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The must-have Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of one of the greatest Russian novels ever written
Described by William Faulkner as the best novel ever written and by Fyodor Dostoevsky as “flawless,” Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and thereby exposes herself to the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly ...
The must-have Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of one of the greatest Russian novels ever written
Described by William Faulkner as the best novel ever written and by Fyodor Dostoevsky as “flawless,” Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and thereby exposes herself to the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness.
While previous versions have softened the robust and sometimes shocking qualities of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This authoritative edition, which received the PEN Translation Prize and was an Oprah Book Club™ selection, also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for fans of the film and generations to come. This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition also features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.
For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
All was confusion in the Oblonskys' house. The wife had found out that the husband was having an affair with their former French governess, and had announced to the husband that she could not live in the same house with him. This situation had continued for three days now, and was painfully felt by the couple themselves, as well as by all the members of the family and household. They felt that there was no sense in their living together and that people who meet accidentally at any inn have more connection with each other than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys. The wife would not leave her rooms, the husband was away for the third day. The children were running all over the house as if lost; the English governess quarrelled with the housekeeper and wrote a note to a friend, asking her to find her a new place; the cook had already left the premises the day before, at dinner-time; the kitchen-maid and coachman had given notice.
On the third day after the quarrel, Prince Stepan Arkadyich Oblonsky — Stiva, as he was called in society — woke up at his usual hour, that is, at eight o'clock in the morning, not in his wife's bedroom but in his study, on a morocco sofa. He rolled his full, well-tended body over on the springs of the sofa, as if wishing to fall asleep again for a long time, tightly hugged the pillow from the other side and pressed his cheek to it; but suddenly he gave a start, sat up on the sofa and opened his eyes.
Yes, yes, how did it go?' he thought, recalling his dream. How did it go? Yes! Alabin was giving a dinner in Darmstadt — no, not in Darmstadt but something American. Yes, but this Darmstadt was in America. Yes, Alabin was giving a dinner on glass tables, yes — and the tables were singing Il mio tesoro, only it wasn't Il mio tesoro but something better, and there were some little carafes, which were also women,' he recalled.
Stepan Arkadyich's eyes glittered merrily, and he fell to thinking with a smile. Yes, it was nice, very nice. There were many other excellent things there, but one can't say it in words, or even put it into waking thoughts.' And, noticing a strip of light that had broken through the side of one of the heavy blinds, he cheerfully dropped his feet from the sofa, felt for the slippers trimmed with gold morocco that his wife had embroidered for him (a present for last year's birthday), and, following a nine-year-old habit, without getting up, reached his hand out to the place where his dressing gown hung in the bedroom. And here he suddenly remembered how and why he was sleeping not in his wife's bedroom but in his study: the smile vanished from his face, and he knitted his brows.
Oh, oh, oh! Ohh! ...' he moaned, remembering all that had taken place. And in his imagination he again pictured all the details of his quarrel with his wife, all the hopelessness of his position and, most painful of all, his own guilt.
No, she won't forgive me and can't forgive me! And the most terrible thing is that I'm the guilty one in it all — guilty, and yet not guilty. That's the whole drama,' he thought. Oh, oh, oh!' he murmured with despair, recalling what were for him the most painful impressions of this quarrel.
Worst of all had been that first moment when, coming back from the theatre, cheerful and content, holding a huge pear for his wife, he had not found her in the drawing room; to his surprise, he had not found her in the study either, and had finally seen her in the bedroom with the unfortunate, all-revealing note in her hand.
She — this eternally preoccupied and bustling and, as he thought, none-too-bright Dolly — was sitting motionless, the note in her hand, looking at him with an expression of horror, despair and wrath.
What is this? this?' she asked, pointing to the note.
And, in recalling it, as often happens, Stepan Arkadyich was tormented not so much by the event itself as by the way he had responded to these words from his wife.
