Anna Karenina (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Anna Karenina (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.8 476
by Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble…  See more details below


Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.
Vladimir Nabokov called Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina “one of the greatest love stories in world literature.” Matthew Arnold claimed it was not so much a work of art as “a piece of life.” Set in imperial Russia, Anna Karenina is a rich and complex meditation on passionate love and disastrous infidelity.

Married to a powerful government minister, Anna Karenina is a beautiful woman who falls deeply in love with a wealthy army officer, the elegant Count Vronsky. Desperate to find truth and meaning in her life, she rashly defies the conventions of Russian society and leaves her husband and son to live with her lover. Condemned and ostracized by her peers and prone to fits of jealousy that alienate Vronsky, Anna finds herself unable to escape an increasingly hopeless situation.

Set against this tragic affair is the story of Konstantin Levin, a melancholy landowner whom Tolstoy based largely on himself. While Anna looks for happiness through love, Levin embarks on his own search for spiritual fulfillment through marriage, family, and hard work. Surrounding these two central plot threads are dozens of characters whom Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together, creating a breathtaking tapestry of nineteenth-century Russian society.

From its famous opening sentence—“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”—to its stunningly tragic conclusion, this enduring tale of marriage and adultery plumbs the very depths of the human soul.

Amy Mandelker, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is the author of Framing Anna Karenina: Tolstoy, the Woman Question, and the Victorian Novel and coeditor of Approaches to Teaching Anna Karenina.

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From Amy Mandelker's Introduction to Anna Karenina

The literary fragments by Pushkin that inspired Tolstoy to sit down and begin writing Anna Karenina were sketches for a novel about an adulteress who is ultimately cast off by her lover and society. The plot of adulterous love, the story of a doomed impossible passion, is common in Western European literature and typically creates a narrative that links love and death. Indeed Tolstoy had in his library that most famous nineteenth-century culmination of the literary tradition of adulterous love and death, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Yet Russian literary history had no native tradition comparable to Troubadoran love poetry, the cult of courtly love, the idea of the liebestod, or the novels of adulterous passion that capped the poetic tradition. Despite early sentimental prose accounts of young girls drowning themselves for unrequited love, like Nikolai Karamzin's Poor Liza, Russian literature as it matured in the nineteenth century tended to invert and caricature European prose forms rather than directly imitating them. Indeed in his article "Some Words about War and Peace," Tolstoy insisted that his work was not a novel, pronouncing with characteristic national pride and eccentricity that Russians did not even know how to write novels in the European sense of the word.

Such an announcement of disregard for conventional form in art might seem presumptuous were it premeditated, and were there not precedents for it. But the history of Russian literature since the time of Pushkin not merely affords many examples of such deviations from European forms, but does not offer a single example of the contrary. From Gogol's Dead Souls to Dostoevsky's House of the Dead, in the recent period of Russian literature there is not a single artistic prose work, rising at all above mediocrity, which quite fits into the form of a novel, epic, or story (Bayley, Tolstoy and the Novel, p 64).

It is highly significant, therefore, that when Tolstoy began work on Anna Karenina, he described it as "the first novel I have attempted."

Tolstoy's characterization of Russian literature as resistant to European literary shapes and narrative trajectories is certainly apt. The founding work of the nineteenth-century Russian novelistic tradition was Aleksandr Pushkin's novel in verse Eugene Onegin. The idea of a novel in verse is itself unusual, and Pushkin's experimental form includes the invention of a new verse pattern, the Onegin stanza. Furthermore, he stages a narrative reversal of the liebestod by evacuating his love story of desire and thereby eliminating the fuel that fires the Western European romance. In the case of classic European star-crossed lovers, from Tristan and Isolde to Romeo and Juliet, the impossibility of their union generates a heated desire that only increases in response to obstacles. The lovers desire nothing so much as to perpetuate their longing for one another, a yearning that betrays its metaphysical dimension and shades into death-a death of the body that releases the ardent spirit.

