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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina (original 1877; edition 2012)

by Leo Tolstoy

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26,28545642 (4.15)5 / 1403
Title:Anna Karenina
Authors:Leo Tolstoy
Info:Simon & Brown (2012), Paperback, 1182 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)

  1. 151
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English (421)  Italian (10)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (6)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  All languages (456)
Showing 1-5 of 421 (next | show all)
Anna Karenina, or, Aristocracy Behaving Badly. I went into this book, completely unaware of the plot or that the main storyline would be the affairs of the aristocracy. And I mean literally, affairs. (Along with their general affairs too.) This is a novel about many things, but morality and the decadence and, in fact, irrelevancy, of the aristocracy in society are primary thematic areas Tolstoy explores.

Anna Karenina is a novel of close psychological realism. Tolstoy reveals unexpected insights into the inner workings of his cast as they stumble through their relationships without ever understanding each other. In fact, the vast majority of interactions between individuals reveals a vast gulf between their inner life, what they communicate with each other, and what they believe are the feelings of the others in their life. When you come down it, none of the characters ever understand each other.

There is much to make fruitful in this novel from a feminist perspective. The main character is clearly trapped by her society. Women at this time were not allowed education or careers. They were essentially treated as children, dependent on their families for life, for income and survival. Certainly within the aristocracy. If she isn’t a farm laborer, a servant or a prostitute, a woman had no options. Anna butts up against that as she finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage. She moves from economic dependency upon the man she despises to dependency on the man she loves, Vronsky, but this eventually leads to her battles with jealousy and drug addiction as she finds herself “trapped at home,” in Vronsky’s mansion, reading and educating herself, but due to the class scorn for a woman who left her husband to “live in sin” as it were, she is barely able to interact in society. The double standard is blatant, with Vronsky able to move about in society as a man having an affair perfectly comfortably, once he settles into his wealth and social position, but Anna can’t even see the opera without being verbally spit up.

Yet despite her lack of place in this society, Anna is educating herself by reading and comes across as a woman who is intelligent and had potential to have a successful career were that path open to her. Yet she is emotionally often shown to lack both intelligence and control. And either way, her self-education comes across as even more tragically for naught because there is nowhere for it to go. Regarding what happens to her at the end of the book, I’ll mark that with a spoiler although I suspect most know what happens:

I found that Anna committing suicide certainly made sense given not only how trapped she was but also based on her drug addiction. Which reminded me today of how many housewives get hooked on prescription anti-anxiety medication like Xanax). From a metaphorical perspective, it was a logical conclusion, to show that Anna, as a “fallen woman” with no power except her beauty, as a woman who hoped for a degree of emotional independence through love, had no place in this stifling, collapsing aristocratic society. On the other hand, I couldn’t help feeling like Tolstoy also didn’t have anything else to do with her. I don’t feel it was a “sexist” choice, per se, it was a logical outgrowth of the patriarchal culture she was living in as well as her frantic, powerless state of mind. And yet, I also wonder if there was a both/and situation at work here. There was no place for her in society and Tolstoy couldn’t find a place for her to go in the story either. The complexity of her living arrangement needed closure. So he killed her off.

Politics and religion were also ongoing thematic subjects in Anna Karenina. As politics was woven through the story, I could clearly see intimations of the Communist overthrow coming to Russia. The politicians, as exemplified by Anna’s husband, Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, were all petty and ineffectual bureaucrats battling to create committees to study committees and make reports about reports. Politics was presented as nearly as absurd and pointless as it would if Kafka were writing about it. The way Tolstoy positioned the political struggle, it was easy to see how a “worker’s movement” that purported to actually impact people’s lives could easily sweep in and shatter the old guard. And these bureaucrats were closely tied in to the aristocratic class, which was also presented as crumbling and irrelevant.

