Friday, November 27, 2009

Anna Karenina

I recently finished the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of Anna Karenina. I love the elegance of their translation. I get a real flavor of the upper class Russian society. At the same time I feel like I really know these characters as real people.

In the introduction Pevear says that Tolstoy wanted to write a book about domestic life, a book without a lot of action in the plot. He certainly succeeded. Aside from Anna's death there are few outwardly dramatic events. Yet, we really see into the emotional lives of the characters and can identify with them.

For example, I expected to dislike Karenin intensely. Instead I felt very sorry for him. If he weren't such an emotional cripple maybe he could have held on to Anna. When he begins to love Anna's illegitimate daughter I felt he was at his best. It makes him even more pitiable when he later falls under the influence of Princess Irina and loses all possibility of becoming a genuine person.

Levin was a fabulous character. He is so contradictory and torn. He is so hard on himself that he makes his life extremely difficult. It is easy to see how much of himself Tolstoy put into Levin. I liked how in the end Levin decides that he just has to live as much as he can. He decides to perserve through the contradictions of his lack of faith and need to pray when faced with a crisis. That's just how life is.

I will definitely reread this book again, maybe in a year or two.