Oprah Winfrey was right about her high reagrds for his story. Anna Karenina, a remarkable work of art by one of the few mega-novelists of all times is an ageless story that is more real than fiction. I decided to read a copy of this book on my way to vacation last the summer and ended up spending most of my first week being glued to the book. Though it is a Russian story of a century and a half ago, its essence still resonates today.
Anna who is married to the wealthy and older Karenin lives a life of comfort without any excitement, a life that is full of routines and no zest. It is a life she had become used to until she meets the elegant Vronsky and falls in love. Now she must pay the price of adultery or seek marital stability and forgo the echoes of her heart, a soul searching trial that destabilizes the life of her family and that of her lover. In essence she abandons the meaning for her life and pursues the zest of life.
On the other hand is Levine who is in search of the meaning of life and abandons the zest of life for a purposeful life that includes a family, ideas on the advancement of humanism, being at peace with ones world and hard work in is farm and being at peace with God.
In a way, both Levine and Anna can not be blamed for opting considering one choice above the other. They all wanted happiness without having evil intentions and found a balance between the zest of life and the search of its meaning in their own different ways, hurting and find love in the process and in the end, enriching and destroying themselves in their different ways. A highly recommended read and the most insightful love story I have ever read.The Union Moujik, Doctor Zhivago , Eugene Onegin are some of the other books set in Russia that I enjoyed alongside Anna Karenina.
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Beware, wrong translation!12 janvier 2006
Michael J. Keyes
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The Everyman's Library edition of Anna Karenina is the Maude translation, not the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation praised by so many readers. That translation is available in a Penguin paperback and an out-of-print Viking hardcover edition. Amazon erred in displaying the readers' reviews of the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation under the description of the Everyman's Library book.
29 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Sublime reading30 décembre 2000
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Tolstoy's classic Anna Karenina is a masterpiece. If I were stranded on a desert isle, this is one of the books I would want with me. The story is essentially about a woman who leaves her husband for another man, only to come to a tragic end. Yet the main character is not really Anna, but Kostya Levin, almost the antithesis of Anna. And it is this polarization of characters that is one of the sublime features of this novel. The characters themselves are especially an element that engrossed me. While there are a dizzying number of personalities, each lives "outside" of the story as well as within it - that is to say, even the most minor of characters seems to have a life of their own, only dropping in the story to play a small part before going on about their business. Each character has depth - they are much more than characitures of "good" and "evi", showing their humanity in their follies and in their decisions - for both good and evil. Tolstoy has an alternative motive in Anna Karenina, though. The story has a barely perceptable religious tone to it, Tolstoy makes a moral statement about how life should be lived, and what a person's role in life should be in order to be "truly happy". This is the result of an epiphany that Tolstoy experienced while writing the novel - an event that changed his life and eventually estranged him from many of his children. The only problem I foresee readers having is keeping characters straight (as this translation uses names as well as patronymics - meaning "the son / daughter of" as in Stepan Arkadyvitch: Stepan, son of Arkady). Individuals are referred to by name, patronymic or sometimes nickname (Kostya for Konstantin for example.) My recommendation is to write the characters down in order to keep track of them. With this said, I highly recommend this book - the language is beautiful, the plot is riviting, the story line although a bit moralistic is superb, and the characters are vivid and real.
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
A great book, if not a Great Book15 septembre 2006
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This review is for the Wordsworth Classics edition, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude (there seems to be some confusion as reviews of different editions are appearing under the same listing). This is the only version I've read so far. To enter into the sometimes controversial "Great Books" issue, I think it's good to read books that rank highly on these lists no matter how you feel about such systems of classification. That way, you can form your own opinions about what constitutes greatness and also perhaps learn how greatness is defined culturally. As I see it, most "Great Books" really are great; yet there is also a certain element of arbitrariness that places some books and novelists on the literary Mount Olympus. Tolstoy, along with a very few others such as Shakespeare, is often placed at the very top of such lists. While I don't worship Tolstoy (or Shakespeare for that matter), and have reservations about this whole Great Books mindset, this doesn't mean I can't appreciate a book like Anna Karenina as a "merely" great novel.
Anna Karenina can be seen as a study of 19th Century Russian society. In this way, it is comparable to some of Jane Austen's work, as well as The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. Tolstoy, however, goes deeper than merely reflecting social mores and their often tragic consequences. There are some truly profound passages in Anna Karenina that explore the fundamental questions of life. Many characters -- Levin, Vronsky, Anna and even Anna's apparently superficial husband Karenin, fall into what might be called existentialist crises. Levin in particular is constantly struggling with the issue of materialism vs. religious faith. The black despair Anna experiences late in the novel is beautifully and tragically described. Not enough contemporary novels delve into this kind of territory. What I think Tolstoy does best of all is identify the paradoxical nature of human emotions. A contemporary psychologist might call many of his characters bipolar, though such labels seem superficial and reveal that the social sciences with their categories can seldom reach the depth of literature when it comes to examining human existence. The love/hate dynamic that develops between Anna and Vronsky, for example, is a great portrayal of how emotions and moods can reverse themselves over seemingly insignificant details.
