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Anna Karenina (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Anna Karenina (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

4.2 23
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 Classics:


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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Read an Excerpt

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.

Meet the Author

A Russian author of novels, short stories, plays, and philosophical essays, Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was born into an aristocratic family and is best known for the epic books War and Peace and Anna Karenina, regarded as two of the greatest works of Russian literature. After serving in the Crimean War, Tolstoy retired to his estate and devoted himself to writing, farming, and raising his large family. His novels and outspoken social polemics brought him world-wide fame.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
September 9, 1828
Date of Death:
November 20, 1910
Place of Birth:
Tula Province, Russia
Place of Death:
Astapovo, Russia
Privately educated by French and German tutors; attended the University of Kazan, 1844-47

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Anna Karenina 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
BirdieOH More than 1 year ago
I wish the reviews for this book would consist to the Barnes and Noble Leatherbound  Classic I am reviewing for purchase . I am recieving a million e-book reviews. B&N please, please do a better job not lumping all reviews together. We classic buyers want to know if there are problem with the latest editions, translations and font sizes. Thanks.
Mattyc020 More than 1 year ago
Barnes and Noble do it again! An excellent product, expertly manufactured and intrinsically beautiful in design. A must-have, must-read book, not a Dan Brown-esque page tuner but high brow literature testamentary of contemporary Russian works. I shipped this product to Malta and it only took 2 weeks to be delivered, excellent stuff!  
Beautiful_Book_Collector More than 1 year ago
Everything about this book is lovely. I'm so happy I bought it!
Amberdaran More than 1 year ago
I have only once had a poor experience ordering with Barnes & Noble as a member. Every other time has been wonderful and this was no exception. I had seen this in store several times and had wanted to get it since it was such a beautiful cover to a classic story and a great classic to have. I decided to treat myself to it for Christmas and am glad I did. It arrived in 2 days, even with the weather delays with shipping and was a wonderful addition to my holiday. Enjoy!
EHD More than 1 year ago
The picture doesn't do it justice---it isn't pastel--it is a rich red, gold, and blue! I LOVE it---a perfect addition to my library!
JAustenSS More than 1 year ago
Absolutely love! Barnes and Noble has done it again, I love all of their leatherbound classics and this one is no exception. Would recommend to anyone!
Claudia Martinez More than 1 year ago
Could someone, who already bought it, tell me the name of the translator for this edition? (hardcover $38 collectible)
Alix26 More than 1 year ago
Another beautiful B&N book. The ivory leather and Faberge egg theme suits the content perfectly. Keep up the lovely work B&N. P.S. A B&N copy of War & Peace would be a great addition to the collection, and this piece in particular.
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Anonymous 10 months ago
Welcome to the.... The Dancing Dragon Tavern! Welcome, one and all! Looking for a bed to sleep in over night? We got 'em! Looking for some nice beer or wine after a hard day of work? We have that too! Gambling? Got it! Brawls? Ehh... if ya must. There are very few rules, just in case you need 'em. They are: One: No sex! Get a book. Hot and steamy make-outs are okay. Two: Good grammar! Please have good grammar. Three: Drinking... no rule there! You can drink till ya dead if that's what ya want. Four: Fighting.... if ya want to have a brawl... then you can. If starts to get to out of hand, I'll hit ya over the head with a mallet. That's it! I think. Please make a short Bio. You can place it where ever you want. Just not here. Thanks. Map: This is the classic Middle Age tavern. Only to storys high, it's set in a large town that travelers pass through quite often. The first floor holds the main room with tables scattered about and a large fire burning on one wall. Not to mention the bar. It covers the whole east wall, with me, Bill, standing behind. Go there is ya want drinks. Second floor houses the rooms. Nothin' more. Other: I've got quite abit of these! ... We are a tavern in the Middle Ages. Before they had guns and what not. If ya want a weapon it has to be a sword, dagger, knife, axe, bow and arrow, spear, ect... You can be who ever you want. Just no nobles. You can be an archer, a knight, a hunter, a traveler, a free lance [Knight for Hire], a assassin [Just don't kill anyone], a warrior, ect... You must be older then 20! Sorry. But you must. If a few girls would like to work for me as servers, then they may. Just come and mingle, drink, eat, sleep, gamble, and fight! Thanks, Bill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Likes) art ,animals and music Dislikes) people who act like something there not How i act) usually a nice person Hair) long, brown with natural blonde highlights Eyes) blue Gender) Female Hieght) 5'5 Questions? Ask!
CarolineCarnivorous More than 1 year ago
The cover of the book was the first thing that caught me - It reminded me of my favorite Yule bauble as a child. When I read the overview, I thought it sounded wonderful, so I got it. It's a tragic story, about affairs and family, mostly. Anna Arkadyevna Karenina married her 20 year older husband Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin young, but not out of love, and she finds what she thinks is love in the young and handsome Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky; they have an affair, and she gets pregnant. Karenin is of course furious, and takes their young son Sergei "Seryozha" Alexeyich Karenin away from her, but refuses to divorce her, and leaves her miserable. Another story in this novel is about Konstantin "Kostya" Dmitrievich Levin, who wants to marry the young Princess Ekaterina "Kitty" Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya, who is the sister-in-law of Anna's brother (wow, confusing). So we get to see him deal with his own personal issues as well, which I personally found a little distracting, but okay. Honestly, I wouldn't really recommend this 800-page novel for everyone. I'm usually used to heavy reading, though this was very difficult to read I felt, and I had difficulty in remembering which characters where who - And there are even sentences in conversations in french and german. Though the chapters are very short, only a few pages, so you can get through it. So I would recommend this to adults, maybe specialty interested young adults. Maybe if you liked the movie, and like big books, you should give it a try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once upon a time,on a rainy,rainy night,a baby girl was left on the doorstep of an orphanidge.A friend of the queen's answered the door.She noticed the skinny baby lying on the porch,who started to cry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The new leatherbound cover is inexcusably bad. Way too busy, ugly colors, bad design. Was this rushed out because of the upcoming movie? What happened to the clean, simple, stylish covers like Tom Sawyer, Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter, etc. What an upsetting missed opportunity for the leatherbound collection.
ToddToups1 More than 1 year ago
just for display never intend to unwrap