Anna Karenina (Parts 1 and 2)

Arti of Ripple Effects and I decided to read Anna Karenina together before it’s released in film on November 9. She began earlier than I, and is posting on Parts 1-4; I am rereading it more slowly and have only completed up to Part 2. But, we’re still sharing our initial thoughts with you today, perhaps giving you an incentive to read along with us before we finish at the end of October?
I can’t tell you how passionate I am about this novel. I first read it in college, for one of my many Russian literature courses, and I clearly remember writing a paper which I titled, “Anna Karenina: The Plight of The Russian Noble Woman.”
I got a horrible grade.
The professor did not feel that Anna was representative of a typical Russian woman, noble or not, in any way. And now that I have read it again and again in the years since, I think I should have titled my paper: “Anna Karenina: The Plight of People Everywhere.” For to me, it is indicative of the search that we all have to follow our passions, to pursue our desires, to find happiness out of an often dull and repetitive existence. The only difference between some of us and Anna is that we curb our appetites. Whereas she does not.
The novel is full of foreshadowing. As I read my nook, so much lighter to hold than the tome above, I kept marking passages with the highlight function. This, I find, is one of the joys in rereading. You know what’s coming, and you are able to look with what you’re rereading in a “brighter” light. For example, we find Anna talking with the mother of her lover-to-be in their train compartment:
“I could go all around the world with you and never be dull. You are one of those delightful woman in whose company it’s sweet to be silent as well as to talk. Now please don’t fret over your son; you can’t expect never to be parted.”
or, when her husband begins to understand that she is in love with Count Vronsky he says:
“Our life has been joined, not by man, but by God. That union can only be severed by a crime, and a crime of that nature brings its own chastisement.”
We will leave the subject of Anna’s chastisement for later; I simply wanted to point out two small, but extremely powerful, examples of what is to come.
My favorite character in the novel is Levin. He is the landowner, he is the one grounded in simplicity and faith. Almost everything he says is true and good, and I find myself holding him in great admiration. Well, admiration, but also compassion, for the doubts that he holds are the very same doubts I have often asked myself:
“As he saw all this, there came over him for an instant a doubt of the possibility of arranging the new life, of which he had been dreaming on the road. All these traces of his life seemed to clutch him, and to say to him: “No, you’re not going to get away from us, and you’re not going to be different, but you’re going to be the same as you’ve always been; with doubts, everlasting dissatisfaction with yourself, vain efforts to amend, and falls, and everlasting expectation, of a happiness which you won’t get, and which isn’t possible for you.”

It seems that each of Tolstoy’s characters are in a search to discover happiness. To find fulfillment in their lives. It is the way in which they do so which so compels me to love this novel.

To be continued later in October…

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24 comments

  1. Thanks so much for accompanying me on this journey, this your nth time but only my first. Like you, I'm drawn to Levin, he's one down-to-earth, honest and humble man. I don't know what the future holds for him and Kitty, but I wish them well. As for the pursuit of happiness, the best scenario would be one where there's minimum collateral damage along the way. What I've read, so far, looks like a disastrous scenario down the road. Although I know the ending of Anna, I don't about other characters. But, as of now, I can tell one person's tragedy is a tragedy for all.

  2. I started keeping a reading journal back in 1995. The very first entry was for Anna Karenina, which (no shock here) took me SIX months to read! My notes say:

    I enjoyed the book, although it tended to drag in some spots. Very long! I read a few other books, while giving AK a rest. The ending just seemed to fizzle out. Not as good as Dr. Zhivago.

    My first [and only] Tolstoy.
    *****
    I'd like to reread it now that I'm a few years older, but I'm not sure I'm cut out for such a long reread. Maybe I'll see if I can get it on audio.

  3. Bellezza, how do you do it? How is it that you write these posts that make me just want to stop what I'm doing and pick up the book you are posting about? Seriously! I've never had any inclination to read AK, but after reading your post, I have to admit that I kind of want to now. I think the book is calling out to me. I'm going to have to kindle it and read it later on this year (or maybe early next year). It just sounds so good!

  4. Any Russian novel makes a great Winter read. There's not only the snow, but one seems to have the time to delve into such lengthy books. Plus, I can't imagine reading something like Dr. Zhivago in August. In Illinois. Ick.

  5. A disastrous scenario is most definitely in store. And it never ceases to take my breath away.

    It's an interesting idea how Ine persin's tragedy is such that for all. We are so Intertwines that we cannot wound, or be wounded, in isolation.

  6. Audio might be the perfect venue for you to enjoy this book. I've never heard any Russian books on audio, but they might be quite lovely.

    My mother saw your comment about enjoying The Night Circus on audio and she thinks that would be a great thing to do. We'll put it on hold at the library and should surely have it by March.;)

  7. Yikes. I just popped over to my library's website and almost downloaded Android Karenina instead of Anna Karenina. Guess they don't have what I want on audio. At least not downloadable. Oh, well.

    Hope your mom enjoys The Night Circus!

  8. Yeah, I'm not thinking Android Karenina would be quite the thing. Do we have the same libraries? Ours never has what I want, but there are a plethora of ridiculous titles I can only laugh at.

  9. I love Anna Karenina, but I have reservations about Pevear-Volokhonsky after reading some articles about how their translations are literal to the point of being unreadable (this was a review of their Doctor Zhivago).
    Also, I can't help but adore Constance Garnett's perhaps less than faithful, but so delightfully 19th century version. It reads almost like Austen!

    Should I still give this version a try? Did you find any problems with the aforementioned clunky translation in this, or any of their other works?

  10. Ah, you bring up such a good point. Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of War and Peace was marvelous, as was there translations for The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov and even Anna Karenina. But Dr. Zhivago from their pen was indeed a horror. I think Anna Karenina was done well, but I'm with you: it's hard to beat Constance Garnett!

  11. I am listening to AK now, narrated by Kate Lock and she is doing a fabulous job of it. What is fun for me are the two different translations because I am going back and forth to my Pevear and Volokhonsky's edition to keep track of pages completed for goodreads. And to read when in the company of my husband because it is difficult to listen (earbuds = rude?!) in his presence but reading is acceptable.
    I'm loving it and am so excited that I can finally get my teeth into this novel! I didn't realize you set this up to end in Nov so I guess I can officially say I am joining in with the readalong. :)
    I will attempt to write a half-way post soon.

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