lkt's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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May 29, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: also_a_good_movie, deeply_altered_my_thoughtpatterns
Read in June, 2007

"I will punish him and escape from everyone and from myself.."

The classic of all classics.

I really like this translation - it was easy to understand, and the 40 pages of endnotes gave helpful and relevant historical information. I was most interested in Anna and Vronsky's relationship, although I didn't mind Levin's intense philosophical ideas too much. I felt sorry for Dolly and Karenin. I tried to hate Stiva but he's a likeable character in spite of his faults.

I used to regard Anna as more of a heroic individualist, a feminist. Daring to break society's strict rules so she could go after what she wanted. But she becomes more pathetic towards the end, and the reader probably feels sorry for her (as I did). Her insecurity irritated me sometimes, and she played immature games with Vronsky that he knew nothing about. For example, when she told a servant to tell him that she was in bed with a headache, she thought to herself, "If he comes in spite of what the maid says, it means that he loves me still. If not, it means that all is over..." I used to think in that way when I was younger, but it was such a waste.

Still, I regard Anna as one of my favorite literary characters. She is a miserably unhappy woman. She does not have her son, she doesn't love her daughter, she can't go out (while Vronsky can, of course), she has an overactive imagination about what Vronsky's doing. Vronsky says he cannot live without her, yet he is busy wandering about Moscow or Petersburg much of the time.

She feels humiliated that she can't live without him. She "lowered herself" to be with him. I know women do this today, and it only ends up hurting, even killing, them. I wish some of Anna's so-called friends in society would have accepted her, comforted her. Instead, she retreats inside her mind far too much, becoming very irrational and unstable. To depend on one person for your happiness is unwise and unfortunate. Her inevitable breakdown has been forever immortalized by the last scenes and her last thoughts:

"Where am I? What am I doing? What for?"

P.S. This massive story of unhappy families is adapted very well by Masterpiece Theater (starring Helen McCrory and Kevin McKidd)
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