Saturday, December 1, 2007

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The central love story between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky is compelling and tragic. Anna and the Count have an affair, causing much talk in society. Due to the double standards of the time, while Vronsky may still hold his head high in society, Anna is forced to stay inside and hide her shame.

Anna turns to Vronsky─a dashing military man─as a refuge from her passionless marriage to a pompous, despotic bureaucrat--a move that results not only in the loss of her position in the world, but also in total social ostracism. A situation that fills her with self-doubt, and which ends up destroying her confidence.

A parallel plot follows the contrasting fortunes of Levin (Tolstoy's alter ego, with his deep love of the land) and Kitty, whose marriage thrives and prospers because of mutual commitment, sympathy, and respect. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy reaches deep into his own experiences and his observations of family and friends to create a picture of Russian society that reaches from the high life in St. Petersburg and Moscow to the idyllic rural existence of Kitty and Levin.

Tolstoy shows Anna Karenina as a young woman who finds herself in a loveless and hopeless marriage. But this fact might not have seemed so intolerable had she not met and fallen in love with Count Vronsky. But she did and the affair commenced. In contrast to Anna's tragic affair, we hear about the relationship between Kitty and Levin, a conjugal, idealized love match. Levin is first rejected by Kitty because she has her heart set on Count Vronsky whose affections are already taken by Anna Karenina. Brokenhearted, Kitty eventually turns back to Levin for love and marriage.

In the character of Anna, Tolstoy creates a woman fated for tragedy.

Anna falls in love blindly with Count Vronsky. Although she could well have continued the relationship in secret she defies the "rules," by having her affair in the public’s eye. For this she is forced to lose all contact with her son; she is shunned from proper society, and forced to pay the ultimate price.

The length of this novel might be overwhelming to many readers. But─in a work of art─it couldn’t be otherwise as each character had to be depicted in detail and each situation covered fully.

This book is rich in psychological insights as it gives you the feeling that is really about people. Their personalities are worked out so well that you can really feel their pain as well as their pleasure. At the beginning, I had the odd impression that all the characters were presented as good people, but later we see them for what they are: some good, others bad, and a few really repulsive.

We follow the eponymus heroine─loveless, unloved, a doomed pariah─to social ruin and ultimately to her death. Beneath the drama and the tragedy we find discussions of Russian politics and the introduction of some socialist ideas, topics which are interesting indeed─but inimical to the towering humanity of Anna Karenina.

The characterisations are dazzling and the prose superb, lyrical at times. Although the novel is long, the plot moves at a rapid pace. The sense of impending doom is palpable and in some passages it becomes almost unbearable. Tense. Tout like the strings of a violin. Tolstoy shows his understanding of the human heart in this masterpiece.

The story is undoubtedly one of the greatest of all times. Worth reading again and again. Re-read, or give a this book for Christmas--you'll be remembered for it. So, order a few copies and make your friends and relatives happy!

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse

The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers

Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
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Lindsey Vonn

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