Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”

This is the first of Tolstoy’s many books that I have read and I loved it.

I think that I have already posted about my love of Russian Literature in my blog about Crime and Punishment. It is one of my favourites and I think that the country with its turbulent history and variety of people, culture and politics makes great inspiration for some beautiful stories.

Anna Karenina certainly makes use of this variety that Russia offers. Stark differences between the country and city life, classes and beliefs. It is also a story of love, desire and the lengths that both will drive a person to go.

“‘Everything is at an end, and that’s all,’ said Dolly.  ‘And the worst of it is, you understand, that I can’t leave him: there are the children, and I am bound.  Yet I can’t live with him; it is torture for me to see him'”

Tolstoy has such a magnificent way of portraying character’s thoughts and emotions in all of their contradictory complex truth. His prose invokes passion and when you are reading you not only read the pure feelings of his characters but also of the writer himself.

“‘Do this for me: never say such words to me, and let us be good friends.’ These were her words, but her eyes said something different”

 There were a few parts that I was slower getting through. There are moments of deep politics and detail about farming that were tough but I think that this is something to be enjoyed. It is important to slow down when reading sometimes and just to savour what is being written, what has happened and what you imagine will happen next.

“‘No, you were not mistaken,’ she said slowly, looking despairingly into his cold face.  ‘You were not mistaken.  I was, and cannot help being, in despair.  I listen to you but I am thinking of him.  I love him, I am his mistress, I cannot endure you.  I am afraid of you, and I hate you. Do what you like to me'”

I honestly believe that if you are planning on reading a Russian novel that has been translated into English you should only pick up one that has been translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. Their translations are poetic and they are able to let the novel live up to its ‘masterpiece’ reputation.

I looked for an answer to my question.  But reason could not give me an answer-reason is incommensurable with the question.  Life itself has given me the answer, in my knowledge of what is good and bad.  And that knowledge I did not acquire in any way; it was given to me as to everybody, given because I could not take it from anywhere



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