What had happened to him at that moment was what happens to people when they are unexpectedly caught in something very shameful. He had not managed to prepare his face for the position he found himself in with regard to his wife now that his guilt had been revealed. Instead of being offended, of denying, justifying, asking forgiveness, even remaining indifferent — any of which would have been better than what he did! — his face quite involuntarily (reflexes of the brain', thought Stepan Arkadyich, who liked physiology) smiled all at once its habitual, kind and therefore stupid smile.
That stupid smile he could not forgive himself. Seeing that smile, Dolly had winced as if from physical pain, burst with her typical vehemence into a torrent of cruel words, and rushed from the room. Since then she had refused to see her husband.
That stupid smile is to blame for it all,' thought Stepan Arkadyich.
But what to do, then? What to do?' he kept saying despairingly to himself, and could find no answer.
Stepan Arkadyich was a truthful man concerning his own self. He could not deceive himself into believing that he repented of his behaviour. He could not now be repentant that he, a thirty-four-year-old, handsome, amorous man, did not feel amorous with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, who was only a year younger than he. He repented only that he had not managed to conceal things better from her. But he felt all the gravity of his situation, and pitied his wife, his children and himself. Perhaps he would have managed to hide his sins better from his wife had he anticipated that the news would have such an effect on her. He had never thought the question over clearly, but vaguely imagined that his wife had long suspected him of being unfaithful to her and was looking the other way. It even seemed to him that she, a worn-out, aged, no longer beautiful woman, not remarkable for anything, simple, merely a kind mother of a family, ought in all fairness to be indulgent. It turned out to be quite the opposite.
Ah, terrible! Ay, ay, ay! terrible!' Stepan Arkadyich repeated to himself and could come up with nothing. And how nice it all was before that, what a nice life we had! She was content, happy with the children, I didn't hinder her in anything, left her to fuss over them and the household however she liked. True, it's not nice that she used to be a governess in our house. Not nice! There's something trivial, banal, in courting one's own governess. But what a governess!' (He vividly recalled Mlle Roland's dark, roguish eyes and her smile.) But while she was in our house, I never allowed myself anything. And the worst of it is that she's already ... It all had to happen at once! Ay, ay, ay! But what to do, what to do?'
There was no answer, except the general answer life gives to all the most complex and insoluble questions. That answer is: one must live for the needs of the day, in other words, become oblivious. To become oblivious in dreams was impossible now, at least till night-time; it was impossible to return to that music sung by carafe-women; and so one had to become oblivious in the dream of life.
We'll see later on,' Stepan Arkadyich said to himself and, getting up, he put on his grey dressing gown with the light-blue silk lining, threw the tasselled cord into a knot, and, drawing a goodly amount of air into the broad box of his chest, went up to the window with the customary brisk step of his splayed feet, which so easily carried his full body, raised the blind and rang loudly. In response to the bell his old friend, the valet Matvei, came at once, bringing clothes, boots, and a telegram. Behind Matvei came the barber with the shaving things.
Any papers from the office?' Stepan Arkadyich asked, taking the telegram and sitting down in front of the mirror.
On the table,' Matvei replied, glancing inquiringly, with sympathy, at his master, and, after waiting a little, he added with a sly smile: Someone came from the owner of the livery stable.'
Stepan Arkadyich said nothing in reply and only glanced at Matvei in the mirror; from their eyes, which met in the mirror, one could see how well they understood each other. Stepan Arkadyich's eyes seemed to ask: Why are you saying that? as if you didn't know?'
Matvei put his hands in his jacket pockets, thrust one foot out and looked at his master silently, good-naturedly, with a slight smile.
I told them to come next Sunday and till then not to trouble you or themselves needlessly.' He uttered an obviously prepared phrase.
Stepan Arkadyich understood that Matvei wanted to joke and attract attention to himself. Tearing open the telegram, he read it, guessing at the right sense of the words, which were garbled as usual, and his face brightened.
Matvei, my sister Anna Arkadyevna is coming tomorrow,' he said, stopping for a moment the glossy, plump little hand of the barber, who was clearing a pink path between his long, curly side-whiskers.
