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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

Written by Leo Tolstoy

Narrated by Laura Paton


Anna Karenina

Written by Leo Tolstoy

Narrated by Laura Paton

ratings:
4/5 (276 ratings)
Length:
5 hours
Released:
Jun 29, 1996
ISBN:
9789629545697
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Anna Karenina has been described as the perfect Russian novel. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Anna Karenina is defenceless against the power of her passions once they are unleashed by the adoration of Count Vronsky. Having defied the rules of nineteenth-century Russian society, Anna is forced to pay a heavy price. Human nature, with all its failings, is the fabric of which this great and passionate work is composed. Translated by Aylmer and Louise Maude.
Released:
Jun 29, 1996
ISBN:
9789629545697
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was one of the most influential writers in Russian history. Born a Russian aristocrat, Tolstoy had, by the age of twenty-six, become both a nobleman and a soldier. Disenchanted by both lives, he became a writer, producing two of Russian literature’s greatest works: War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Tolstoy was a giant of modern literature and made a profound impact on great twentieth-century figures such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.



Reviews

What people think about Anna Karenina

4.0
276 ratings / 274 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    First, I started this book 4ish years ago. I would read a chunk of it, than stop for awhile, and pick it up a few months later. Its not an easy read - mostly because it seems like the names keep changing. I understand, what a person in Russia is called is dependent on the relationship, but its difficult. It took me awhile to figure it out. It also helped that the last third of the book had less characters. It would have helped to have a list of full names for the characters. Its a difficult book, but the pay off is immense if you can stick with it.This next part has spoilers, so, read at your own risk.Anne Karenina isn't necessarily about Anna - although the other characters revolve around her. This is a story about relationships. Good relationships, bad relationships and how society views relationships depending on gender. Anna is bored wife of a bureaucrat. Her husband provides for her, and lets her do her own thing, he doesn't make her a part of his life, basically ignoring her until he needs her presence. Anna is intelligent, beautiful, and make a whole room light up when she walks in. When she meets a military man named Vronsky, her whole world is turned upside down. He is a cad, leading young women on, and than dropping them as soon as he looses interest. But, Anna seduces him - even after she denies him, he continue to pursue and eventually Anna gives in. Her husband tries to make it work, but the allure of Vronsky calls - Anna eventually leaves him for Vronsky. But, Anna is still not free. Until she is granted a divorce, she is only a mistress and is ostracized from society, living a lonelier life than before. Eventually, this gets to her and she commits suicide by throwing herself before a train.The next couple is Dotty and Oblansky. Oblansky is Anna's brother, and like to spend money, dote on ballerina's, and gamble. Dotty holds the family together - making sure that there is money for the most basic of upper-class necessities. She considers divorcee him a number of times throughout the book, but it would leave her in a similar state as Anna, even though she would be in the right of the law.The last couple is Kitty and Levin. Kitty is Dotty's sister, and she was the young girl Vronsky led on right before Anna. Kitty ends up sick from the whole experience, but ultimately recovers when Levin ultimately proposes to her. They are the perfect couple, in love, and able to talk through problems, understanding each other's personalities, the good and the bad. These three couples form the core of what Anna Karenina is about. There is also a large parts of the book devoted to Levin's thoughts about peasantry, land management, pointlessness of the upper-class life in Moscow, and belief in God. I'm still pondering what this adds to the book, because it seems not to add anything, and at times, its overwritten and tends to ramble. I do think Levin is based off of Tolstoy and his life, but large chunks of this could have been removed to no effect of the rest.
  • (4/5)
    One of the best things about being a Russian aristocrat has got to be that you can just stop your carriage alongside any field and yell at a random peasant and they will drop whatever dumb peasant job they’re doing and run off to do whatever thing you yell at them to do. “You there! You! Run ahead to the manor and inform the Count’s groom that I wish him to make ready the stables.”“Riiiight. And just who the hell are you?”But they never say that! They just run ahead to make sure the stables are ready. Fantastic.Reading Anna Karenina was part of my reinvigorated program to grab something on my shelf that I’d been meaning to read and just read the bastard, fifty pages a day until it’s done. It's sublime.This is the mastery of Tolstoy: In a thousand pages of interpersonal failures, slights, feuds, marriages, love affairs, elections, engagements, spa treatments, farming, and philosophical banter, with every human virtue and vice on display, he never once tips his hand and telegraphs what we are supposed to think about a character. They are fully-realized human figures, and all you can do is experience and feel with them. If you’re going to judge them for good or ill, you do it on your own. He doesn’t do any of that for you.
  • (5/5)
    I read this many, many years ago and always wanted to re-visit it. Suspecting there were too many other books ahead on my list I chose to download the audio version from my library. Upon first reading I was fascinated by the intricacies of social life as described by Tolstoy. This time around what impressed me was the timelessness of his writing. The characters seem as real as those in any modern novel. The social conventions and political discussions were still interesting but it was the characters lives that remained front and center this time around.
  • (4/5)
