Anna Karenina

Read the original before you see the new film version

Read the original before you see the new film version

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

This edition put out by Wordsworth Classics is a marvelous translation that is a joy to read after having struggled through some other classics in very archaic language! The story of Anna and her great love affair and the tragic results kept me reading in spite of the 800 some pages in length!


Set in the 1860’s, just after the serfs were liberated, the struggle for Levin to find good laborers on his rural estate is a backdrop on his own almost failed love affair. We hope for his success and that somehow, he and Kitty will end up together!

Written after War and Peace and published in 1877, some say that this is Tolstoy’s best novel and even the greatest Russian novel. The struggle between what one desires and the moral standards of the society around us is a perennial theme. Once Anna crosses the line, the fact that she is ruined socially no longer matters to her at all. The very act we abhor, once committed, becomes acceptable to us.

At first one feels little sympathy for the stolid Karenin, Anna’s wronged husband. But he suddenly and unexpectedly redeems himself in our eyes when he unconditionally forgives Anna. He is even moved to compassionate action toward Anna’s love child. He becomes a fine character after all.

He was not thinking that the law of Christ, which all his life he had tried to fulfill, told him to forgive and love his enemies but a joyous feeling of forgiveness and love for his enemies, filled his soul.

Tatiana samoilova in the 1967 Russian version

Tatiana samoilova in the 1967 Russian version

Anna and her Count Vronsky are forced to live abroad and she loses custody of her young son. Yet she is very happy …for a time. Soon, however Vronsky is plagued by boredom and Anna begins to realize the magnitude of what she has done in giving up her son.

 I was surprised how readable the story is even after 150 years have passed. Don’t be put off by the length! By all means, read this great Russian classic.
Keira Knightly as Anna

Keira Knightly as Anna


One thought on “Anna Karenina

  1. I read this about a decade ago, and I remember feeling the same way- that it was unexpectedly readable and that it sucked me right in. I should read it again in my 30s and see if I get more out of it. Very nice blog, by the way! I’m impressed 🙂

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