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GROUP READS > May FICTION selection ANNA KARENINA

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message 1: by Tim (new)

Tim Regan (dumbledad) | 22 comments (I hope the mods do not mind me starting this thread early!)

I just wanted a quick shout out about translators: try to get your hands on a copy translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. Tolstoy said of them “Better translators, both for knowledge of the two languages and for penetration into the very meaning of the matter translated, could not be invented.”

Enough said!


message 2: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
Thanks for starting the thread, Tim. It's a big enough book that people might want to consider starting to read a few days early. This way they have a place ready for them if they have any initial thoughts!

I can't speak to the different translations but thanks for the suggestion on the Maude translation. I know people who are very partial to Constance Garnett's translations.

It's been years since I read Anna Karenina, and unfortunately I don't even know whose translation I read about 20 years ago.


message 3: by Tim (new)

Tim Regan (dumbledad) | 22 comments Wow - I may try both and flit between them for particularly moving or thought provoking sections!


message 4: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Just to touch in on the translation subject, I've read a few chapters of both the Garnett and Pevear/Volokhonsky translations. They are generally similar, but I do think that the Pevear translation reads a bit more smoothly for a modern reader, while the Garnett translation has more of an old fashioned clipped dialect that I might imagine is a more direct vocabulary translation. That is to say that I think the Pevear/Volohonsky translation took a more nuanced approach with Tolstoy's meaning rather than a direct approach with the words. It (the Pevear) also received the PEN Translation Prize.

I was unable to find the version you recommended, Tim. I will continue to read both for now but eventually will stick to one. At this point I'm personally ok with either. I've never read Anna Karenina, so I'm torn between reading an established translation and a newer "better" translation... book people problems, amirite?


message 5: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Okay, now that May has officially started I will officially kick off this month's read of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
Acclaimed by many as the world's greatest novel, Anna Karenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfil her passionate nature - with tragic consequences. Levin is a reflection of Tolstoy himself, often expressing the author's own views and convictions.

Throughout, Tolstoy points no moral, merely inviting us not to judge but to watch. As Rosemary Edmonds comments, 'He leaves the shifting patterns of the kaleidoscope to bring home the meaning of the brooding words following the title, 'Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.

Whichever translation you choose to read, I hope you will join us in reading and discussing this hefty classic.


message 6: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
Thanks, Anita!

As I mentioned before, it's been years since I read Anna Karenina, but I loved it at the time. It is definitely a hefty classic but so worth it in my opinion. There were parts that actually left me breathless at the time (which rarely happens!).

I look forward to seeing what others think of this.


message 7: by Shaneka (new)

Shaneka Knight | 24 comments I won't be reading along, but this is one of my favourite books. Happy reading and I hope you all enjoy it :D


message 8: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
I'm about 10 chapters in, and I really like this book! I haven't even met Anna Karenina yet - just Stepan and Levin have been introduced as main characters. The internal monologue and emotion is wonderfully developed by Tolstoy... it's very entertaining to read.

Any one else on this yet?


message 9: by Jo (new)

Jo | 27 comments I bought an old copy in German at a flea market. So far, the language is quite amusing- very stiff an old-fashioned.


message 10: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Jo wrote: "I bought an old copy in German at a flea market. So far, the language is quite amusing- very stiff an old-fashioned."

That's awesome!


message 11: by kath! (new)

kath! (albumthreevinyl) | 1 comments i read this for school so long omg


message 12: by Tim (last edited May 04, 2019 09:42PM) (new)

Tim Regan (dumbledad) | 22 comments Anita wrote: "I was unable to find the version you recommended, Tim. I will continue to read both for now but eventually will stick to one. ...

@Anita, if you do find a passage they differ substantially on please do post it here (perhaps in a spoiler tag) and I'll post the Maudes' version.


message 13: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Tim wrote: "Anita wrote: "I was unable to find the version you recommended, Tim. I will continue to read both for now but eventually will stick to one. ...

@Anita, if you do find a passage they differ substan..."


I love this idea and will do so, however I'm finding that they are quite similar.