In the earliest drafts of Anna Karenina, the heroine is named for Pushkin's heroine, Tatiana, a naive country girl who, addicted to French novels and infatuated with the literary representation of ruinous love, projects a romantic silhouette onto the novel's eponymous protagonist, Eugene. He not only refuses, rather discourteously, to sexually ravish and ruin the heroine, but he apparently has no desire to do so; instead he turns his disordered impulses against his poet friend, Lensky, whom he eliminates in a duel before his departure for Western Europe. In Onegin's absence, Tatiana peruses the stacks of his personal library to discover that her beloved is an empty cloak, a mere parody, a "paper bullet of the brain." Years later, returning to Russia, Eugene discovers the same young girl who once made love to him in the person of a society grande dame, the wife of a military grandee. But Tatiana has lost her desire for Eugene at the moment he discovers his desire for her; spurned, he rushes from the pages of the novel to seek his death.

It is fairly clear that in taking up the well-used plot of adulterous love in response to Pushkin's sketches, Tolstoy intended to quiz the ethos of love and death that spiritualized into tragedy the adulterous love stories of Western European literature. Initially he sketches his heroine satirically: She is fat, vulgar, and obvious; she chomps on her pearl necklace and flirts openly with her lover in her husband's face. But these omens of overindulged physicality vanish in the final characterizations of Anna Karenina, whose grace, vitality, maternal warmth, and beauty are instead slowly and painfully extinguished over the inexorable course of the novel. It is her lover who becomes coarse: An artistic, sensitive man in the earlier drafts, by the final version he is a dilettante and a poor sportsman, riding his lovely racehorse to death through his own corpulence and clumsiness. He becomes a corporeal "hunk of beefsteak" who runs to fat and loses his hair and teeth. In similar fashion, the husband, a more sympathetic type in the first versions of the novel, becomes physically grotesque in the novel as we read it, with his huge ears, stammer, and unpleasant habit of cracking his knuckles.

Satirical impulses are directed at every other character in the novel: the bon vivant (Anna's brother, Stiva), the sanctimonious religious hypocrite (Countess Lydia Ivanovna), the society flirt (Countess Betsy Tverskaya), the careerist (Karenin). The heroine, Anna, is protected from the broad brushstroke of social critique, but whether she is meant to be portrayed as a victim or a participant in the book's destructive social machinery is the highly debated question the novel puts to us.

The moral transgressions of adultery and the violations of social proprieties as understood by nineteenth-century Russian high society can hardly come under censure by today's reader: Anna Karenina remains as sympathetic and compelling as any heroine in literature. Writers like D. H. Lawrence claim for Anna and her lover the role of sympathetic martyrs, crushed beneath the wheels of an implacably conventional and hypocritical society; but Tolstoy was to be condemned for "putting his finger in the balance" to bring the novel to a moralistic conclusion. Yet Anna's suffering may not be entirely due to her moral transgressions and afflicted conscience, just as her experience of social ostracism and rejection cannot fully account for the growing sense of explosive inner turmoil, psychological conflict, and distress she undergoes.