Religion suffers a bit of a skewering by Tolstoy, but in the end he takes a rather conservative position on it. I had mixed feelings about the main character, Levin, as stand-in for Tolstoy’s views himself. Although Levin is one of the more “moral” of the characters, he is also quite intellectually questionable because he is so flighty, rarely has ideas of his own, hops from one viewpoint to the next and lacks common sense. In the end, his groundlessness finds a ground in an ecstatic born-again experience of Christian apologism. Frankly, I’m glad this conservative back-pedaling in an otherwise forward thinking book was constrained to the last 15 pages or so. And I’m glad I can also excuse the philosophical justification Tolstoy puts forth as being Levin’s and not too literally the authors. I can slot them into the context of a man who could never find an idea of his own and hopped from meaning to meaning until he finally landed on a sort of standard Christian “logic” to justify being born again. Something that could have come from Thomas Aquinas or similar, a rather non-rigorous analysis of existence and meaning, which unfortunately comes from an otherwise rigorous author who brooks no hypocrisy.

There were a few dead-ends in the story, as I was left wondering what would happen next with Alexei or Vronsky, but without a doubt, Anna Karenina is a masterpiece and a compelling read. Tolstoy was an insightful and forwarding-thinking author. ( )
  David_David_Katzman | Oct 21, 2016 |
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; (4 1/2*)

Tolstoy is a wonderful author and the translation I have by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; I could not have been happier with. It is a lovely translation.
The story begins with duplicity and ends with a man finding himself, the reason for his life and his life's work.
The tragedy of Anna Karinina was, for me, almost a backdrop for the rest of the book. I liked how the author built her character and toward the end showed how a person, through their search for the ultimate happiness of self, can literally become so filled with anxiety, angst, and depression that they lose their grip on reality and destroy themselves.
The writing is such that I came to know the characters in this novel and I thought that they and their behavior was understandable and within their characterizations. I must admit that the politics of it totally confused me but did not disturb the storyline for me. I liked how the author went back and forth with the different character's stories and I found it easy to follow.
Although the title of the book is Anna Karinina, for myself the main character of the book and the one I cared the most about was Levin. To me, it was his story with all of these subplots written behind it. He is the one I related to, cared the most about, and wanted to know about. He is the one I found to be the most mulitfaceted character and there were many layers to him. I also enjoyed Kitty's character. Anna, on the other hand was very shallow and altogether a rather boring, though beautiful character. Her demise was almost anticlimactic, but with it Vronsky finally became a man.
I loved the last part of the book where Levin really challenged himself and thought the ending quite beautiful.
This was my second reading of the book within 35 years and I am sure I won't wait so long for the next reading. It read very differently this time around. I highly recommend this classic. I found it to be a beautifully and calmly written novel. Tolstoy was indeed masterful with the pen. ( )
9 vote rainpebble | Oct 15, 2016 |
Ugh. It took me ages to get through this. Not because it was long, but because I hated the characters (mainly Anna and Vronsky) so I dreaded listening to it. Anyway, I am glad that it is over. ( )
  LenaR0307 | Oct 2, 2016 |
I can say a lot about Anna Karenina, but I like to keep my reviews short and simple, when I bother to include them at all.

This book has some of the best writing about character's thought lives and how relationships work I've come across. The prose in my translation (Pevear and Volokhonsky) is also excellent. I recommend it very much.

Many segments of this book are among my favorite segments in literature. There are parts I want to remove, but they're quite good too. I simply didn't want to read as much economic philosophy as the book has in it. Levin's thought life, while politically important, was not interesting to _me_. Someone else might love that part of the book. ( )
  valzi | Sep 7, 2016 |
Particularly impressed by this translation by Constance Garnett - it does capture the 'Russian' heart and the 'Class/Gender-based' divisions & sensitivity of Russia in that era - I have a fair grasp of Russian, but Garnett's mastery of language nuance within Tolstoy's text enriches its English telling: In many ways a fairly basic story of an illicit affair that wrecks marriages & lives, nonetheless Tolstoy again displays an insight of the social mores & conditions that prevailed and manages to look at them with a very modern (for his time) approach - very few authors of the period would have dealt so warmly and generously with besotted Anna - though Tolstoy inevitably must have the 'heroine' destroyed as a factual reality of the era the sympathetic delivery for her predicament throughout the novel shows the great author had a mastery of human compassion a good many authors of the 20th/21st Centuries regularly fail to achieve.

