Anna Karenina Group Read 2013
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This thread will be for Book 1, through Book 4. I also started a thread for Part 2, which would be Book 5-8: http://www.librarything.com/topic/148197#
Beware of spoilers! Thank you.
"Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment (Tolstoy's unpopular views of volunteers going to Serbia); therefore, the novel's first complete appearance was in book form."
"Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel, when he came to consider War and Peace to be more than a novel.
"Fyodor Dostoevsky declared it to be "flawless as a work of art". His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired "the flawless magic of Tolstoy's style", and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as "the best ever written". The novel is currently enjoying popularity, as demonstrated by a recent poll of 125 contemporary authors by J. Peder Zane, published in 2007 in "The Top Ten" in Time, which declared that Anna Karenina is the 'greatest novel ever written'."
I have the Volokhonsky and Pevear translation, which is what was recommended to me a couple of years ago. And I'm happy to join in one the 13/13 group, although I do have a deadline of February. :)
January will probably be quite a busy month though, I'm kind of expecting a lot of long days at work, so I'm not sure if it'll work out, but at least it'll be good to start it, even if I don't manage to finish it very quickly :)
Would everyone agree on just keeping this on one thread? Unless we get over 200 posts? Of course, as usual, we will be VERY careful with spoilers.
Mark: I've not done a group read yet & I understand AK is pretty massive. Are y'all aiming for a one month read?
Okay, so count me in if we can extend it beyond January... I'll buy the nook version today!
"I'd suggest we just start in January, and see how long it takes." I'm with you Brit!
Cheli- Thanks for posting it on the Wiki.
I tried that once; and I hit goal a couple of days
that book took me about 1.5 months to read; or was it 1.67 months?
Well, I'll do my best, and I might even try for 35 pages a day
Karen- I normally set daily reading goals for myself anyway. Actually, I would prefer a 50 page minimum but I want to see how A.K. flows before I decide that.
Since, I listened to Team of rivals, it made it much easier and faster for me.
I'm quite interested in seeing everyone's thoughts as they read a long.
Did I get everyone/forget anyone?
Cheli- Thanks for posting the names! What a nice group we'll have.
Go Bonnie! Go Bonnie!
*returning to the End of the Year Read-A-Thon... worried she won't finish current read in the next 3 days*
I have no excuses. I admit my failing. One day at a time, I will read it; perhaps, one page at a time.
Thanks. I am so glad you folks are here to support me.
Also, for those of you who are doing the TIOLI challenges: I put AK in challenge 3.
Cheli- Wow, that is very cool! We are approaching a small army!
Mamie, the edition I have is the second from the left in the first post on this thread: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. It does have deckled edges. :-)
I've read the first 25 pages, and already the characters are coming alive for me.
I have no idea if it's a good translation, I bought it a couple of years ago at a booksale, so, you know, it was cheap and I didn't really make a study of what translations were available.
I bet the recent release of the film has the book flying out of libraries at a great rate (that, and it's possible that there are multiple LTers in your small town).
Anyway, happy new year to all of you :)
>Persephone- Yes, I plan on splitting it into 2 threads, probably at the halfway point. I'm not sure we need to do 3 but what do you think?
BTW, I did start a little note book in which I am writing things I notice about people as they show up in the book. I figure if I make a personal comment on the person I may remember them better. Well, we will see....
It's only January 1 and I'm desperately behind on threads. I say read, my friend, read.
I'm slowly but surely "de-starring" the 2012 threads even if people are still posting in them; and I'm starring new 2013 ones. I realize this is traditionally a crazy time for thread congestion. It will settle down.
Still working on AK and making good progress. Thankful I have this thread to encourage me to stick to it.
I'm a bit late to the party but you've inspired me to dive into Anna Karenina again. I read it in college and I'm looking forward to seeing how differently it impacts me this time. If anyone here is new to Tolstoy rest assured that his writing is full of themes that are just as contemporary today as they were when he was scribbling away. Also, enjoying Tolstoy is all about finding the right translation!
I have no idea what translation I have (I just grabbed a cheep copy in a doodads shop), but it's easy to read so far and all the family drama is keeping it interesting. Definitely enjoying it.
I'm actually marking up the pages, underlining phrases and taking notes in the margins, something I don't normally do. But it's a good way for me to stay actively engaged with the text, instead of letting my mind wander.