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Anna Karenina Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 476 reviews.
ereaderbookworm More than 1 year ago
This is a well-formatted edition, so kudos for that, but let's talk translations. This is the same 1901 rendering by Constance Garnett used in most of the e-editions out there. Though familiar (especially for its opening sentence), it is widely criticized for its deficiencies and considered a poor choice among better alternatives. The 1918 Maude translation is far better. It is the one most read in college literature classes. The Norton Critical Edition uses the Maude translation, with some revisions by George Gibian. That edition has not been published for e-readers, but a good NOOK edition of the Maude translation is attached to this review (or search "Anna Karenina Maude"). The 2000 translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is the one associated with Oprah's Book Club. Oprah selected the novel itself more than a particular translation, but a print edition of the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation was featured on her website, so people think of that one as Oprah's pick. The NOOK edition is attached to this review (or search "Anna Karenina Pevear"). It is debatable which translation is better, the Maude or the Peavear and Volokhonsky. The influence of the translator is second only to the author in shaping the text. The quality of the translation is crucial. Online bookstores should require publishers of translated works to list the translator. Publishers, please identify the translator, not just in the book, but on the website product page!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book when I was browsing in the bookstore for something to entertain me on my long flight overseas. One of my close friends has just recently read the book and highly recommended this classic novel. Although I was a little intimidated by size, I decided to give it a shot. I read nonstop on my 12-hour flight, except to eat. I continued to read it during my vacation and would get so wrapped up in the events that I would have a hard time finding a stopping point. Parts 7 and 8, roughly the last 200 pages, were definitely the best parts of the novel due to some very intense scenes. Anna Karenina is a romantic novel that shows Russian society and Russian countryside through the eyes of two main characters. Anna Karenina is a married woman who falls in love with another man and debates leaving him to become an outcast from society and Konstantin Levin is a landowner who is searches to fulfill his life through strenuous labor and marriage. Tolstoy¿s intricate details and colorful characters weave a wonderful story about passion and life in Russia. Anna Karenina is married to the influential government official, Alexey Androvitch, but becomes entranced by the attractive army officer, Count Alexey Vronsky. She must make the heart wrenching decision to stay in a loveless marriage or to leave her son for the man she loves. She risks becoming an outcast from society and being looked down upon by the people who she calls friends. Konstantin Levin is an affluent landowner who is searching for faith and religion throughout the story. He is desperately in love with Kitty, a princess who has her eyes set elsewhere. Levin¿s conversations allow readers to reflect on their own life and think topics discussed in Russian society however, some of the political discussions were a bit boring at times. Generally I preferred reading about the drama between Anna and Vronsky because I enjoy reading love stories. However, Levin¿s transformation and evolution as the book progressed was very inspiring and made me think about my faith. All in all Tolstoy captures audiences and makes readers feel like they are back in nineteenth century Russia. The numerous characters all play a special role in bringing the book to life and are all connected in some way. Every character is described in such detail that a reader feels like they know the person. His words make readers reflect on themselves and human existence in general. This book brings to life many emotions from love to anger to distress. It is a wonderful tale that still relates to modern society, as we know it today. Don¿t be intimidated by the size, I honestly didn¿t remember flipping the pages because I got engrossed in the storylines and it is a book that you should make the time to read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone who wants to read a novel that will have you devouring one word after the next.
