White Nights discussion

Anna Karenin(a) and Russian Character Development

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Michael (michael_harmon) | 4 comments Hi all!

I had an interesting response to my recent incusion of Anna Karenin and thought I would post it here. Please feel free to discuss any questions it raises or chords it strikes with you!


Sarah's Response:
Give me Crime and Punishment. Give me The Brothers Karamazov, give me Ivan Ilych. I love the Russian lit. Except for [Anna Karenina]. Hated it, hated it. It's sort of a secret shame. I know I'm not supposed to say it, but it's true. I thought she was annoying and Vronsky was a dope :) What caught you?

Michael's Retort:
Haha. Well, I don't blame you - it is probably my least favorite* of the Russian novels I have had the opportunity to read. :)

[*NB: The irony here is that I gave it five stars, and this is what caught Sarah's attention in the first place.]

However, sometimes people notice important things about me and one of them was that I apparently think often like a Russian. Thus, it makes sense that what I really appreciated about this was:

-the calculated "random" tragedy
-the firmness of character development (Notice how good Tolstoy is at making you feel so strongly, almost despairing about the characters themselves, no matter what way that plays out in how you feel; this is the true mark of a Russian!)
-the mentality and reasoning that I can discern behind its authorship

I try not to give too much away in my reviews, either, so we might just have to talk about it later. :)


So, what say ye? Disagreements? Resonances? Enjoy!


message 2: by Rosemary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:08PM) (new)

Rosemary You're right, Michael, that Tolstoy makes us feel so strongly. It's been many, many years since I read Anna Karenina, and what I remember most is the emotion--that recollection enriched now by experience. This past year I saw a production of Anna in the Tropics, and the passion flooded over me again. What a drama--contrasting cold Russia and hot Miami, the ice and fire between characters.

message 3: by Steve (new)

Steve There's this scene in Anna K., where Anna comes to deliver presents to her son. Pretty simple, right. But the way that Tolstoy constructed that scene just ripped me apart. I know this is highly subjective, but it was at that moment that I knew why so many praised this novel so highly. Later, in a rereading, I focused on Levin -- who bored me to death the first time around. I got a lot more out of his character on the second go-round. And I will read this novel again. Dostoevsky's my main Russian, but I reserve plenty of awe for Tolstoy. There's a good essay (a book, really) out there by George Steiner dealing with both that's worth a look.

message 4: by Nena (last edited Oct 08, 2008 11:09AM) (new)

Nena | 1 comments I hated Anna Karenina as well, but my displeasure with the book had little to do with its construction or development. I guess as an American, I feel overwhelmed by the positive imagery of adultery, selfishness, manipulation, social status, and corrupt wealth. It makes me sick how much everyone seems to love and want to be loved by the beautiful yet morally bankrupt. I realize Anna K. was written well before these things became a pop culture mainstay here, but it's all the same principle; bad people=glamorous and interesting, good people=stupid and boring. I'm just too tired of that mantra to ever appreciate this book.

message 5: by Tim (new)

Tim (tobagotim) | 7 comments Of course, the story of Anna and the Army officer is the main theme, but not the only one. Tolstoy, although wealthy himself, was interested in land reform in Russia. As I recall, Lev is the name of the land reformer, who ends up marrying one of the 'selfish' young women, and moving to the country to be farmers. The Anna K story as I understand it was based on a news article about a young women who commited suicide (oops, perhaps you have not gotter that far yet). The rest of the story is somewhat autobiographical. Leo (or Lev) Tolstoy lead the life Anna and the Officer, until they moved to the country to become farmers.
Tolstoy agrees with you. He was sick with the same things that have made you sick about the book.

message 6: by Eldar (new)

Eldar (eldarc) | 2 comments As a Doestoevsky fan, and really apart from having read Gogol's 'Overcoat' I wasn't really exposed to any other Russian writer, I decided to read Ana K. just because War and Peace was way too long. I too found that although overall I liked it, I thought it was too long and descriptive at times where it did not contribute much to the story. Although Tolstoy's genius is quite easily discernable.

I too did not really sympathise with Anna's character and found the Officer's character even more annoying. I did not get a sense however that Tolstoy was trying to make her a sympathetic person and perhaps even shows some contempt for her by almost relishing in her anguish. The parallel with Levin however is nicely (if again too drawn out) played out and his story is one I enjoyed the most.

I also agree with Nena that perhaps because this plotline is so prevalant in our society today and even though Tolstoy was well before this time, it is hard to be warm to the story or become emotionally attached to selfish characters who bring about their own destruction out of boredom and vanity.

The experince has left me somewhat weary of engaging War and Peace because if it anything like Anna K, it is sure to be filled with too many pages which could be skipped.

back to top