Thank God,' said Matvei, showing by this answer that he understood the significance of this arrival in the same way as his master, that is, that Anna Arkadyevna, Stepan Arkadyich's beloved sister, might contribute to the reconciliation of husband and wife.
Alone or with her spouse?' asked Matvei.
Stepan Arkadyich, unable to speak because the barber was occupied with his upper lip, raised one finger. Matvei nodded in the mirror.
Alone. Shall I prepare the rooms upstairs?'
Tell Darya Alexandrovna, wherever she decides.'
Darya Alexandrovna?' Matvei repeated, as if in doubt.
Yes, tell her. And here, take the telegram, let me know what she says.'
Testing her out,' Matvei understood, but he said only: Very well, sir.'
Stepan Arkadyich was already washed and combed and was about to start dressing, when Matvei, stepping slowly over the soft rug in his creaking boots, telegram in hand, came back into the room. The barber was no longer there.
Darya Alexandrovna told me to inform you that she is leaving. Let him do as he — that is, you — pleases,' he said, laughing with his eyes only, and, putting his hands in his pockets and cocking his head to one side, he looked fixedly at his master.
Stepan Arkadyich said nothing. Then a kind and somewhat pathetic smile appeared on his handsome face.
Eh? Matvei?' he said, shaking his head.
Never mind, sir, it'll shape up,' said Matvei.
That's right, sir.'
You think so? Who's there?' Stepan Arkadyich asked, hearing the rustle of a woman's dress outside the door.
It's me, sir,' said a firm and pleasant female voice, and through the door peeked the stern, pock-marked face of Matryona Filimonovna, the nanny.
What is it, Matryosha?' Stepan Arkadyich asked, going out of the door to her.
Although Stepan Arkadyich was roundly guilty before his wife and felt it himself, almost everyone in the house, even the nanny, Darya Alexandrovna's chief friend, was on his side.
Well, what is it?' he said dejectedly.
You should go to her, sir, apologize again. Maybe God will help. She's suffering very much, it's a pity to see, and everything in the house has gone topsy-turvy. The children should be pitied. Apologize, sir. No help for it! After the dance, you must pay the ...'
But she won't receive me ...'
Still, you do your part. God is merciful, pray to God, sir, pray to God.'
Well, all right, go now,' said Stepan Arkadyich, suddenly blushing. Let's get me dressed.' He turned to Matvei and resolutely threw off his dressing gown.
Matvei was already holding the shirt like a horse collar, blowing away something invisible, and with obvious pleasure he clothed the pampered body of his master in it.
After dressing, Stepan Arkadyich sprayed himself with scent, adjusted the cuffs of his shirt, put cigarettes, wallet, matches, a watch with a double chain and seals into his pockets with an accustomed gesture, and, having shaken out his handkerchief, feeling himself clean, fragrant, healthy, and physically cheerful despite his misfortune, went out, springing lightly at each step, to the dining room, where coffee was already waiting for him, and, next to the coffee, letters and papers from the office.
He sat down and read the letters. One was very unpleasant — from a merchant who was buying a wood on his wife's estate. This wood had to be sold; but now, before his reconciliation with his wife, it was out of the question. The most unpleasant thing here was that it mixed financial interests into the impending matter of their reconciliation. And the thought that he might be guided by those interests, that he might seek a reconciliation with his wife in order to sell the wood, was offensive to him.
Having finished the letters, Stepan Arkadyich drew the office papers to him, quickly leafed through two files, made a few marks with a big pencil, then pushed the files away and started on his coffee. Over coffee he unfolded the still damp morning newspaper and began to read it.
Stepan Arkadyich subscribed to and read a liberal newspaper, not an extreme one, but one with the tendency to which the majority held. And though neither science, nor art, nor politics itself interested him, he firmly held the same views on all these subjects as the majority and his newspaper did, and changed them only when the majority did, or, rather, he did not change them, but they themselves changed imperceptibly in him.
