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Anna Karenina

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Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoi - 1877

Last summer, I read this novel for the book club. Just couldn't put it down. I had started it early since it's a long book but finished it before our next book. It's a wonderful story. I didn't like Anna or her lover much (especially him) but liked the other couple that was described. The writing is so wonderful, you think those people are real.

I also watched one of the mini series that was filmed a couple of years ago and had the same impression. Everyone in our book club, with one exception, I believe, loved it, as well. I liked it so much, I will definitely read more of Tolstoi. Any suggestions?

(thread first started 13.02.06)

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Continuation of this thread retrieved from the Google cache:

 

 

Thumbsucker 13th February 2006 07:48 PM

I haven't read any Tolstoi but Anna Karenina has be on my TBR pile for years. Your positive review means that I will now attempt to tackle it, I always had a fear that I would find it too hard going.

 

Momo 13th February 2006 09:07 PM

I read the "Oprah" translation, well, the one by Richard Pevear, and Larissa Volokhonsky which is supposed to be great (according to a member of our book club who speaks Russian). Anyway, it had a list of all the characters which was very helpful. If you have another edition, you can still check out a lot at Oprah's website. Knowing who is related to which other persons and what kind of other names they have helps a lot.

 

Mungus 13th February 2006 10:08 PM

I'm not aware of the Oprah translation but from your post, I'm thinking that it might have made the book a whole lot easier to understand. I read it yonks ago, certainly over 10 years, when I was commuting by train. I forced my eyes over every word but as I recall, didn't understand it at all. This isn't necessarily a reflection on the book. I can fall asleep just about anywhere, and an overheated train after a busy day in London was never going to keep me awake! Classic novels generally fail to inspire me, something I have documented elsewhere on this site. I'm glad that others have enjoyed this book, but it wasn't the one for me.

 

Momo 14th February 2006 03:37 PM

Well, it wasn't exactly a translation by (or ordered by) Oprah, only it was the edition Oprah chose for her bookclub. I have read another translation by this couple, he is American and she is Russian and they live in France, I believe. And I was told that they translate very well.

As with all literature, there are always people who like a certain sort of genre better than others. For me, it's the classics. Give me a Jane Austen or any other classic and leave me alone with all the fantasy, sci-fi, crime stories etc. They are not for me. And I know there is a whole world of classics that I haven't even had a glimpse of. Looking forward to reading all of them ... :arms::dance:

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Well, after three and a half months of reading this on and off I finally finished "Anna Karenina" at the weekend.

 

Like Momo, I was far more interested in the relationship between Levin and Kitty than Anna and Vronsky - in fact, Levin was by far the most interesting character in the book. Presumably Tolstoy wanted to focus atttention on Anna as her situation would have been regarded as scandalous in 1870s Russia.

 

I don't think Tolstoy intended the reader to like Vronsky as he's essentially the villain of the piece. He's a cad and a bounder.

 

However, its a long time since I've read any genuine Victorian novels (as opposed to pastiches such as "The Crimson Petal and the White") and had forgotten just how achingly slow they can sometimes be. I spent large parts of this book wishing that something, anything would happen, and soon.

 

I also read the Pevear and Volkhonsky translation (now available as a Penguin classic), which is generally clear and easy to follow. I did struggle to follow a lot of Levin's philosophising, but I don't think that was the fault of the translators.

 

In a book so often praised for its realism, I found one or two rather implausible misunderstandings and coincidences, especially the one that seals Anna's fate at the end of the novel.

 

I was also disappointed that Stiva and Dolly's situation didn't really seem to be resolved at the end - I warmed towards them as characters and wanted to see things turn out alright for them.

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I just finished this yesterday, I read the translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude. There may be some mild spoilers in this post but nothing that gives away the plot completely.

 

I really enjoyed it, although as Grammath noted, it is slow in places. I found the breakdown of Anna and Vronsky's relationship fascinating, the sulkiness, the unreasonableness and the game playing is something that you won't normally see in a Victorian novel (I don't think?), which adds to its realism.

 

Levin was also an interesting character, although I'm afraid I wasn't so taken with Kitty. The sections of Levin's thoughts on farming bored me to tears and I felt I was probably missing something in those bits, like if I'd known a bit more of the history of the time it might have been more relevant. I loved his philosophising on religion, although I was a bit disappointed when it seemed that he had 'found god' again in the end, as it seemed a break away from his previous character - however in more typical Levin-behaviour he then finds more holes in the idea of Christianity by wondering about other religions. This showed he hadn't lost his questioning nature.

 

It's very long and requires perseverence but I'd say it's worth it.

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I think as with any classic, it helps if you know about the history behind it and the social circumstances people used to live in as the author will not hint at them all the time. Since he writes the book for his contemporaries, he will presume the reader knows all this. But I have learned a lot from books like this.

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Any suggestions?

