Thursday, August 02, 2007
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is an incredible book.
The translation I read, translated by Constance Garnett
is 870 pages long. It does not seem 870 pages long.
The compelling story line pushes one along as surely as
a tug boat pushes a barge. The only difficulty comes at
the beginning in sorting through all the Russian names,
surnames, middle names and nicknames. They are used so
interchangeably that it takes a bit of a mental effort
to master them.
This book, though, should have been named Levin. He, and
his wife Kitty, are the characters that shine as gold
through the whole sordid love affair of Anna and Vronsky.
Surely Anna is beautiful, charming, and delightful, but she
is also cold, calculating, selfish and extremely needy.
Vronsky is rich, handsome and devil-may-care, but he is also
self-centered and in love with himself.
Levin is tortured by his own failings as a man and a husband
and a member of society, and it is this very torturedness that
makes him so real and likable. His coming to grips at the
end with his Maker brings the entire novel to a satisfying end.
I am not clever enough to understand all the societal ramifications
of the book as far as Russian culture and politics are concerned.
I do know though, that I am glad to have this book on my bookshelf.