TheQuillPen More than 1 year ago
Having heard that Anna Karenina was a better book than my favorite novel, War and Peace, I began reading it with very high expectations. Literally from the first chapter it did not disappoint and actually had a stronger beginning than Tolstoy's other landmark novel. In the introduction to this edition, the writer compared War and Peace to the Iliad and Anna Karenina to the Oddyssey. In a way this is true. Even though War and Peace provides a picture of human life in personal ways, it does so in a historical, sweeping manner. Anna Karenina, on the other hand, shows the personal lives of a select few characters in a minute, visceral, often gritty way. Although the novel does center around Anna Karenina and her tragic romantic life, it also contains many valuable side-stories, even one that is more tragic. Although it is impossible to really analyze the novel without giving away key elements of the plot, the few things, among many, that really stood out to me about Anna Karenina were (1) the way Tolstoy made you love certain characters at the beginning and then totally flipped your sympathies upside down (such as the dynamics between Anna and her husband and who you relate to), (2) the way Tolstoy portrayed both the depravity of man and man rising above his situation to heroism through his character's action, and (3)Tolstoy's masterful psychoanalysis. Although in relativity I felt there were a few flaws that caused Anna Karenina to fall short of War and Peace, they are barely worth noting because it truly still is a masterpiece. P.S. And to someone who said that Tolstoy is too detailed and that passages of Levin farming are extremely long, I would say that Tolstoy makes every part of this book interesting and unique as he psychologically develops his characters and connects to the reader. (And, no, the grass-cutting sequence is not twenty pages long).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished Anna Karenina and I am happy it's done. I really enjoyed the book, for the most part, but I do think about 300 pages could have been edited out. As someone said in a previous comment, it took 20 pages to describe Levin cutting a field of grass. That is a prime example, for me, of things that Tolstoy went on and on about. I understand that this may have had a greater significance during the era in which this book was written, but I had a hard time getting through these passages. Other sections of the book kept me completely enthralled and kept me up late at night to finish them. I will never forget the section in the book when Kitty is having her baby. I was so nervous and felt like I was in the room with them. Also, the last paragraph of that section brought me to tears when Levin describes his feelings for his child. Incredible writing!! Overall, this book was very satisfying and a great read. I'm glad to say I now belong to the "club" of those who have read Anna Karenina.
PrincessNook More than 1 year ago
Incredible book...I neglected everyone and everything so I could devour it as fast as I could.
janalee40 More than 1 year ago
This is a great story. It is very political and spiritual in content. Contains a lot of Russian history during the late 1800s. It is a bit time consuming, but it is definitely worth reading. I took more time reading it to comprehend fully the history and symbolism of the characters and events within the storyline. I fell in love with the character Levin, and despised Anna Karenina by the end of the novel. It is really interesting to follow the characters in their journeys through self identification, exploration, and even destruction.
emrocks12 More than 1 year ago
Although as I was reading this book I could only think of my appreciation for the art of modern-day editing, in retrospect I'm glad to have read every word. The book can seem tedious at times, (especially when Levin takes 20 pages to mow a field), but each section teaches you something about Russian culture, Tolstoy's philosophies and human nature. The book certainly came in waves of fast-paced drama followed by quiet moments and reflections that balance it well.