Stepan Arkadyich chose neither his tendency nor his views, but these tendencies and views came to him themselves, just as he did not choose the shape of a hat or a frock coat, but bought those that were in fashion. And for him, who lived in a certain circle, and who required some mental activity such as usually develops with maturity, having views was as necessary as having a hat. If there was a reason why he preferred the liberal tendency to the conservative one (also held to by many in his circle), it was not because he found the liberal tendency more sensible, but because it more closely suited his manner of life. The liberal party said that everything was bad in Russia, and indeed Stepan Arkadyich had many debts and decidedly too little money. The liberal party said that marriage was an obsolete institution and was in need of reform, and indeed family life gave Stepan Arkadyich little pleasure and forced him to lie and pretend, which was so contrary to his nature. The liberal party said, or, rather, implied, that religion was just a bridle for the barbarous part of the population, and indeed Stepan Arkadyich could not even stand through a short prayer service without aching feet and could not grasp the point of all these fearsome and high-flown words about the other world, when life in this one could be so merry. At the same time, Stepan Arkadyich, who liked a merry joke, sometimes took pleasure in startling some simple soul by saying that if you want to pride yourself on your lineage, why stop at Rurik and renounce your first progenitor — the ape? And so the liberal tendency became a habit with Stepan Arkadyich, and he liked his newspaper, as he liked a cigar after dinner, for the slight haze it produced in his head. He read the leading article, which explained that in our time it was quite needless to raise the cry that radicalism was threatening to swallow up all the conservative elements, and that it was the government's duty to take measures to crush the hydra of revolution; that, on the contrary, in our opinion, the danger lies not in the imaginary hydra of revolution, but in a stubborn traditionalism that impedes progress', and so on. He also read yet another article, a financial one, in which mention was made of Bentham and Mill and fine barbs were shot at the ministry. With his peculiar quickness of perception he understood the meaning of each barb: by whom, and against whom, and on what occasion it had been aimed, and this, as always, gave him a certain pleasure. But today this pleasure was poisoned by the recollection of Matryona Filimonovna's advice, and of the unhappy situation at home. He also read about Count Beust, who was rumoured to have gone to Wiesbaden, and about the end of grey hair, and about the sale of a light carriage, and a young person's offer of her services; but this information did not, as formerly, give him a quiet, ironic pleasure.
Having finished the newspaper, a second cup of coffee, and a kalatch with butter, he got up, brushed the crumbs from his waistcoat and, expanding his broad chest, smiled joyfully, not because there was anything especially pleasant in his heart — the smile was evoked by good digestion.
But this joyful smile at once reminded him of everything, and he turned pensive.
Two children's voices (Stepan Arkadyich recognized the voices of Grisha, the youngest boy, and Tanya, the eldest girl) were heard outside the door. They were pulling something and tipped it over.
I told you not to put passengers on the roof,' the girl shouted in English. Now pick it up!'
All is confusion,' thought Stepan Arkadyich. Now the children are running around on their own.' And, going to the door, he called them. They abandoned the box that stood for a train and came to their father.
The girl, her father's favourite, ran in boldly, embraced him, and hung laughing on his neck, delighting, as always, in the familiar smell of scent coming from his side-whiskers. Kissing him finally on the face, which was red from bending down and radiant with tenderness, the girl unclasped her hands and was going to run out again, but her father held her back.
How's mama?' he asked, his hand stroking his daughter's smooth, tender neck. Good morning,' he said, smiling to the boy who greeted him.
He was aware that he loved the boy less, and always tried to be fair; but the boy felt it and did not respond with a smile to the cold smile of his father.
Mama? Mama's up,' the girl replied.
Stepan Arkadyich sighed. That means again she didn't sleep all night,' he thought.
And is she cheerful?'
The girl knew that there had been a quarrel between her father and mother, and that her mother could not be cheerful, and that her father ought to know it, and that he was shamming when he asked about it so lightly. And she blushed for him. He understood it at once and also blushed.
I don't know,' she said. She told us not to study, but to go for a walk to grandma's with Miss Hull.'