PS: WSMaugham (July 18, 2016) in their review, like so many others, appear not to actually have understood the era in which Anna Karenin was living in Russia: The notion of 'divorce', a second marriage, having custody/access to her child were simply non-existent: Social etiquette, social taboos & the whole weight of Russian Nobility would've made such things impossible.
Therefore, Tolstoy far from moralising and condemning Anna, was decades ahead of his time dealing with Russian social order in his treatment of the heroine - that she loses everything is not within Tolstoy's power to correct and somehow bring about a 'happy ending' - they were not possible in that suffocating Russian Social climate. ( )
  tommi180744 | Aug 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 421 (next | show all)
Each time I reread Anna Karenina, picking my way past the attics and cellars and rusting machinery of Tolstoy's obsessions and prejudices, a new layer of his craft emerges, to the point where, for all my admiration of Joyce, Beckett and Kelman, I begin to question whether the novel form isn't too artisanal a medium for the surface experimentation of the modernist project ever to transcend the flexing of space and time that apparently conventional language can achieve in the hands of a master.

» Add other authors (93 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolstoy, Leoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayley, JohnPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bayley, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dole, Nathan HaskellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edmonds, RosemaryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farrell, James T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallero, VíctorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garnett, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ginzburg , LeoneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gurin, JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gurin, Morris S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hašková, TatjanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horovitch, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huisman, WilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kool, Halbo C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leclée, JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magarshack, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matulay, LaszloIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maude, AylmerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maude, Louise ShanksTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pyykkö, LeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roseen, UllaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwartz, MarianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Troyat, HenriIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volohonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Vengeance is mine; I will repay. ~ Deuteronomy 32:35
First words
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (C. Garnett, 1946) and (J. Carmichael, 1960)
Все счастливые семьи похожи друг на друга, каждая несчастливая семья несчастлива по-своему. Всё смешалось в доме Облонских.
All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
All happy families resemble one another, every unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion. (N. H. Dole, 1886)
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Pevear, Volokhonsky, 2000)
"Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be." [Anna, p744 (2000)]
"He has long ceased loving me. And where love stops, hatred begins." [Anna, p763 (2000)]
Every minute of Alexei Alexandrovich's life was occupied and scheduled. And in order to have time to do what he had to do each day, he held to the strictest punctuality. 'Without haste and without rest' was his motto. [p109 (2000)]
Every man, knowing to the smallest detail all the complexity of the conditions surrounding him, involuntarily assumes that the complexity of these conditions and the difficulty of comprehending them are only his personal, accidental peculiarity, and never thinks that others are surrounded by the same complexity as he is. [p302 (2000)]
Vronsky meanwhile, despite the full realization of what he had desired for so long, was not fully happy. He soon felt that the realization of his desire had given him only a grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires. [...] He soon felt arise in his soul a desire for desires, an anguish. [p465 (2000)]
Last words
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Disambiguation notice
This is the work for the complete Anna Karenina. Please do not combine with any of the works representing the individual volumes (see combination rules regarding part/whole issues for details), or with abridged versions. Thank you.

The original Russian title was “Анна Каренина”.

Please keep the Norton Critical Edition books un-combined with the rest of them - it is significantly different with thorough explanatory annotations, essays by other authors, and reviews by other authors. Thank you.
This is the work of Leo Tolstoy, not Henri Troyat.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143035002, Paperback)

Some people say Anna Karenina is the single greatest novel ever written, which makes about as much sense to me as trying to determine the world's greatest color. But there is no doubt that Anna Karenina, generally considered Tolstoy's best book, is definitely one ripping great read. Anna, miserable in her loveless marriage, does the barely thinkable and succumbs to her desires for the dashing Vronsky. I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that 19th-century Russia doesn't take well to that sort of thing.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:39 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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 must endure 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, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team's authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for generations to come.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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