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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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Anna Karenina (original 1877; edition 2012)

by Leo Tolstoy

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23,43039147 (4.16)5 / 1336
Member:megc11
Title:Anna Karenina
Authors:Leo Tolstoy
Info:Simon & Brown (2012), Paperback, 1182 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)

1001 (118) 1001 books (111) 19th century (587) adultery (282) classic (1,040) classic fiction (103) Classic Literature (130) classics (900) ebook (98) fiction (2,788) historical fiction (113) Kindle (117) Leo Tolstoy (82) literature (724) love (194) marriage (144) novel (595) own (158) read (223) romance (207) Russia (1,044) Russian (957) Russian fiction (135) Russian literature (1,130) suicide (158) to-read (447) Tolstoy (205) tragedy (131) translation (144) unread (253)
  1. 143
    Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Booksloth, luzestrella)
    luzestrella: when I got to the middle of the book I was shocked. It seens like the climax of all the main conclicts were already there. Why didn't the author cut the novel right there with that happy ending? Unnusual for a ficcion novel indeep. But for that particular reason, for me it has it's charm. The other half of the novel goes on describing what happened with the characters after they got what they wanted.… (more)
  2. 101
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (roby72)
  3. 60
    The Princesse de Cleves by Madame de La Fayette (andejons)
    andejons: Similar premises: married, upper class women fall in love with men of less than perfect moral standing. The outcomes are very different though.
  4. 60
    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (roby72)
  5. 51
    Emma by Jane Austen (roby72)
  6. 51
    The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (pingdjip)
    pingdjip: Like Tolstoy, Faber goes under his characters' skin, ponders their social manoeuvering, and follows the pitfalls and triumphs of their lives. Difference: Faber is funny and sometimes provocative and teasing in a "postmodern" way.
  7. 31
    What Happened to Anna K.: A Novel by Irina Reyn (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Irina Reyn updates the classic _Anna Karenina_ to the Russian diaspora of New York City.
  8. 20
    Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (Henrik_Madsen)
    Henrik_Madsen: To romaner af murstensstørrelse der analyserer og beskriver overklassefamiliernes komplicerede liv.
  9. 42
    The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (alalba)
  10. 10
    La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas (alalba)
  11. 10
    Eirelan by Liam O'Shiel (allthesepieces)
    allthesepieces: Both books build complex stories that delve into the nature of loyalty in relationships.
  12. 11
    The Maias by Eca de Queiros (Anonymous user)
  13. 13
    Eine Frage der Schuld: Roman - Mit der «Kurzen Autobiographie der Gräfin S. A. Tolstaja»: Anläßlich der "Kreutzersonate" von Lew Tolstoi. Mit einem Nachwort von Ursula Keller by Sofja Tolstaja (Monika_L)
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Showing 1-5 of 362 (next | show all)
I'm done! I'm done! I'm done done done!

Ah, now that that much needed release has come, I can review this monster of a novel. You can see I only gave it 2 stars--which I will remind you means "it's ok". If I could translate that to my own slang, it would be "meh". Meh. As in: it has a story line, some characters, some action...but meh. None of it is all that interesting, compelling, engaging. It is 1000 pages of meh. 1000 pages of wondering where the story will go, and getting 100, 250, 600 pages in and realizing at each step it will not get anywhere. Meh.

I picked this book up because 1) It was on my bookshelf--a present of some kind from someone who had never read it themself? 2) The movie is out and looks interesting. 3) I needed to read a translated book this year.

Results? 1) I wish I knew who gave me the book so I could politely ask them never to buy me books again. 2) The book was so bland I don't know that I even want to see the movie now. Even though I would definitely say they could condense the ENTIRE story to 90 minutes or so. 3) I read a translated book--my challenge for the year is complete!

What's so bad about this book? Besides the pages upon pages of endless (needless?) details, I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over again. Woman and man fight. They both hold terrible, resentful feelings toward each other, refuse to admit it to the other person or 'society', tell at each other saying it is he last straw, girl runs to room, man follows her, she cries in his arms and is soothed. Every fight. Every relationship.