Well, go then, my Tanchurochka. Ah, yes, wait,' he said, still holding her back and stroking her tender little hand.
He took a box of sweets from the mantelpiece, where he had put it yesterday, and gave her two, picking her favourites, a chocolate and a cream.
For Grisha?' the girl said, pointing to the chocolate.
Yes, yes.' And stroking her little shoulder once more, he kissed her on the nape of the neck and let her go.
The carriage is ready,' said Matvei. And there's a woman with a petition to see you,' he added.
Has she been here long?' asked Stepan Arkadyich.
Half an hour or so.'
How often must I tell you to let me know at once!'
I had to give you time for your coffee at least,' Matvei said in that friendly-rude tone at which it was impossible to be angry.
Well, quickly send her in,' said Oblonsky, wincing with vexation.
The woman, Mrs Kalinin, a staff captain's wife, was petitioning for something impossible and senseless; but Stepan Arkadyich, as was his custom, sat her down, heard her out attentively without interrupting, and gave her detailed advice on whom to address and how, and even wrote, briskly and fluently, in his large, sprawling, handsome and clear handwriting, a little note to the person who could be of help to her. Having dismissed the captain's wife, Stepan Arkadyich picked up his hat and paused, wondering whether he had forgotten anything. It turned out that he had forgotten nothing, except what he had wanted to forget — his wife.
Ah, yes!' He hung his head, and his handsome face assumed a wistful expression. Shall I go or not?' he said to himself. And his inner voice told him that he should not go, that there could be nothing here but falseness, that to rectify, to repair, their relations was impossible, because it was impossible to make her attractive and arousing of love again or to make him an old man incapable of love. Nothing could come of it now but falseness and deceit, and falseness and deceit were contrary to his nature.
But at some point I'll have to; it can't remain like this,' he said, trying to pluck up his courage. He squared his shoulders, took out a cigarette, lit it, took two puffs, threw it into the mother-of-pearl ashtray, walked with quick steps across the gloomy drawing room and opened the other door, to his wife's bedroom.
|List of Principal Characters||xx|
1. When Anna Karenina was published, critics accused Tolstoy of writing a novel with too many characters, too complex a story line, and too many details. Henry James called Tolstoy's works "baggy monsters." In response, Tolstoy wrote of Anna Karenina "I am very proud of its architecture-its vaults are joined so that one cannot even notice where the keystone is." What do you make of Tolstoy's use of detail? Does it make for a more "realistic" novel?
2. The first line of Anna Karenina, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, " can be interpreted a number of ways. What do you think Tolstoy means by this?
3. In your opinion, how well does Tolstoy, as a male writer, capture the perspectives of his female characters? Do you think Anna Karenina is the most appropriate title for the book? Is Tolstoy more critical of Anna for her adultery than he is of Oblonsky or of Vronsky?
4. What role does religion play in the novel? Compare Levin's spiritual state of mind at the beginning and the end of the novel. What parallels can you draw between Levin's search for happiness and Anna's descent into despair?
5. Why is it significant that Karenina lives in St. Petersburg, Oblonsky in Moscow, and Levin in the country? How are Moscow and St. Petersburg described by Tolstoy? What conclusions can you draw about the value assigned to place in the novel?
6. What are the different kinds of love that Anna, Vronsky, Levin, Kitty, Stiva, and Dolly seek? How do their desires change throughout the novel?
7. How do the ideals of love and marriage come into conflict inAnna Karenina? Using examples from the novel, what qualities do you think seem to make for a successful marriage? According to Tolstoy, is it more important to find love at all costs or to uphold the sanctity of marriage, even if it is a loveless one?