"Vengeance is mine and I will repay."
I am reading a hardback (slightly musty), part of "The World's Great Classics" series, that my mother gave me, many years ago. This edition runs 1,329 pages. Wow! The good news is, that the print is large, which makes it easy on the eyes, although the wrists ache a little. The translation is done by Constance Garnett and so far I don't mind it.
I just started chapter 12. I loved the Levin ice-skating scene and Vronsky has been mentioned.
Should we split the book at Book 5? I think that might be a good place.
I've finished Parts 1 & 2. Can we start making comments, or are we waiting for awhile?
Hey, you are from Chicago? So am I! Yah!
I just completed Part 1, and already Tolstoy has given us a good introduction to the main characters, and I feel like I know them well. The men seem a bit more defined to me than the women.
I can also see the parallel drawn between Levin and Anna. In Part 1, both leave their home towns for Moscow; they both encounter love/attraction but with different results; they both go to comfort a sibling; they both return to their home towns. When they return home, they each survey their surroundings, and are somewhat disappointed or let down with what they find.
I am anxious for Kitty and Levin; I don't completely understand Anna (does she understand herself?) and I'm not that thrilled with Vronsky. I feel like I could sit down and chat all day with Oblonsky, he seems such a likeable guy.
Thanks for handling your comments so carefully!
Anna Arkadyevna Karenina- High society heroine whose love affair keynotes the novel.
Alexey Alexandrovitch Karenin- Anna's deceived husband. He is a frigid, lonely man with an influential government position in St. Petersburg.
Sergei Alexeyitch Karenin (Seriozha)- Anna's son whom she is forced to leave for her lover's sake.
Count Alexey Kirillovitch Vronsky- Anna's lover, an honorable, rich, handsome aide-de-camp with a promising army career which he gives up in order to live with Anna.
Konstantin Dmitrich Levin (Kostya)- Autobiographical hero of novel.
Princess Katerina Alexandrovna Shtcherbatsky (Kitty)- The eighteen year old debutante who becomes Levin's wife.
Prince Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky (Stiva)- Anna's brother who is a pleasure-loving socialite.
Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonsky (Dolly)- Stiva's long-suffering wife and Kitty's older sister.
Nicolai Dmitrich Levin- Levin's profligate brother who dies of tuberculosis.
Sergei Ivanitch Koznyshev- Levin's elder half-brother who is a famous writer and intellectual.
Thanks, Mark. I have been having difficulty with the names and had to look up that information myself to be able to make sense of them. Even after learning the name conventions, though, it still takes some thinking to keep who is who straight.
So, I'm grateful for the character list. That's really helpful.
OK, could someone smart please phonetically spell the heroine's last name??? I keep trying different pronunciations in my head and I'd like to know what's correct.
>108 TinaV95: Tina, this version appears to be pretty close - Kah-REN-in-ah (stress falls on the second syllable and all vowel sounds are pretty short). But by no means consider this as claim of being someone smart! :)
I came across this Note on Russian Names on SparkNotes (you have to scroll down a bit) however all the key points have already been covered in the posts above. And also Wikipedia has a rather extensive article on Eastern Slavic naming customs here including diminutive forms of most popular names and particulars of forms of address if anyone is interested in additional info (there's a lot and some of it might be confusing though).
Attention! The following while not a spoiler is still sort of spoilerish, so if you know nothing about AK, don't read, please! I've been wondering about something and I hope you guys can help me. Being from Russia myself, I was under impression that when it comes to Anna Karenina much like with Titanic, "everyone knows how it ends" even if you haven't read the book itself. Is it at all the case? Thank you in advance for your thoughts.
I'm still uncertain as to the movie; I'd like to see it, but I'm afraid it'll not be in theaters long enough for me to finish the book first, and I would like to finish the book before seeing the movie...
On knowing the story: I do know she's gonna have an affair, but that's all I know, I don't know where it'll all lead... So I would appreciate it if people would warn if they post spoilers...
>101 msf59: I'm not sure why, but that list leaves out
- Princess Betsy Tverskoy, confidant and friend of Vronsky and Anna
- Countess Vronsky, Vronsky's mother
- Countess Lydia Ivanovna, confidant and friend of Karenin.
