressed I started to sympathize with him. 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.

    The problem that every reasonably intelligent person wrestles with is that no matter how successful we are, no matter how wonderful a life we build, or how well we take care of ourselves, we are going to die. It is irrefutable. Cemeteries don’t lie. 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. We all have to come face to face with death, and we can’t take any of our bobbles, accolades, or power with us. So the question that Levin ended up asking himself, the Biggest question even beyond, why am I here? is:

    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!

    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.

    The “friends” she had had been ostracized from her by her own actions. I had to believe her loathing of people was a projection of how she felt about herself. She needed some time on Carl Jung’s couch, but he was a wee tot when this book was published. 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. She was maliciously vengeful when someone didn’t do something she wanted them to do; and yet, I couldn’t quite condemn her completely. 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. Her attempt to break free in the 1870s in Russian society was brave/foolish. She sacrificed everything to chase a dream.

    This book is a masterpiece, not just a Russian masterpiece but a true gift to the world of literature.

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  • Nataliya

    As a daughter of a Russian literature teacher, it seems I have always known the story of Anna Karenina: the love, the affair, the train - the whole shebang. 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.

    As a daughter of a Russian literature teacher, it seems I have always known the story of Anna Karenina: the love, the affair, the train - the whole shebang. 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.

    I asked my grandpa when I was five, and without missing a beat he answered,

    . Actually, it was

    by Ivan Kramskoy (1883) - but for me it has always remained the

    *

    *

    Yet, "Anna Karenina" is a misleading title for this hefty tome as Anna's story is just the tip of an iceberg, as half of the story is devoted to Konstantin Levin, Tolstoy's alter ego (Count Leo's Russian name was Lev. Lev --> Levin), preoccupied with Russian peasantry and its relationship to land, as well as torn over faith and his lack of it, Levin whose story continues for chapters after Anna meets her train.

    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. Sorry,

    Levin.

    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.

    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.

    *

    Anna, a lovely, energetic, captivating woman, full of life and beauty, simply crumbles, sinks into despair, fueled by desperation and irrationality and misdirected passion.

    A calm and poised lady slowly and terrifyingly descends into fickle moods and depression and almost maniacal liveliness in between, tormented by her feeling of (imagined) abandonment and little self-worth and false passions which are little else but futile attempts to fill the void, the never-ending emptiness... 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.

    - be it the blind jealousy of Anna or Levin, be it the shameless cheating and spending of Stiva Oblonsky, be it the moral stuffiness and limits of Arkady Karenin, the parental neglects of both Karenins to their children, the lies, the little societal snipes, the disappointments, the failures, the pervasive selfishness... 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:

    *

    And yet, just like in real life, there are no real villains, no real unsympathetic characters that cause obstacles for our heroes, the villains whom it feels good to hate. 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, of course,

    - 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

    .

    *

    Levin, a landowner with a strong capacity for compassion, self-reflection and curiosity about Russian love for land, as well as a striking political apathy, is

    I have to say - I understood his ideas more this time, but I could not really feel for the efforts of the devoted and kind landowner striving to understand the soul of Russian peasants. Maybe it's because I mentally kept fast-forwarding mere 50 years, to the Socialist Revolution of 1917 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.

    ========================

    Why? 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.

    --------

    By the way, there is

    based on this book that captures the spirit of the book quite well (and, if you so like, has a handy function to turn on English subtitles): first part is

    , and the second part is

    . I highly recommend this film.

    And even better version of this classic is the

    with stunning Helen McCrory as perfect Anna and lovely Paloma Baeza as perfect Kitty.

  • Sammy

    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 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. 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 book:

    No mention of the wasp is made again. 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

    .

    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. 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.

  • Brad

    I grew up believing, like most of us, that burning books was something Nazis did (though, of course, burning Dis

    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

    , 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

    one summer when I was working day camps,

    one summer when I was working at a residential camp, and

    in one of my final summers of zero responsibility. A summer shifting back and forth between Marc Antony in

    and Pinch, Antonio and the Nun (which I played with great gusto, impersonating Terry Jones in drag) in

    , 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

    :

    and

    . 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 admit it...I 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

    plays and contrasted those with a soul suckingly unenjoyable

    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

    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

    on my bookshelf again.

    Whew. I feel much better now.

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