I highly recommend this for personal reading, but as a book club book I'd have to say no. The chances of everyone finishing in a timely fashion or at all are slim to none, believe me I know!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A truly rewarding book to read, one which stays with you long after you have read it. The number and complexity of the characters is astounding. The chapter of Levin working in the fields with the common people is unforgettable as well the heartbreaking description of his last visit with his dying brother. Characters attempting to answer timeless questions in the search for personal happiness. Unforgettable!!!
Elsie_Love More than 1 year ago
Since this book is considered to be one of the *greats* I'm not going to go through with my typical graded review. I mean really, it's Tolstoy people. What could I possibly have to say about a book written by Tolstoy that would be of any value to anyone? Instead, I will give you my thoughts (those are always interesting, right?) pretending I know nothing of the gravity of the book. Consider me a babe in arms, with no knowledge of literary classics (not much of a stretch), no knowledge of Russian history...or any history beyond what I learned in high school (okay, I admit, this is true), and the attention span of a gnat who just ingested a Starbucks double shot. Above all, try to keep a sense of humor. To do otherwise will only serve to make you hate me in the worst way. What I learned from reading Anna Karenina: 1. People talked, wrote, and thought in the longest, most convoluted ways. If Tolstoy wrote (I'm speaking only of sentence structure here) the same book today, his editors would be having fits. I'm talking serious, Grand Mal seizures. I certainly didn't mind the long winded, semi colon filled conversations; but considering the last five Literary Agents I spoke to told me that long, complicated, wordy writing was a no-no...I'm thinking he'd be self published for sure.Of course, this is true of all period writing, since styles change to give an accurate portrayal of current times. 2.Details were mega important. If you like a fully detailed scene from every possible angle, this book will rock your socks off. I like details. I also believe that there is such a thing as over kill. Chapters devoted entirely to harvesting fields in Russia fall into the latter category. I like that type of detail to be a page or two at most. I fell asleep a few times while Levin was pontificating about the role of the peasant in Russian society. I know how terrible that sounds. If you're offended by my lack of cooth, please re-read the above preface to this review, as I will not apologize. 3. If you happened to be of any wealth or means (and you were a man), your life was AWESOME. In the upper echelon of Russian society, life was one big party. Even the fake rich (Dolly & Stepan) had nurses, cooks, country houses, name it. Work consisted of going to an office where people came to ask you if you would grant them wishes, etc, and every night you would stay out until one or two in the morning. Dinner parties happened every night of the week, as did the opera, and nobody exchanged much cash. 4. Everyone was given at least three names, which were all interchangeable, depending on mood/whims/relationship and the person speaking. I'm sure there is cultural/period/class significance here. No need to explain. I only wish this held true today. I'd love to be known as: Elizabeth Loan, Elisabetta Burkano Manifesto AND Elsie cool would that be? 5. The rich, in spite of all their wealth, were pretty miserable. AS a reader who would have fallen into the peasant class, I can't help but feeling these people just needed more to do. In other words, if you can spend entire months in 'spiritual crisis' during the 1800's, you needed some good old fashioned real work! BTW, I find this to remain true today. :) 6. Lastly, Anna, Anna, Anna...what can I say? I loved her and I hated her. The scene where she visits Seryhoza on his birthday brought me to tears; but to jump in front of a train for the lost love of a man? No, I cannot accept that.Wh
animus_of_procer_universi More than 1 year ago
Leo Tolstoy is probably one of, if not, the greatest writers ever. It is a real shame he never thought of anything interesting or worthwhile to write about. The novel is just an overrated soap opera. Tolstoy crammed in as many characters and as many problems as possible, lung cancer, affairs, horse race accidents, pregnancies, divorce, etc. Critics at the time it was published called it a trifling romance of high life, and they hit it on the nose. People think because it has a "sad ending" it makes it any less of a chick-lit book. And it is a shame, because Anna is a very interesting character, who had a very boring life. I have to admit the last two sections, out of eight, are decent, but you still have to read seven hundred pages to enjoy a hundred. ANd the fact that there is still fifty pages after Anna dies makes no sense, and it is devoted purely to how happy Levin is now. Fifty pages about a happy farm, with a happy family, and everyone being happy is boring. The worst thing is though, that maybe if it wasn't so long, or at least it had more of a plot, and not just random tradgedies that are completely irrelevant, it could have been good. But in reality, the book trails off to describe Vronsky's random trip to the opera, or a pointless meal between Oblonsky and Levin. The writing is fantastic, the characters are deep, but honestly, would you read a phone book if Tolstoy wrote it? Well-written needs to supplemented by an interesting, and ORIGINAL plot. Original, not one copied from Madame Bovary, or countless others before that. And at least Madame Bovary is shorter. In conclusion, i would recommend it for escapism, but its too long, complex, and dull at times for the average reader who simply wants to escape. I would recommend it for the serious reader, but he or she would see it for what it was, a glorified romance about a bunch of whiny rich people.
JoshuaB More than 1 year ago
This is the greatest novel to ever come out of Russia. Tolstoy is an absolute genius. It's a long read, but it is definitely worth it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though love stories have never caught my eye, this book seemed like it was more than the cheesy tales that love stories usually are. Two of my favorite characters were the ever-smiling Oblonsky and the hard working Levin. I had my sympathies for Anna, especially because no matter what she did, the consequences were always tragic. Vronsky was a bad egg from the start, the way he cast away Kitty. The size of Anna Karenina is of no consequence since the vocabulary is quite simple to understand. The reason I didn't give it five stars was because Tolstoy has a tendency to ramble on and on 'kind of like Dickens' about issues that seem to have little importance, and he makes sure that you note every movement that the characters. Also, though I enjoyed it, it was a love story and not as enthralling as action books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never read such detail and thorough description of human interactions before. This may be because I'm 14, and am just embarking on my journey through classic literature, but I believe this must truly be a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story literally took my breath away. One of those rare novels that had me swimming in an ocean of human emotions which goes right to the core of our souls!
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