8. Ultimately, do you think Anna Karenina is a tragic novel or a hopeful one?
Posted August 6, 2008
Let's get some 'housekeeping' out of the way first: 1. I've read this novel, usually in the Nabokov translation, every few years since high school, and that's a lot of years 2. I found this particular English language translation 'BO' 'before Oprah' 3. ' IMHO, Anna K. is the greatest novel ever written , & 4. therefore, IMHO, this is the best English translation of the greatest novel ever written. Having read this novel in various other translations no less than 20 times, I was literally thrilled beyond description after completing reading the Pevear/Volok. transalation. It was as if a curtain had been drawn back and the answers to numerous questions I'd continued to have after my first 20 readings were finally revealed. What questions? All sorts-- mostly, motivational ones, such as: 'Why, exactly, did (substitute the names of any of the novel's characters) think/feel/speak/do this, that or the other... .' For, you see, Anna K. (the novel as a whole) is quite 'psycho-analytical', if you will. If I'm not mistaken, it's counted as the first, or one of the first novels in history to delve in depth as to all human motivation in a Freudian manner. It constantly asks the question: 'Why is this character like she/he is why does she/he think/feel/speak or act as she/he does?' Prior to this translation, despite numerous close readings, many questions remained not fully realized or answered for me. I had always attributed this to the usual 'cultural differentiations' -- that is, until this translation. In short, all my questions and every vaguery have now been answered &/or clarified, and then some! At the risk of sounding cliched, it was as if I were reading a new novel-- so fresh is this translation! As for those of you who did not 'like' reading this or any other Anna K.-- stick to those novelists who spoon-feed you their 'observations.' Tolstoy replicates life, and the life of the mind better than any other writer of any time, in a way that makes the reader feel he or she is experiencing what his characters are at the very moment that it is happening, and no other writer gives the reader so broad and yet so specific a palette to 'experience' from. This novel has always been a world treasure. This translation polishes this mirrored and bejeweled treasure for us and for future generations to continue to learn from and deepens and heightens the enjoyment of current and future readers. I feel deeply indebted to the translators. Thank you!
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Posted August 1, 2011
I read this in junior high and then again in highschool in which I got a better understanding and more indepth. My senior year I wrote a paper over it because I love it so much. The novel has multiple stories due to the many different charcters. Sometimes their stories intertwine like a soap opera that is realistic and takes place during aristocratic russia with historical events. Passion, pain, love, betrayl colour the story. Literary analysis takes the novel to a whole nother level. I recommend this book to everyone even though it is long. In conclusion this novel blew my mind away take your time enjoy it, reflect, and analyze because by far this is one of my top ten because after reading it I began to look at the world differently. This review is coming from a 2010 highschool graduate. READ THIS BOOK
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Posted January 12, 2010
Oh wow - this book is absolutely fantastic! The translators are right on the button and no wonder it was one of Oprah's book choices. Anna Karenina is my absolute favorite book ever - I have read it many, many times and it will continue to be read by me. It is just such an incredible story. I have to say that the reviewers who do not find it worthy of a proper tribute should perhaps go back to reading the daily comics, as that is probably more in line with their brain capabilities.
Do not skimp on the copy you buy - you really do get what you pay for here - it is a russian novel, translated into english - you will cringe at some of the wording used in inferior copies. Do yourself a favor - if you are going to settle down with a book of this magnitude, buy a great copy. It will definitely make your experience much more memorable. With regard to the nook varieties, do not even contemplate the free downloads - I have tried them all and the amount of spelling mistakes means you are effectively translating the translation! It is dreadful to think they are out there. This is a book for serious readers - read it, savor it and love it forever!
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Posted March 26, 2010
When I first started reading this, I kept waiting for the purpose of the story to be revealed, the reason why Tolstoy had written 800 pages about these people. Before too long, though, I was wrapped up in their lives, laughing at their absurdities and rolling my eyes at the foolish things they did. And then I got involved in the myriad details of the time: the philosophies, the politics, the modes of thought, the science and technology. About halfway through the book, I realized there wasn't a purpose, exactly, to the story. I was just dropping into these people's lives and listening for a while. Not something I usually enjoy, but Tolstoy's abrupt, descriptive language, his way of narrating the truths of a person's character, his attention to their intellectual and spiritual existence---all of these kept me intrigued and involved until the last word.