(thread first started 13.02.06)

I would suggest Resurrection, which I liked far more than Anna Karenina. It's the story of a man who seeks redemption for his past. Another of his books, War and Peace, set in Napoleon's time, is on my TBR list and I'm planning on reading it soon.

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The entire book was ruined by Levin's conversion to Christianity

 

Tolstoi did not adequately establish this as a possible outcome to Levin's (far more interesting than Anna’s) journey

 

He simply drops it on us without any genuine conviction at all......oh, and then Levin realised there is a god after all......the end

 

It just seemed like a sudden and rather convenient conclusion

 

annoyed me

 

agree/disagree

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I've merged your post with the Anna Karenina thread, hux. If you check under the authors lists then you can see if a thread already exists for a book you want to post about.

 

Welcome to the group. Why not tell us a bit about yourself and your reading tastes on the Please Introduce Yourself thread?

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Like Momo, I was far more interested in the relationship between Levin and Kitty than Anna and Vronsky - in fact, Levin was by far the most interesting character in the book. Presumably Tolstoy wanted to focus atttention on Anna as her situation would have been regarded as scandalous in 1870s Russia.

 

I don't think Tolstoy intended the reader to like Vronsky as he's essentially the villain of the piece. He's a cad and a bounder.

 

 

I agree with Gram that Levin and Kitty were far more interesting as characters than Anna and Vronsky. Though I wouldn't class Vronsky as a cad and a bounder. When he was single he did what most young men in his class did, drinking, gambling and 'attending to the ladies' but once he fell in love with Anna he was faithful to her.

 

I found the breakdown of Anna and Vronsky's relationship fascinating, the sulkiness, the unreasonableness and the game playing is something that you won't normally see in a Victorian novel (I don't think?), which adds to its realism.

 

Yes this was interesting but surely in the end her irractic behaviour was due to her dependence on drugs?

 

The entire book was ruined by Levin's conversion to Christianity

 

I don't think it entirely ruined the book but it didn't ring true to the character of Levin and felt more like Tolstoy was trying to appease his readers.

 

For me the novel was too long, if he had concentrated on Anna and the mirroring with the Levin’s relationship, leaving all his philosophising to another story it would have been better. To quote Antonio Tabucchi from his novel Pereira Maintains – “Philosophy appears to concern itself only with truth, but perhaps expresses only fantasies, while literature appears to concern itself only with fantasies, but perhaps it expresses the truth.” It's a pity Tolstoy hadn't thought of that.

 

Does Tolstoy really know what his novel is about? Entitled Anna Karenina yet she actually has a relatively small part in the book. He deals with her adultery and the subsequent reaction of society in such a mild manner one is left wondering how important it actually was. It’s more about spoiled people overreacting to life because their own lives are so pointless.

 

Then throughout the novel he dabbles in a variety of subjects such as land reforms, government departments, local government, the wealthy classes, religion and philosophy. He weaves them briefly into the stories of the novel, not in any depth just brushing against them then on to something new.

 

At times Tolstoy’s opinions seem flawed. His idea that ‘the doctor, the architect and the steward’ would have nothing intelligent to say at the dinner table. His intimations, through the thoughts of Levin, that the peasants were happy in their toil and poverty. Even given when this was written these are ridiculous assertions.

 

Personally I think the novel should have ended with

 

 

Anna’s suicide

 

Section 8 that followed was superfluous, it told us a little about Levin and his families fortunes and what became of Vronsky but did we really need to know any of it? I don’t think so.

 

 

Overall a disappointing novel.

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I think as with any classic, it helps if you know about the history behind it and the social circumstances people used to live in as the author will not hint at them all the time. Since he writes the book for his contemporaries, he will presume the reader knows all this. But I have learned a lot from books like this.

 

So true, and I understood this fact quite clearly while reading War and Peace. I had no idea of Napoleon and Russian history and I was attempti g to read an entire novel based on that :confused:

 

But, coming back to Anna Karenina, I think it is more of a social drama and it can be enjoyed without dwelling much on the history. And, I actually found the lengthy political discourses on farming quite boring, so, in any case I did not bother to find out more about it.

 

Still, I liked Levin (who was responsible for most of the boring lectures) and I think even Tolstoy concentrated on him even more than Anna. The best scenes of the novel, be it the moving death scene of his brother, the anxiety of an expectant father or the confusion of a lover, I think, Levin was essayed brilliantly in every role. In fact I felt as if Levin was the literary persona of Tolstoy - moralistic but impractical and by the time the novel ended, he became the real protagonist!

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Levin is a solid, righteous and good fellow who loves the country and despises the superficial social life of Moscow, personified by Anna and Vronsky. He's also very shy, especially in his courtship of Kitty. I find him sympathetic to others, even those of different temperament like Anna the 'bad' girl who is also the core of the book and not unsympathetic despite - or even because of her passion for Vronsky, a charmer who can't quite handle the temperamental Anna. Interesting to compare Anna with Flaubert's Emma Bovary, another adultress at the hub of a 'daring' book.

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