Adventures in Reading


Anna Karenina
August 30, 2007, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I finished Anna Karenina Tuesday evening and to start my post I was going to quote the opening line. As I did not have my book on me and suffer from a dreadful memory I thought: “Hey, I’ll just Google it!” I did this only to find a multitude of translations. This makes perfect sense as it is a Russian novel translated into English, but I was wrong in my privileged assumption of a standard English first line. Now thanks to Wikiquote I can provide you with at least a handful of the translations:

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

Or:

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Or:

“All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

After concluding Anna Karenina I found myself feeling depressed, and not because of the tone of the story but because I was finished with it. It was brilliant and I am sure anything I read from now on will always pail in comparison to a pre-Anna Karenina reading. In my last post about the novel I queried whether Anna would actually kill herself simply to punish Vronsky and I found this option to be rather disappointing. Through the entire story much of Anna’s unhappiness seemed to be founded in her struggle for freedom. She never discovers her own freedom in the male dominated world.

The point of Anna’s death is perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the novel. Anna is obviously depressed (in today’s world she would probably be medicated) and she bounds back and forth from despair to happiness. Much earlier in the book the reader has discovered Anna’s precarious position – she is not married to Vronsky and if he falls out of love with her then she is screwed. However, Anna does not want to enter another (possible) loveless marriage. Anna kills herself with intention seeing that she has no other alternative but wait… What flutters across her face as she throws herself beneath the train (paralleling the man who threw himself beneath a train on the day Vronsky and Anna met)? Why, it is Anna regretting her choice but to no avail as the train crushes the life from her body.

From here I am left to wonder whether through death she found her freedom or was punished. Rather pessimistically I read this as a punishment because of Anna’s response moments before her death. At the same time, all that day she had experienced changing moods. So much in the book was interesting: Anna not wanting to have more children, the question of women’s emancipation, questioning advancing technology, death and suicide, etc. In the final book when Levin & co. are sitting on the stumps near the beehives eating bread, honey, and cucumbers – that had to be one of my favorite parts of the novel. After Anna’s death (and just before the near fatality of Kitty) it was an odd scene that reminded me of the film Burnt By the Sun.

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1 Comment

I think I know how you feel. When I finished a biography of Chet Baker, a musician who I love, I found myself sad, thinking that, for a long time, I would not be able to read any other book, so moved was I. In my blog I once wrote that this is a kind of literary hangover. As for Anna Karenina, I loved this book. In fact, I love Tolstoy and so far there´s no story wrote by him that doesn´t please me. Sorry for my broken English. bye

Comment by osvjor




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