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Posted March 8, 2009
You should read i. It is best translation I ever read. It a most like they wrote the book
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Posted December 2, 2010
This is a beautifully written book in terms of literary style and language. It is very long though and takes a long time to read. It stands out as a classic because of its bold theme of a taboo topic like adultery and the depth with which Tolstoy describes the thoughts and feelings of his characters. Its adult theme is geared towards a mature audience - ideally a college student or someone older. Tolstoy writes vividly about the power of beauty and charm, the attraction that ensues, the head over heels romance of Anna and Vronsky, the heady feeling that makes them forget everyone and everything around them, the dislike with which Vronsky sizes up Karenin at their first meeting, and the guilt, humiliation, and social alienation that their affair brings. He includes minute details of their body language as if he had personally seen the story unfold before his eyes and had keenly and accurately noted every detail about each character. He shows that people cannot change overnight and that promises are difficult to keep - Oblsonsky promises to be true to his wife but continues to stray. He gives glimpses into the pretentious nature of the Russian high class - they prefer to speak in French than Russian. He highlights the fact that it is only men who discuss politics.
Vronsky and Anna's romance was the best part of the book. I found the parts about Levin's farming and his doubts about the existence of God to be dull and dry, although it helped contrast the luxurious lives of the upper class with the poor conditions of the peasants. I didn't like the end. I liked the character of Karenin the most - levelheaded, even-keeled and caring (yes, he does have a heart). Anna came across as selfish, impulsive and weak - in committing adultery and her end. I wish Tolstoy had written something about the relationship between Vronsky and the daughter he had with Anna. I would have also liked to know whether or not Levin's brother, Koznyshev, ever proposed to Kitty's friend.
I feel I was mentally and emotionally a little too young to fully understand and appreciate this book - in terms of vocabulary as well as what the characters feel and why they react the way they do, especially where matters of the heart were concerned. Yet, I am glad that I read it because I was able to grasp the main message of the novel - reckless decisions in love (especially adultery) only bring doom and gloom.
High school students will also benefit from reading this classic tale. It will give them an opportunity to vicariously experience the outcome of possible future decisions. They will be better prepared to face the temptation of extra-marital love, should it surface in their lives. It'll also make them compare and contrast nineteenth century Russian society to our society today. It will make them appreciate how today's society is more accepting of people in Anna's situation. They will be glad that women have more rights now and that the middle class is much stronger.
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Posted June 15, 2009
I Also Recommend:
In response to one review I feel I have to defend this jewel of western literature and say that Tolstoi is second only to Shakespeare in his representation of character: nothing about any of the characters emotions strikes me as false, and every page is wrought with accurate and beautifully presented human emotion. Tolstoi, as Nabokov said, is the novelist of the world. Now that that pedantic statement is out of th way, I'll go on to praise this great book.
Begun a few years after finishing War and Peace Tolstoi sheds all the essay-like qualities of War and Peace (which he said wasn't a novel) and focuses on character and narration.
Deserving to be ranked alongside Don Quixote, Ulysses, and In Search of Lost Time this book is incredibly enjoyable and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Tolstoi or great literature.
Also, if anyone is a fan of Virginia Woolf they will see a very early and subtle use of free indirect discourse and incongruous first person narration of events and characters.
And, whoever enjoyed Leopold "Poldy" Bloom, or Proust's wonderfully cruel society scenes, will find in Tolstoi's Anna Karenina characters and scenes to rival, and sometimes surpass, both works.
A joy to read, especially slowly over a summer, this work can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone who will give it a chance. If people tell you it is boring it is because they have not read it.
I can't recommend it enough.
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Posted February 21, 2014
This book is titled Anna Karenina but Anna is not the only main character. Levin a young man trying hard to be successful at work and to marry his sweetheart. Anna on the other hand is married and also has a sweetheart on the side. Anna’s story is probably the one that dominates the book. Anna wants freedom from her husband to go off with her lover. Of course her husband is anything but happy when she tells him this.