But it's not a one star book. I didn't hate every minute of it....just felt it could have been about 70% shorter without losing anything of value.

There is more I could gripe about this book, but I would rather move on to another book. It is the opposite of a book hangover (where you find yourself unable to leave the characters behind)--I need to read something else to get the taste of this book out of my head. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
I'm done! I'm done! I'm done done done!

Ah, now that that much needed release has come, I can review this monster of a novel. You can see I only gave it 2 stars--which I will remind you means "it's ok". If I could translate that to my own slang, it would be "meh". Meh. As in: it has a story line, some characters, some action...but meh. None of it is all that interesting, compelling, engaging. It is 1000 pages of meh. 1000 pages of wondering where the story will go, and getting 100, 250, 600 pages in and realizing at each step it will not get anywhere. Meh.

I picked this book up because 1) It was on my bookshelf--a present of some kind from someone who had never read it themself? 2) The movie is out and looks interesting. 3) I needed to read a translated book this year.

Results? 1) I wish I knew who gave me the book so I could politely ask them never to buy me books again. 2) The book was so bland I don't know that I even want to see the movie now. Even though I would definitely say they could condense the ENTIRE story to 90 minutes or so. 3) I read a translated book--my challenge for the year is complete!

What's so bad about this book? Besides the pages upon pages of endless (needless?) details, I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over again. Woman and man fight. They both hold terrible, resentful feelings toward each other, refuse to admit it to the other person or 'society', tell at each other saying it is he last straw, girl runs to room, man follows her, she cries in his arms and is soothed. Every fight. Every relationship.

But it's not a one star book. I didn't hate every minute of it....just felt it could have been about 70% shorter without losing anything of value.

There is more I could gripe about this book, but I would rather move on to another book. It is the opposite of a book hangover (where you find yourself unable to leave the characters behind)--I need to read something else to get the taste of this book out of my head. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
I got more than I expected (and I liked it).

The novel Anna Karenina is composed of parallel narratives: the story of Anna Arkadyevna Karenin’s dive from grace (a fall implies an accident), and Konstantin Dmitrich Levin’s search for meaning and purpose in a country that is swiftly changing around him. Both stories are played out in the highest social circles of 19th century Russia, among people who admire and condemn Anna’s passionate decision-making by turns and continually condemn Levin for failing to observe a host of social “niceties” borrowed from the French. Rounding out the tale are all the characters who travel between the Levin and Anna’s spheres: Anna’s lover Vronsky and the young girl he was toying with before he spotted Anna (Kitty Scherbatsky), Anna’s philandering brother Stepan Arkadyich Oblonsky and his long-suffering wife Dolly (sister of Kitty), and Anna’s cuckolded husband Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin.

Add to this milieu a host of other Russians with a pile of names each, which change depending on who is addressing them (Stepan, for example, might be referred to as Stepan, Stiva, Oblonsky, or Stepan Arkadyich), and there is a lot going on.

William Makepeace Thackeray said of his novel Vanity Fair that he had written “a novel without a hero”. If Thackeray reveled in the wickedness and self-centered nature of the characters in his epic, Tolstoy has sympathy for each and every one of his. Anna Karenina is the kind of book that teaches one a lot about oneself, as each character is presented from his (or her) own point of view and the reader is left to choose sides. Oblonsky is as charismatic and socially adept as he is irresponsible, Alexei Karenin’s dutiful and magnanimous nature is undercut by his emotional reticence. Tolstoy did a phenomenal job of presenting an extremely complex situation equally from all sides.

Awesome Stuff:

1. This novel is a master class in pacing. Tolstoy brings the reader to the absolute edge of blibbering despair with the impossibility of Anna’s situation, only to take up Levin’s story in the next section which is on a happier tack. The two narratives balance each other this way through the whole novel: if Anna’s up, Levin’s down and vice versa. Only once do they come together in tone if not time and space, the “long dark night of the soul” that decides the fate of each character.