As much as I admire Tolstoy's qualities as a novelist, I don't rank him quite as highly as some do, calling him the greatest novelist of all time (a rather meaningless title in my opinion, no matter who it is claimed for). For all its brilliance, I think Anna Karenina could have used some editing. Looking at the writing style (and here, not knowing any Russian, I am of course relying on the translators), you see that Tolstoy often repeats the same words and phrases with frequency. This is a common habit of writers, but one that is easy enough to correct. To use a couple of examples; there is one chapter where Karenin "smiles coldly" several times and in another section a character "smiles ironically" two or three times on one page. Obviously I am relying on the translator here, but I assume Tolstoy is repeating the phrase. This is, perhaps, nitpicking, but this kind of habit interrupts the flow of prose. E.B. Greenwood, in his introduction to this edition of Anna Karenina, suggests that this, rather than War and Peace is Tolstoy's greatest novel. The reason he gives is that the latter novel gets bogged down in military history while Anna Karenina is a purer novel. There is some truth to this. However, to my reading, in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy gets bogged down in other details that divert attention from the main story. There is one long section, for example, that gets into Levin's theory of farming. This, we are told in a footnote (this edition is very generous with footnotes; some might find this annoying but I appreciated it as most of what these notes revealed was new to me), reflected Tolstoy's own ideas on the subject. I found this to be quite longwinded and hard to get through. In another section, Levin (in whom Tolstoy instilled many of his own inclinations) sits through an excruciatingly boring and confusing political meeting. I don't think covering this in such detail added value to the novel.
Anna Karenina is a novel that is rich and expansive enough to shadow any flaws. My criticisms are mainly directed towards those who depict Tolstoy as perfect. I have read War & Peace and my reaction to it was very similar to Anna Karenina. I found it mostly captivating, but in places too bogged down in secondary concerns. I realize that to many readers what I am criticizing is Tolstoy's ability to portray a comprehensive world with all of its denizens and scenery. I do appreciate this, but have to confess that at times I lose patience with it. For this reason, Tolstoy could never be my favorite novelist (nor even my favorite Russian novelist, which would be Dostoyevsky). I would say without hesitation that Anna Karenina, along with War and Peace, are novels every lover of books should read at least once, as both will enrich your appreciation of, naturally enough, Russian culture and history, but also of life and human nature in general.
22 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Anna Karenina12 mai 2003
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Yes, it is a classic. Yes it is a masterpiece, and true, it is an unbelievably big novel. I had to read Anna Karenina for a 19th century writers course, and I must admit I was intimidated by the size of the book - bearing in mind the length of the semester and the other books one ought to read. Tolstoy starts his masterpiece with a Biblical quote: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" The relevance of those words will be evident to the reader as the novel progresses; the novel is simply about life, passion. There are no perfect beings in this book, there is no right or wrong, but simple, even mundane day to day details - no matter what people say about Anna Karenina, you have to read it for yourself. You will feel the urge to judge, but you will not be able to do so. Tolstoy is a genius, he will make you understand, and that's the correct word. You might sympathise, or feel that the characters are justified, and you might not, and it's all irrelevent in the light of understanding. The novel is a feast of pathos and linguistic genius; in fact I did not want the book to end. Don't be discouraged by the book's length, reap the rewards at your own pace. 'You frightened me, 'she said. 'I am alone and was expecting Serezha. He went for a walk; they will return this way.' But though she tried to be calm her lips trembled. 'Frogive me for coming, but I could not let the day pass without seeing you, 'he continued in French. In Russian the word You sounded cold and it was dangerous to say Thou, so he always spoke French to her." Tolstoy took care of the finest details and whims that go in the characters' heads about the smallest details in life, and you will love him for it! You will be surprised by the things you will learn in this book, like for example the names of the silliest things around the house in Russian! :)
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Is the phrase "Tolstoy epic" redundant?11 décembre 2001
Larry M. Coleman
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The reader educated enough to be interested in anything by Tolstoy probably needs no introduction to the plot and a suggestion for which translation to choose would almost certainly be more useful. I pick three here: Pevear and Volokhonsky - The new kid on the block. A bit stilted and surprisingly unimpressive, considering there have been many other translations to build on. The following two are better choices. The Maudes - Literally accurate, but consequently a bit dry. Nevertheless, a solid translation worth reading. Constance Garnett - Slightly looser, but more poetic for it. The most enjoyable to read. Her esteem as a translator is not undeserved.