Another note about Russian names:
(I took a couple semesters of Russian a few years ago and I still remember some tips the teacher gave me)
As a general rule, the longer the name someone calls someone else, the more formal their relationship is. This can be really helpful in noticing the nuances in a complex novel like AK. So for example, if someone calls Kitty "Princess Katerina Alexandrovna Shtcherbatskya", then the situation is extremely formal and they probably don't know her at all. If they call her "Katerina Alexandrovna", then they know her socially. Just "Katerina" would be a close friend, and "Kitty" would be mostly reserved for family members or lovers.
I just finished chapter 26! Levin is my favorite character, so far...
Thanks Elena & Nora for the useful info!
Nora- I'm not sure why those characters were left out!
"group read". That way we can discuss it as we read it.
You can join any group you want in Library Thing, and pretty much talk about whatever, as long as you are agreeing to the rules. Explore a little. There are lots of threads and groups. Have fun, and good luck.
I also like that Tolstoy puts us inside the head's of so many characters. I don't always agree with their decisions, but their reasoning is coherent and consistent.
I like the list with characters in post 101. I don't quite agree with the description of Vronski. IMO he's not so honorable, but rather a frivolous charmer who likes to seduce women. Or maybe his honorable character is yet to shine in later pages...
So far, I think Vronsky is mainly a spoiled rich kid; he seduces Kitty just for the fun of it, does as he pleases without regard for other's feelings, drinks and gambles... All in all, he just seems like the kind of guy who always expects to get whatever he wants.
Bonnie- I'll try to get the 2nd thread up soon.
Re: Vronsky: At some point, (I can't remember if it's in Part II or Part III) as he's settling his accounts, Vronsky considers himself an "honorable" man--of course, by his own rules, that is.
It seems the rules for men are so different than the rules for women. Compare the effect of an affair for Anna, compared to her brother, Stepan, who clearly has a mistress; but all his wife Dolly can do is move temporarily to the country with the kids. She seems to have no leverage, whereas Anna's husband has plenty of leverage.
Progress Report: I began Part 3 earlier today when I was especially bored in a meeting. I will read some more later this evening, but I also want to make progress on another book because I will finish the other one sooner, and I need to see progress on my thread.
I just started Book 3. The story dragged a bit with Kitty & Co toward the end of Book 2. Maybe it was just me. Back to Levin and the farm though, which I like.
I really, really like the way Tolstoy gives the people in his novel character. I agree that the mme Stahl part really points out parts of Kitty's character (and also illustrates her youth and impressionability).
I was especially struck by his description of Karenin in this part though, I'm really feeling sorry for the guy. I think it's so understandable how he doesn't really know what to do about the situation and ends up doing nothing at all, which only makes things worse. It's sometimes just easier to hide in your job than to face troubles at home, and it makes Karenin so human... And then when he finally does say something, it all comes out wrong and only confirms Anna's idea that he doesn't really care about her. Poor man...
I'm 75 pages in right now, and Anna has finally arrived on the scene. Yay!
It's interesting that her arrival is marked by the death of a man on the train tracks. Definite foreshadowing there, and even Anna notes it as a bad omen. I'm very curious to see where this is all going to go.
I'm liking all the characters so far. Each one is interesting in a variety of different ways.
It's funny, how this novel is called Anna Karenina but so far, her character is in it, the least. Interesting.
I started a 2nd Thread for Book 5 through Book 8:
I hope this is helpful. I posted it at the top of the thread too, for easy access.
It's a re-read for me, I'm looking forward to paying more attention to characters and needing to pay less attention to plot. (What can I say, I'm a plot-driven reader!) But even before I first read it, I knew the basic ending.
Thanks for the character list - I've got bookmarks in my copy for the character list, and for the notes, as well as my current place (sadly very close to the beginning!).
Levin is one of my literary crushes.
But I'm also loving Tolstoy's writing - it's descriptive and rich and sometimes funny. I loved this sarcastic comment about a report from a commission investigating racial minorities:
"All questions were furnished with excellent answers, and answers not open to doubt, since they were not the product of human thought, which is always subject to error, but were the products of institutional activity."
I read some (but not all) of the introduction and they talked about the novel as a polemic. I've looked that up to remind myself what it means and I'm interested to see how it's a polemic, or if I'll even be able to tell.
