Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Anna Karenina, Part 1 of 2

Title: Anna Karenina, Part 1 of 2
Author: Leo

For lucky Book #13, I'm going to talk about Anna Karenina. I'm more than halfway through Tolstoy's epic, but since this book really is massive, it's probably prudent to write about it in two separate entries. 

What can I say about Anna K? Well, the first is that I have been meaning to read this book for ages. It's been on my list since school, but obviously, other (shorter) books got in the way of our relationship. With all the film advertisements going on this year about Anna K though, plus the fact that I now own an e-reader and no longer have the excuse that it's 'too heavy' to travel around with Anna K, I finally decided take the plunge.

And is it worth it so far? 


This is cheesy, but the more you read this book, the more it grow on you. It's definitely not an instant gratification: you need to invest a lot of time and energy to sit still and read it. But once you get started, the more you read about each character, the more you empathize with their point of view. And even though you discover that each character is very flawed, each in their own unique way, they are all perspectives that you can understand and get to know deeply. 
You say that everything is very simple and interesting
it makes me feel very wistful, like reading a great
                                                          Russian novel does
from Yesterday Down at the Canal, Frank O'Hara, 1961
I think I read it at a right time in my life, when I have more of an understanding about the human psyche. It is so fascinating to read these Tolstoy characters constantly changing their minds, constantly loving and hating their lovers and families, constantly behaving in contradictory ways and misunderstanding each other ... and it's just all so real. What I like about it is that even though it was written in the 1870s, the worries, the fears, and the joys are still very much the same 150 years later.

A few other notes for now: 
  • Wikipedia just informed me that Anna Karenina started as a newspaper serial. That's why it's so long ... just like Dickens!
  • the Russian names are not too hard to follow. I remember Crime & Punishment being a lot more confusing, and even though you meet a lot of characters in Anna K, it's still quite easy to recognize each person. Perhaps this is due to the good translation. 
  • this book is like Joyce's Ulysses, in that it's an encyclopedia, covering all sorts of topics from farming techniques to current philosophies to pedagogy to history ... fascinating!
  • I actually enjoy the other storyline more than Anna Karenina's storyline. Yes, everyone knows the ending to Anna K, but no one ever talks about Levin, who is the other main character. I love his point of view! He's so quaint, so cute and awkward, so unsociable, so idealistic yet practical ...
  • other people have commented on the 'floating' omniscient narration ... it's really funny reading the point of view of random people, and not only that, of dogs and children's perspectives. Very humourous.

Part 2 will follow once I finish the book.

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