Monday, 5 November 2012

Anna Karenina, Part 2 of 2

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

Back to Book #13, Anna Karenina. It's actually a bit unfair that I wrote Part 1 of my comments when I've read over 75% of the book, but actually the last 120 pages are quite interesting and different.

Spoilers alert. Please don't read on if you don't want to know the ending. 

Near the end, Anna Karenina takes on a strange persona - more and more characters find her incredibly beautiful and bewitching, and she feels very different in personality. I find myself hating her more and more and yet strangely attracted to her as well. What a monster! Actually, by the very last few pages of her point of view, I just really couldn't stand her anymore. She's unwanted by society, she loses a lot of things (status, family, respect, etc) and rightly, she should feel upset. For the better part of the novel, she manages to hang on to her dignity. At the very end though, she turns incredibly delusional, becomes highly jealous of her partner's every action and distorts reality to the point where I can't even sympathize with her plight anymore.

Needless to say, Anna does not have a happy ending. What is strange is that even at the end of her life, when you think she has finally chosen her fate, she is robbed of that self-agency ... she wavers between wanting to end her life and not wanting to, and right when she's supposed to make a decision ... well ... the decision was made for her. Tolstoy is so cruel!

My interpretation of the book has been highly shaped by the book's preface ... there I learned that in the midst of writing this novel (over the span of a few years), Tolstoy's world view changed from atheistic (or agnostic?) to one controlled by religious angst. As you can imagine, Tolstoy started off writing the novel with plenty of sympathy for his heroine, a woman who decides to put love above family and religion, but by the end, he can't understand her perspective anymore, and have to make up ridiculous, irrational thoughts for Anna to justify her actions. It makes me a bit annoyed.

So, is Anna Karenina still a great novel? Yes, for the majority of the book, I really enjoyed following every single character's thoughts and actions. Tolstoy is a great master ... my only impossible wish is: what if he finished writing the novel in one year, instead of four? What if! Would Anna be living happily ever after?

I still recommend this book to everyone who can put aside a huge chunk of time for reading ... it only took me two months to finish.

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