>167 EBT1002: I guess the polemic part might be actually referring to what porch_reader mentions, his critical comments about the politics and institutions in Russia...
I've started part IV yesterday, getting close to the end of volume 1. I guess I will finish it this month, I just want to know what's gonna happen next :)
I have started to read Anna Karenina yesterday and read the first part in one go.
I love how vividly Tolstoi describes his characters: How he gives an insight to everbody's personality by accompanying every single one of the main protagonists. - Like he gives everyone the right to speak and be heard. The husbands (Oblonski & Karenin) seem to have become creatures of habit - and especially Anna Karenina seems to be quite lonley in her marriage. Of course, she's got her son, but no partner at the same eye level.
I see a strong similarity between Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary when it comes to their reading habits: Anna reads about something and directly wants to do that. She dreams of a life with more action and events. She's somehow an adventurer - there's a desire for something... just something "more" in her life.
In general, I noticed also the parallelity of Anna's and Wronski's life in this first part which is very interesting.
Well, I've got to stop now and get back to the book. :)
I did find some of the labour discussions a bit dry, but it is a book of it's time. Russia finding it's place in the world.
Amy- Love the quote.
Kathy- I like that cover. Stylish & modern. I should add it to the top.
I feel like Anna has accepted her life up until that point in part due to happiness, but also in part due to duty, because reality is reality. I noticed too, like Kathy, that Anna reads in order to live lives that are not her own, to experience the excitement and high ideals she finds in books. In a similar way she imagines the ideal in the people and life around her and then finds herself disappointed when it doesn't measure up, which is not a happy way to live.
Vronsky I'm not fond of, as he seems quite the jerk. Though I find it interesting that he associates himself with the modern bohemian set, which lives by passions and pleasure and damn the consequences to anyone else.
I also really like Levin and feel bad for him and Kitty both. Maybe the two will reconcile and find a happy marriage later on?
Anyway there are some initial thoughts.
I have mixed feelings about Oblonsky - on the one hand his affair and treatment of his wife bothers me, but on the other he's so good-natured I can't help but like him!
I don't know why, but somehow I don't really care as much about Anna's/Wronski's relationship as I think I'm supposed to be. Maybe it's because Anna entered the scene relatively late and I still can't "get" her character fully. If you take Lewin/Kitty as a an opposite example - I still hope for them that they'll get together again.
Some points I found interesting:
1) Karenin is actually giving his wife a charter to betray him - as long as the outward appearance is kept up. Honestly I wouldn't have expected that much "freedom" for Anna.
2) Horse race: I'm afraid that we'll have to take the accident as an omen - and that the relationship between Anna and Wronski will "break their necks". Wronski will probably want her too much and will destroy her with this desire.
In general, I'm really curious about how Kitty's life will develop. I had to smile about her (temporary) decision to exchange every man on the planet by doing charity work. Haven't we all been in this condition at some point of our lovelifes when we were younger? :)
Let's see what part three is going to show us.
That would be the second bad omen then for Anna, if you also take into account the train death at her arrival in the book, which is also when she and Vronski first met.
I never catch these "clues" which is one reason I seldom find mysteries all that much fun. I only recognize symbols if they are blatant or if a fellow reader mentions something.
#178: Karen, don't worry. I studied literature and I'm trained to look for things like that. And when I read book only for fun as it's the case with Anna Karenina I often miss something. I'm convinced that there are many, many more symbols, links, parallels, etc. that I don't notice at the moment. But I guess, at the ending every puzzle piece will make a perfect picture.
#181: I agree, that was very intense and gave an amazing insight into Wronskis character.
I only have 50 pages left. I gave myself 3 weeks and it looks like I'll be done a couple days early.
LOVED the horse race! Easily one of the best set-pieces in this massive book.
Karen- I hope you hang in there! You can do it!
Saturday I'm going to a dog party with Benny, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, to meet other CKCS owners and dogs. Greta is invited, too. And then I'm showing the house. I may sit in a corner and read, and stop to answer questions, and then go back to reading.
I'm lucky if I read a page or two each day, but I'll just keep plugging along. Whoever said Anna was kind of a pain, yup, I agree. What a ding bat. Reminds me all too much of Scarlett....oh, Miss Scarlett.....
and her "I'll think about it tomorrow at Tara".....