As for the story, I've finally met Anna and Vronsky and boy is there a lot of romantic drama going on or what? I'm still finding it very entertaining, and the Pevear translation does offer a few footnotes that add insight to some current events that the characters talk about, as well as translations from other languages that the Garnett version does not. What a group of learned people we're reading about.


message 14: by El (new)

El | 756 comments Mod
As it's been a while since I've read this book, I'll just throw this question out to see if it sparks any discussion:

Based on your reading of Anna Karenina, what do you feel Tolstoy's stance was in terms of feminism? Was Anna meant to be portrayed as a feminist? Are there examples where Anna seemed to move against the patriarchal grain? Examples of other characters who were, for lack of a better word, misogynistic?

These are just some ideas. Feel free to discuss any other topics or questions that might arise during your reading!


message 15: by Tim (new)

Tim Regan (dumbledad) | 22 comments I'm not getting as much time to read as I'd like so I'm probs behind you all, but I did find a passage where the translations differ. Check these out (it's really near the start so I won't bother wrapping the passage in spoiler tags).

Stephan Arkadyevitch had not chosen his political opinions or his views; these political opinions and views came to him of themselves, just as he did not chose the shapes of his hat and coat, but simply took those that were being worn. And for him, living in a certain society—owing to the need, ordinarily developed at years of discretion, for some degree of mental activity—to have views was just as indispensable as to have a hat.


Stephan Arkadyich chose neither his tendency nor his views, but these tendencies and views came to him themselves, just as he did not choose the shape of a hat or a frock coat, but bought those that were in fashion. And for him, who lived in a certain circle, and who required some mental activity such as usually develops with maturity, having views was as necessary as having a hat.


Oblonsky's tendency and opinions were not his deliberate choice: they came themselves, just as he did not choose the fashion of his hats or coats but wore those of the current style. Living in a certain social set, and having a desire, such as generally develops with maturity, for some kind of mental activity, he was obliged to hold views, just as he was obliged to have a hat.


Do you want me to tell you which is which or respond to them first?

I find one clear, one poetic, and one a bit of a mess; but in a quick straw poll of my wife, our son, and me we have each chosen a different favourite!


message 16: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
I've just started part 3.

I was very ready for a lot of passion going in to part 2, (view spoiler)

I enjoyed the aside in part 2 that covered Kitty on holiday with her mom, and am currently reading a bit about Levin in the country. It's interesting enough, and since I've read that Levin is a representation of Tolstoy's own political views, I find it a little funny that he throws these political conversations in - as though Tolstoy feels the need to explain himself as Levin does.

I thought i had responded to your prompt already el, but it seems to have disappeared.

Imo, He makes more social political commentary rather than on gender equality. Although, taking into account the book's age, he doesn't seem to hold any sort of derision towards women, and is it sad that i think that in itself is a little feminist forward? I think this is a cultural attitude as well. (I'm getting deja vu over my comments, I'm not sure what happened to my previous post)


message 17: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Tim wrote: "I'm not getting as much time to read as I'd like so I'm probs behind you all, but I did find a passage where the translations differ. Check these out (it's really near the start so I won't bother w..."

I'll play at guessing, just for fun.

I wonder if the last is P/V? It seemed to carry an easy flow. Maybe Garnett is the first and your Maude the second?

I haven't read any of the Maude so I'm only guessing at which seems the most "Garnett"


message 18: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Reading about Levin working his fields was a bit therapeutic, however quite redundant. I wonder why Tolstoy chose to beat us over the head with this repetition; of both physical labor and politics here. Although, I also sense a change coming over Levin - which i assume will feed into this reflective portion of the story. I wonder if this also reflects a change that Tolstoy himself went through with his political thought. I'm neither fan nor literary historian enough to know.

It also seems to be a segway into the next part of the book in which we learn Anna's fate as decided by her husband. I wonder how Vronsky will react to the news.

I was also piqued, in Part 2, about how Vronsky reflected on the social response to the scandalous rumours to their affair. It's marked that Vronsky does nothing to encourage any talk or banter yet his friends are almost in awe of his affair with the high class Anna, whereas the elder circle is scandalized at Anna for being a fallen woman and the younger circle seems happy to have proof that she isn't perfect. It's an interesting reflection on social opinion on gender and how unfairly it treats men vs. women - and notably similar to a generalized reaction would be in modern times.


message 19: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
I see that a lot of people are reading this, so yay. Drop in with any thoughts y'all are having. This is a looong book! (Keep that in mind when voting on the polls because at least one of those leaders is also a hefty read).

