Friday, January 13, 2012
Anna Karenina Wrap-Up Post
If you've read any of my prior posts on the book, you may remember that Anna Karenina is actually a re-read for me [technically] although the fact that I read it in highschool (some 17 years ago or so) means that I don't remember much except for hazy pictures of unhappy people in big houses in the middle of Russia. And trains of course.
This was my 2nd read-along (the first being last spring for Villette--also with Wallace) and it was also a very good experience. I work well with deadlines, I suppose, so the schedule works for me. Also, it's a great way to digest a classic: periodic discussions aid in understanding and appreciation. So read-along=thumbs up, & hoping for more in 2012.
In Week 1, I delighted in Tolstoy's humor as well as the wonderful translation. Also, it was crazy to realize that most of the main characters are not more than 34-35 years old. When I was a teen that sounded ancient, now it seems oh-so-very-young. ;)
Week 2 was all about adding layers: the characters and the plot both start to become more complex as the picture starts to fill in. Tolstoy continues to do this throughout the novel, which is one of the things that made it feel so real and intriguing to me.
Anna starts working herself into a corner in Week 3. We see a little more of the social life in the upper class, and also some hints that the times are a-changing.
Week 4 is quieter. We see Kitty's time abroad and Levin's observations on farming. We are left to ponder the important things in life.
It's crunch-time in Weeks 5-7: so many things are starting to come to head and the characters' faults are showing. I began to dislike many of the characters here, and yet was captivated by the story.
Ah, Weeks 8-9. How many angles of love we see here. There's the newlywed bliss and stress, there's the deluded justification of a broken marriage, there's the sad acceptance of a lesser love. Dolly's circumspection here really touched me. She realized that she did have love--which was good--but it wasn't the kind or the quality that she yearned for. (sigh*)
The last quarter of the book shows Anna & Vronsky falling apart, Kitty & Levin grow stronger, Dolly and Stiva find a way to hold it together. Seeing Anna crack up was pretty intense. Tolstoy ended the book on a philosophical note rather than on drama and plot--something that felt very Tolstoy to me. At first, since I'd been so enraptured in the story, I had a hard time switching back to philosophy. In the end, though, I found that it not only allowed the story time to settle and soak in, but it also really brought all the plot points and themes together.
Tolstoy went through some major life changes while writing this book. He struggled, as Levin does in the book, with what the meaning of life is & how he should be living. While in the beginning Tolstoy was excited about writing what he viewed as a proper novel, in the end he was sick of it--had changed it so many times and just wanted to be done with it. And yet the result is still wonderful. I love that you can take so many different messages away from the book: since Tolstoy is mulling over all the issues himself, the book feels more like an invitation to mull over it along with him rather than being a vehicle to deliver his agenda.
This has solidified Tolstoy as one of my very favorite authors. The mix of insight and action, poetry and wit are melded into perfection for me here.
[some of my favorite quotes:]
p. 236: ...She understood that she had deceived herself in thinking that she could be what she wished to be.
p. 260: Hard as Stepan Arkadyich tried to be a solicitous father and husband, he never could remember that he had a wife and children.
p. 427: “I’ll begin from the beginning: you married a man twenty years older than yourself. You married without love or not knowing what love is. That was a mistake, let’s assume.”
p. 608: ...They all fall upon Anna. What for? Am I any better? I at least have a husband I love. Not as I’d have wanted to love, but I do love him, and Anna did not love hers. How is she to blame, then? She wants to live. God has put that into our souls. [...] I might have loved and been loved in a real way.
p. 614: “When you love someone, you love the whole person, as they are, and not as you’d like them to be.”
p. 729: Children? In Petersburg children did not hinder their father’s life. Childen were brought up in institutions, and there existed nothing like that wild idea spreading about Moscow - as with Lvov, for instance - that children should get all the luxuries of life and parents nothing but toil and care. Here they understood that a man is obliged to live for himself, as an educated person ought to live.
p. 780: “Yes, as a tool I may prove good for something. But as a human being I am a wreck,” he said measuredly.
p. 817: [last paragraphs] This new feeling hasn’t changed me, hasn’t made me happy or suddenly enlightened, as I dreamed - just like the feeling for my son. Nor was there any surprise. And faith or not faith - I don’t know what it is - but this feeling has entered into me just as imperceptibly through suffering and has firmly lodged itself in my soul.
I’ll get angry in the same way with the coachman Ivan, argue in the same way, speak my mind inappropriately, there will be the same wall between my soul’s holy of holies and other people, even my wife, I’ll accuse her in the same way of my own fear and then regret it, I’ll fail in the same way to understand with my reason why I pray, and yet I will pray - but my life now, my whole life, regardless of all that may happen to me, every minute of it, is not only not meaningless, as it was before but has the unquestionable meaning of the good which it is in my power to put into it!