I was more a fan of the character Levin. Although I did have trouble in his interest in farm work. I did however love the idea of Kitty and Levin as a couple even though there is struggle to get there. Levin as understand it may also be representing the author Leo Tolstoy.
Most of the characters in this book are unlikable (Anna, Vronsky, Anna’s husband, and Anna’s brother). What I found made Anna more unlikable was I saw her weakness in myself. That made me dislike her more. I wanted her to gain a little backbone and stop whining.
The book as a whole did not get interesting until exactly half way through it. And that was when Levin became more of a focus. This was a hell of a book to get through. This is definitely not one I am going to reread.
Posted August 26, 2013
I've ready Dr. Zhivago and Crime & Punishment and couldn't put them down. This book was so rambling and digresses into useless descriptions and thoughts, straying from the story with too much distracting and bland narration that it turned me off. I also had trouble connecting with the characters. I finally watched the recent movie with Keira Knightly and I'm glad I opted for the movie version because this isn't a good story. I didn't find Anna Karenina to be a strong character. She was vain, selfish, and shallow.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2013
Highly recommended. I tried to read another translation, but this is far superior. Very easy to read, translation flows well and language is very nice.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 11, 2013
Posted December 7, 2012
One of the greatest novels ever written. The brilliant translation makes it seem as if it were written yesterday.
A notable achievement.
Posted July 13, 2012
This translation reads so smoothly. My son, who speaks Russian, recommended it. I throughly enjoyed the journey of 1,000 pages reading about the lives of Anna and her extended family and friends.
The story has 5 major characters. Do not think in the beginning that you will be lost with all the names. Most characters have multiple names so start memorizing their details early and you'll breeze through the rest of the book. All the characters connect together as the chapters progress.
The writing is pure TOLSTOY - so fluid and eloquent. The adjectives are extraordinary. Tolstoy can entertain you as he writes about mowing the wheat in the field, or the elections of St. Petersburg. One can only imagine the Russian language behind his words is even more beautiful than the English used to reflect it.
I missed reading this in high school or college...and so glad I finally allowed myself the luxury and time to read about Anna.
Posted September 23, 2010
Posted June 10, 2010
When I first started reading the book, I thought it would mostly be like how it was described on the jacket (a story about Anna's affair and how it had disastrous consequences). But, to my pleasant surprise, it was all that and more. Not only is this book about Anna, but it is also about Vronsky, Kitty, Levin, and a few other characters. It's possible Tolstoy could have made this book much shorter by focusing solely on Anna's relationship, but it wouldn't have had such amazing depth. Everything is intertwined. Not a light read, but a great one :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2010
Posted December 10, 2009
BEFORE GETTING THIS BOOK I WAS A LITTLE SKEPTIC ABOUT IT. WELL, I FINALLY DECIDED AND OHH DID I MAKE A GOOD DECISION. I WAS IMPRESS WITH THE WRITING STYLE AND LOVE THE PLOT. I HAD AN ARRAY OF FEELING THAT SURFACED THROUGHOUT MY READING. I THINK THAT'S WHAT EVERY WRITER WANTS. IT IS A LOVELY BOOK, MORALLY ORIENTED (I THINK) AND DEFINITELY A PAGE TURNER.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 8, 2009
This book may have been good in its day. The writing is definately excellent, but in our current time it's very slow and boring. The author spends to much time on one event which has no baring on the story. For example, there was a couple of chapters spent on Levin doing his yard work. This book is appropriate for school because it's educational and it reflects the time period very well, but not for recreational reading. If you need help falling asleep at night skip the sleeping pills and read this book.
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Posted August 16, 2009
"Anna Karenina" paints the most amazingly vivid portrait of a handful of Russian aristocrats. Tolstoy uses this voluminous novel to delve deep into his numerous protagonists. This 'ensemble cast' of characters is quite unique and also very Tolstoy-esque.
But unlike "War and Peace" which often overshadows "Anna Karenina," this book fearlessly concentrates on inner-exploration; there is no War to follow, just the brilliant character studies. No one does it better than Tolstoy!
So, who's YOUR favorite character?