Poor women were just not given much room to have any personhood and when they did do something it freaked them out
or is that too harsh?
I haven't gotten very far into the book yet (just started Part 2), but at the moment she seems to have the capacity to be thoughtful and kind towards others... her fault seems to be not discouraging Vronsky when she knows she should, though she does feel guilt and shame about it.
PS. I wrote the above last night and never sent it off...Since then, after an extensive search I found my new copy of AK! Yay! So I have begun. This version is the Constance Garnett translation.
Of course, I don't know that her cold, ambitious husband is helping matters much.
Amen to that!!!
In AK, as in many classics, descriptive passages are long and wordy, especially when a character is being described. These descriptions seemed to me to be the device used to move the plot along.Personality, physical descriptions, flaws and attributes are carefully rendered and serve to qualify the action. For instance, to know Stepan, Levin and Darya, is to know what goes on in the beginning of the novel. Stepan's infidelity determines what is happening in his home, and Darya is certainly a product of the time she lives in, so the reader can anticipate what may come next, action wise. Levin's description foreshadows what is certain to come in the chapters concerning him and Kitty. "But Levin was in love, and so it seemed to him that Kitty was so perfect in every respect that she was a creature far above everything earthly, and that he was a creature so low and so earthly that it could not even be conceived that other people and she herself could regard him as worthy of her." So we know that Levin is going to pursue Kitty and that Kitty may not be ready for this sort of romantic pursuit. Until I read a description of Anna, I won't know the part she will play in the novel. I hope I have not spoiled any parts for readers who may just be starting the book, but I don't think so. Good Reading!
I may just suck it up and hope the evil doers get their comeuppance and carry on, but not right now, maybe later.........
Love the sceen when Levin ask Kitty to marry him and that whole converstation with the blocks makes my heart just melt.
I'm back in; still in part / book 3. Kitty has just arrived and Levin just saw the carriage. Sure hope things pick up soon. I feel like molasses too!
Just as soon as I stop reading threads. And playing Words with Friends, And playing with my doggies.
I used to think there was no redeeming quality to this book. Now I have decided that Kitty and Levin are the only reason to keep reading. Please tell me I'm not wrong. Please?
I'm working my way slowly through. Other books and to-do lists and life is keeping me distracted from it.
I'm glad I read it but I'm also glad to be moving on to shorter and better things....
Hang in there, y'all!
I think Anna is more appealing when the reader is 20 or so, as she reacts to her emotions very abruptly, often without considering the consequences. She and Vronksly are like Paolo and Francesca (from The Inferno, allowing their passion for each other to override their other ambitions.
Levin is a more complicated character, with a certain naive philosophy that is both charming and revealing. I'm about 30% through the book, and so far I find Levin more interesting than Anna.
There is lots of foreshadowing, as was noted before, starting with Stiva's infidelity and Anna's participation in his apology and reconciliation with Darya. Then of course the death at the train station, and the horserace (although I doubt the mechanism described, perhaps it could happen).
Some people are having problems with the wordiness of the text. Are you reading the newest translation, the P-V translation that Oprah touted a few years ago? I'm not finding it wordy at all.
Even though I'm reading it slowly I'm still greatly enjoying it.
This chapter was interesting in its developments, with Levin's efforts to forget Kitty by focusing on his work (which is also interesting politically), the horse race, an Anna's pregnancy and how the men in her life fail so utterly to understand her position. Also, considering how trapped she is by her marriage and her position, it gives me a bit of sympathy.
And to others who are still hanging in there: You've come so far, you can bring it to a conclusion! Just don't give up, you're all doing great.
Because we've talked in this thread about the previous deaths in the book that served as warnings and foreshadowing in Anna and Vronsky (the death at the train station when they first met and the death of the horse at the track when their love was growing), I thought it was interesting that there was a death in relation to Levin and Kitty. But where the previous deaths seem to be dark foreshadowing (both were sudden, unexpected, and due to human choice), the death witnessed by Levin and Kitty has a very different feel as a part of the natural course of life (also we've known the death was coming for quite sometime). Therefore when Kitty finds out she's pregnant shortly after Levin's brother's death, it seems to be an affirmation of the right kind of love, by showing that rebirth (or new birth) can come after death.
That's a good point, too, Nora. I hadn't thought about the public private aspects of it. Interesting.