2. The analogies and metaphors. It’s a classic for a reason. An example, the feelings of Anna’s husband after reaching a decision about her situation (over which he had quite literally worried himself sick):

“He felt like a man who has had a long-aching tooth pulled out. After the terrible pain and the sensation of something huge, bigger than his head, being drawn from his jaw, the patient, still not believing in his good fortune, suddenly feels that what had poisoned his life and absorbed all his attention for so long exists no more, and that he can again live, think and be interested in something other than his tooth.”

3. The complexity. This is not a novel in which the suffering wife leaves the loutish brute of a husband for her sexy new lover, riding off into the sunset on a white horse. That may be how Anna sees it for a time, but she is the only one, and the novel shows the far-reaching effects of each of her choices. Choices that have consequences not only for her, but for her son, her husband, Vronsky, her brother, her in-laws, her friends. No one associated with her escapes her affair unscathed. Equally as complex is Levin’s search for meaning and companionship, though it is a source of one of the novel’s less successful attributes.

Less Awesome Stuff

1. Things lost in translation. This is a book translated not only from a language with an alphabet fundamentally different from my native tongue, but from a culture two hundred years past. Once I got the hang of Russian naming conventions, there were still many moments in the novel at which I felt I was not quite getting the sense of something due to cultural differences. Something meaningful was happening but I didn’t have the knowledge to comprehend it.

2. Footnotes at the end. It’s a matter of taste, but I like my footnotes on the page with the relevant text, so I can inform my understanding and adjust my impressions as I read. With them at the end I end up just reading all of them once I finish the novel, rather than flipping back and forth. The translation itself was very good, great pains were taken to maintain the sense of things.

3. The axes. Levin’s story is often used to elaborate the author’s feelings on certain issues. There are lengthy passages on farming, feudalism versus socialism versus communism, Russian election practices, faith and spirituality, etc. The ax-grinding sessions came very close to swamping the narrative, like the whaling chapter in Moby Dick or the socialist manifesto that commandeered the last third of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

It’s a very good novel, and well-deserving of it’s recognition as a classic, but it’s probably not for everyone. There is a lot of heavy thinking to do, and I re-read pages many times when I felt I hadn’t absorbed the text. History buffs, introverts, and those with a sociological bent will love it as-is. If you just want the drama, skip Levin’s story and read only the parts concerning Anna and Vronsky. ( )
2 vote ArmchairAuthor | Jul 3, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

The Day She Caught the Train

My unforgettable art appreciation professor mentioned Anna Karenina when he was discussing realism. I don’t exactly recall how it came about, but what I remember is that he told us how the novel ends. Nobody was disappointed except for me. I groaned quite audibly and squirmed on my seat, but he went on to tell us that the would-be reader has a lot of reasons to pore through all the novel’s pages despite knowing the fate of the eponymous heroine.

It was not until after college when I decided to read this book. In fact, instead of taking on it first, I opted for the considerably longer War and Peace. After finishing that with much appreciation, I thought yes, my professor must have a point.

So I organized a read-along, what we prefer to call a buddy read, in our book club. Unfortunately, our lives took over our reading and each of us had to read at his own, breaking away from the agreed pace. I do not take this against anyone especially now that I am writing this because I feel that I gained something from reading the book. Not only is it a doorstopper that would give you a sense of victory after flipping the last page, it is also an epic in the truest sense of the word where the characters live longer than the reading time expended, and probably even longer than our human lives.

The novel is hailed as one of the most enduring love stories of all time, and yes indeed, it’s core is the love story of Anna Karenina. It explores the darker facets of marriage (read: adultery), the joy (or misfortune) of having a family, philosophical farming, the mystery of death, and the meaning of our existence.

‘No, joking aside, I think that in order to know love one must make a mistake and then correct it,’ said Princess Betsy.

‘Even after marriage,’ the ambassador’s wife said jokingly.

‘It’s never too late to repent.’ The diplomat uttered an English proverb.