I went through a range of reader emotions while reading of Levin. Since I know (rather, I've been told) he is a representation of Tolstoy in his own story, I find reflecting on his thoughts and interactions a very interesting lesson on Russian culture and history. We're getting a free first hand look at shifting social currents, and I do find it fascinating after the fact. I've got to admit it has me interested and then annoyed at how much mowing and crop rotation I'm reading about. I hope I'm not the only one.

For now, I'm back to Anna and Vronsky and Alexei, (view spoiler).


message 20: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
This book has me all sorts of reader stressed. I'm on Part 5! (view spoiler)
I hope to push through these last few hundred pages this week because as much as I'm enjoying it, I'm ready to move on to other books


message 21: by Yulia (new)

Yulia Vorotyntseva (aehie) | 7 comments I used to dislike Tolstoy at high school, where War and Peace was a part of a curriculum. Exactly for his anti-feminism. The teacher instructed us that, according to Tolstoy, each human being is "grey" (that is, there is good and bad in everyone), but at the same time, she kept praising the Epilogue version of Natasha Rostova as THE ideal woman: abandoned all her past hobbies, like singing and dancing, breastfeeding, all into her husband and children, not caring about her looks. Another version of a "good woman" there is ugly, but pious and submissive Princess Maria Bolkonskaya. That was opposed to the pretty yet moderately shallow Bolkonskiy's first wife and a stupid, promiscuous, yet sexually appealing Pierre's first wife. On top of that, there is the famed 19-th century Russian jingoism, that was being imposed again exactly during my school years, and Tolstoy was one of the tools. Even when I re-read the novel as an adult, I still couldn't help feeling the hypocrisy.

Anna Karenina, however, is a more "mature" novel. Though all my concerns from War and Peace still apply, there is more benefit of doubt, and the blame for disasters is distributed more evenly between men and women. I feel like throughout the novel, the "pure" Levin-Kitty relationship is contrasted with the "dirty and dark" Vronsky-Anna relationship. I feel like Tolstoy traces the "root" of all misery to Anna's aunt, who tricked Alexei Alexandrovich into marrying Anna. This mirrors the Levin's anxious thoughts on the eve of his own wedding, when he suddenly gets an idea that his wife-to-be might be not in love with him and just complies with the social expectations. He is convinced that such "compliance" marriage would inevitably lead to infidelity.

Still, it looks to me like Tolstoy does not "absolve" Anna. Recall the episode when Dolly visits Anna and Vronsky. On her way there, she feels frustrated with her life: unfaithful husband, beauty lost to multiple pregnancies, lots of child-related griefs, unfulfilled dreams of love. Yet, when Dolly learns that Anna uses some birth control, she feels so disgusted that she decides she was right to stick to her unhappy marriage.

So, is Tolstoy a feminist? To answer it, keep in mind that the real protagonist in the Anna Karenina novel is Levin (a last name derived from Lev, as in Lev Tolstoy), and Kitty-Levin relationship is based on Tolstoy's relationship with his wife, Sophia. Given that, note that Levin supported the idea of women education not because he thought it was fair, but because his bride pointed out the misery of old maids who have to live at their relatives' mercy.

From the summaries I read, the Tolstoy's later novel, "Resurrection", is a further progress in a sense of men accountability. I haven't read the novel itself yet though. It is very worth noting though that "Resurrection" is a kind of repentance novel, where old Count Tolstoy writes what he wishes he had done to help a servant woman he ruined when he was young. That very woman is referred to in Anna Karenina, when Levin confesses to Kitty that he is sexually experienced. At that point, Levin does not ruminate about the ruined woman herself though, just about his own ruined purity.

The Russian feminist writer is Chekhov. Tolstoy is very talented, intelligent, thoughtful, conscientious -- yet his core values are the ones of a jingoist and misogynic empire, of which he was a Count.

PS: I love Tolstoy's works because of their exceptional aesthetic quality.


message 22: by Yulia (last edited Jun 04, 2019 09:02AM) (new)

Yulia Vorotyntseva (aehie) | 7 comments Anita wrote: "Anna and Alexei Alexandrovich don't actually like each other at all. "

I don't think so. My impression: at the start, they have mutual respect and kind of friendship, just no passion. Later into the novel, their relationship is defined by Anna's betrayal.