‘Precisely,’ Betsy picked up, ‘one must make a mistake and then correct oneself. What do you think? She turned to Anna, who with a firm, barely noticeable smile on her lips was silently listening to this conversation.

‘I think,’ said Anna, toying with the glove she had taken off, ‘I think … if there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.’


Anna Karenina is beautiful, charming, intelligent, and enchanting. At first, we see her as the embodiment of a strong woman who can think and take care of herself. This is best shown when she gives Dolly, her brother Stiva’s wife, advice during a tumultuous time of their marriage. Their marriage was saved thanks to Anna. She herself is married to Alexei Karenin, a government official. So far, life has been very good to her until Vronsky, a dashing military officer, meets her.

Vronsky is expected by Kitty, Dolly’s sister, to propose to her, but her romantic longings for the officer shatter during a ball where Vronksy dances with Anna. It is evident that Vronsky has fallen in love with the married Anna, and this is where the challenges in Anna’s life begin.

This is a giant novel with many characters, but we need to focus only on seven. I already mentioned six, and the seventh one would be Levin, the main male character who will provide us with the a major story arc aside from Anna’s. It was noted that Levin seems to be the personification of the author and that he allegedly used him as the channel to communicate his opinions on various matters. It is not entirely incorrect to rename the novel where his name would be included, but that would be an altogether different topic.

The novel takes place in Russia during the turn of the century where many changes are taking place. People are becoming more liberal and technological advances are being introduced. The changes coming upon them are particularly evident in the resistance of the Russian farmers to accept the new farming technologies that Levin tries to implement. Although he does it out of the belief that this will improve production, he doesn’t succeed and succumbs to the belief that the old Russian farming techniques are still better.

Levin, aside from being an old-fashioned man and farmer, provides us most of the philosophical insights in the novel. He goes out of his way to study the works of various philosophers, but he just ends up robbed of the inner peace that he is constantly seeking. He will come to achieve his peace once he struggles to settle as a husband and father. I believe that his achievement of philosophical contentment is one of the best things that I’ve ever read, and it will come at the last page. So to the would-be reader, be patient.

Now, let’s return to Anna. She is condemned by the Russian society for desecrating her marriage. She is expected to stay away from everyone unless she is granted a divorce, but she goes on to live her life according to how she wants it. It could have been easier for her if she persisted in getting the permission of her husband to divorce her, but since that would also mean losing the custody of her son, she continues to live boldly despite the disgrace that are borne out of the choices that she made.

There isn’t really anything admirable with her choices per se, but she remains a real heroine because of the way she dealt with the consequences of her actions. She keeps her grace, and constantly follows her heart and passion amidst the difficulties that she is facing. She is left without the support of her old friends, but she carries on with an inner strength that she draws out from her guiding principle which can be summed up in three words: love conquers all.

Anna may appear to be selfish and fickle, but if we take a closer look, she is a real independent woman who will go out of her way to follow her life’s principle. She will infuriate a number of characters, and readers as well, but at the end, at that last moment where she asks for forgiveness, I don’t think the reader can manage to keep disliking her. As one of my friends put it, she only acted out of love.

It seems to me that Levin was the one who triggered my art appreciation professor to discuss the novel in our class, thanks to Tolstoy’s lavish albeit almost dragging depiction of his country life, particularly his farming. Realism, simply put, is a faithful representation of everyday life, and in this novel, we see mundane family and peasant activities taking place from sunrise to sunset. The sweat trickling down the farmers’ backs can be easily felt by the reader, but there are also Anna’s thoughts on that day at the train station that will make one shudder with amazement at how deftly thought processes are captured just as they had been in our own minds.

On second thought, it must have been Anna who prompted it all. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Been reviewed by too many to say anything of any significance. One of the best novels ever written. ( )
  Alphawoman | May 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 362 (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
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, AylmerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maude, LouiseTranslatorsecondary 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
Troyat, HenriIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volohonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Important events
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Epigraph
Vengeance is mine; I will repay. ~ Deuteronomy 32:35
Dedication
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)
Quotations
"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
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:46 -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)

» see all 34 descriptions

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