Anna's feelings start swinging. She is betraying him, so she "picks" on him to convince herself he deserves it. At the same time, she worships him at the moments of remorse.

On Karenin side, you see those classic Freudian defense mechanisms: repression, denial and rationalization -- though the novel was published long before Freud has conceptualized them.

The Anna-Karenin dynamics is my favorite thing in this novel. It is so fascinating to dive into their thoughts.


message 23: by Anita (last edited Jun 13, 2019 10:20AM) (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Well Yulia, I agree with your view on their shifting affections for each other. My comment was about that specific moment in the book when they had already shifted to dislike. Alexei Alexandrovich was hoping she would, in fact, die, and Anna was so annoyed at his mere presence when she didn't die while he tries to stay by her side and reconcile their marriage. They clearly didn't even like each other and were briefly affectionate only because Anna was on her deathbed.
However, even before this. Anna and Alexei married because it was the thing to do. Sure they may have had mutual respect and compatability towards their spouse, but I don't believe that means they essentially "liked" each other anyways. He was cold and indifferent as long as appearances were kept up, and she was... comfortable in her position. They were good partners.

I did finally finish this book. I feel very accomplished, however I don't feel like I got that dramatic punch of romance I was expecting right away. However, the more I reflect on this book, the more I find it as a (very long) love letter from Tolstoy to Russia. It's really quite passionate in its love of land, society, and politics. I'm kind of unpacking my thoughts as I go here. But I think the majority of this story is about how Tolstoy really wanted to reflect on ideological shifts through Levin. I read an amazing review on how the different couples represented the ideologies of old, changing, and new Russia.

As for the feminism, I couldn't say whether I do find it feminist but not in an American mainstream kind of way, or just no, it isn't feminist nor meant to be. It's very male oriented in its focus and I was actually a little annoyed that he glossed over all opportunities to give the same in depth reflection on the female centric political isssues that came up in conversation; such as women in office and women's education and women entering the workforce. He always quickly moved on with dismissive comments from the men having these conversations, and didn't give any women in his book very voiciferous roles or even inner monologues to explore (anything) these political changes. The roles of these female characters was much more subtle and quite impactful upon reflection. Such as I would imagine Levin (aka Tolstoy) would romanticise women and Russia.

He did, however, vastly explore the social castes and "place" of Russian men across the board. His socio-economical exploration was so expansive that sometimes I didn't even know why this was named Anna Karenina or touted as a tragic romance. I'm pretty sure I likened myself to a dead horse at one point because of his insistence on romanticizing muzhik labor. No, Tolstoy was too much of an intellectual to give us anything as simple as rom-dram. I hate to say it, but I think this is a book that needs to be read more than once.


message 24: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Yulia wrote: "I used to dislike Tolstoy at high school, where War and Peace was a part of a curriculum. Exactly for his anti-feminism. The teacher instructed us that, according to Tolstoy, each human being is "g..."

These are great comments, thank you for adding a lot more to the conversation surrounding the book as well. I'm not familiar with jingoism, but will look it up. I was also so frustrated at the seemingly endless double standards and conflicting morals of these characters. Your scene with Dolly going to see Anna is a perfect example.

Levin's view of fallen women and how he placed Kitty on a pedestal is one of the most frustrating character qualities in society. The idea that women are wonderful and great as long as they're pure and mine and only mine. His jealousy was outrageous. And that they always reconciled after one of his jealous brooding episodes made me want to scream at Kitty to run.

The final sentences even allude to his own character flaws and how he knows they are there but he will still try to be a good person even though he knows he will fail at it was kind of the pandering icing on the cake. "I know that I'm going to lose my temper and beat an innocent worker in a rage, and scream at my wife because another man spoke to her, but since I know that I'm going to do this and since I know that it is wrong, then I am a good person. And I'm telling you now so you know that it is true that I am a good man. Hey, I'm just human after all. Also, God is good." - my summary of the ending.


message 25: by Shaneka (new)

Shaneka Knight | 24 comments Anita wrote: "Yulia wrote: "I used to dislike Tolstoy at high school, where War and Peace was a part of a curriculum. Exactly for his anti-feminism. The teacher instructed us that, according to Tolstoy, each hum..."

Also, God is Good. I think you've made my day :')


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