    Tolstoy’s greatest novel, what some deem the greatest novel ever written, seems to ‘proceed as plotlessly and accidentally as life itself’ (E. B. Greenwood, Introduction to Anna Karenina, p. xii). Tolstoy contrasts two people of different character and temperament both of whom we squirm, flinch and weep in response to their actions. Anna lives for her own needs, passions and freedom. Levin lives for the good of others and his soul. In this way Anna and her affair with Vronsky depicts so outstandingly what modern philosophers call expressive individualism, where being true to our authentic self by expressing our deepest desires and acting on them is heroic. The Tolstoy critic Andrew Kaufman says in an interview that the 1860s were a time of great transition in Russia whereby the more traditional value system was being replaced by a new value systems. Tolstoy watched his friends and family members were getting divorced at alarming numbers. And this concerned him because in his view, the family is one of the key social units. And when families fall apart, he believed societies begin to fall apart. This is a central theme in Anna Karenina. Tolstoy heard people saying, "maybe marriage isn't the be all and end all of life. Maybe even if you do get married, not having kids might lead to a greater happiness." And, and of course, this is something that's very much echoed in today's world. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy shows that the problem with these arguments is that they come from a false set of assumptions: This idea that more freedom means more fulfillment, that the gratification of one's personal desires, leads to more happiness. Tolstoy came to the opposite conclusion; that in many cases, less freedom can lead to a more abiding happiness because it forces us to make choices to make hard choices, and to commit to those choices with the fullness of our being. And family life is the ultimate embodiment of making those kinds of choices, of limiting our freedom for the sake of love. And so it is the characters who embrace the duties, the pain, the vulnerability of family life—of fatherhood, motherhood, being a son, being a daughter—those are often the characters who in the end, end up achieving the deepest kind of fulfillment.Kaufman gives an example from Tolstoy's own life. While writing War and Peace, he used a very interesting metaphor to describe what he was like before he got married, and what he's like now. It was the metaphor of an apple tree that he described himself as. An apple tree, that once sprouted in all different directions. But 'now, that it’s trimmed, tied, and supported, its trunk and roots can grow without hindrance.' It's a very powerful image. At the heart of it is this idea that sometimes limits are what allow us to grow more fully. And limits are actually what allow us to realise our fullest human potential.So according to Tolstoy a life like Anna's, which looks so romantic and promising, usually ends in tragedy. The reversal of fortunes is shown when Anna and Kitty are contrasted by Dolly (Kitty's sister): “‘How happily it turned out for Kitty that Anna came,’ said Dolly, ‘and how unhappily for her! The exact reverse,’ she added, struck by her thought. ‘Then Anna was so happy and Kitty considered herself miserable. Now it’s the exact reverse.’” (p. 551)Anna becomes a slave to her love/lust for Vronsky and finds herself trapped without access to her son, with excessively jealous of Vronksy, and unable to live without his enmeshed love.Tolstoy contrasts Anna's persist of freedom to desire what she wants to Levin's. Upon his engagement to Kitty, Levin's brother and friends question him about the loss of freedom he will experience when he is married. Levin replies, “‘What is the good of freedom? Happiness consists only in loving and desiring: in wishing her wishes and in thinking her thoughts, which means having no freedom whatever; that is happiness!’” (p. 442). Levin’s desire is not possessive self serving eros (like Anna’s), but generous other-centred agape. The result is that while Levin’s life is not easy, although there is doubt and jealousy and fear and conflict, there nevertheless is true freedom, fulfilment and happiness. He is not enslaved but a servant of love and goodness. I found the book long and tedious at points but I suppose that is because Tolstoy so wants us to “love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations”. He packs in so much of life into the 806 pages, not just in the grand moments but also in the ordinary ones. The result is that you end up on a journey through 19th century Russia, a place and time I have now lived vicariously through. But Tolstoy also takes you on a journey to the very heart of human experience. The plot changes don’t come quickly. Instead Tolstoy spends significant time taking you into the mind and heart of all these different kinds of characters: nobels and peasants, philosophers and farmers, men and women, the promiscuous and duty-bound. Tolstoy draws you in to empathise with all these as you realise you share their same hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, temptations and regrets. The conversions of Karenin, Anna and Levin all demand attention. I am not sure Tolstoy ever really grasps the nature of the gospel of grace. He comes close at points but never really gets there. The closest we get is Karenin’s forgiveness of Anna, Anna’s cry for forgiveness at her death, and Levin’s humble recognition of the gift and goodness of life.I think this novel is like the book of Ecclesiastes: it teaches us about life under the sun and concludes that the meaning of life is “to live for God, to the soul” (p. 785). or as Solomon says, "A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" (Eccl 2:24–25)Yes this is the meaning of life, but what does that look like? And how is atonement possible when we fail. Tolstoy raises this question superbly, hints at an answer, but in many ways it's still a mystery. For a clear answer we must turn to the Gospels or perhaps to the novels of Dostoevsky who perhaps understood better the gospel of grace.
  • (4/5)
    I saw the movie and thought I would listen to the book. Very enjoyable as an audiobook although very long so it was great for painting my walls. The narrator does a fantastic job with the emotions of the characters. A very good classic.
  • (4/5)
    (Original Review, 1981-02-24)If you're not familiar with the The Orthodox Church's intricacies, don't bother reading the novel. It might also to understand the social context in which Anna Karenina is set, which Tolstoy doesn't explain because he was writing for fellow members of the Orthodox Church who would have understood the particular nuances. For Russian society at the time, an immoral act was one that offended all Creation and therefore God himself - it is quite common for Russian priests even now to admonish those confessing to serious sins by telling them that they are 'spitting in Christ's face'. Yet there are subtleties to Anna's predicament that are probably lost on Westerners: unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which forbids divorce for any reason, the Orthodox Church permits this where a marriage has irrevocably broken down, on the basis that it was never based on true love in the first place and thus null and void. So in the novel it is only Karenin's pride (which for the Orthodox is the greatest sin of all) that stands in the way of dissolving his tragically unhappy marriage. Anna's action challenges the hypocrisy of society and she brings down the anger of the hypocrites upon herself because she has the barefaced cheek to expect people to behave towards her as they did before her "fall" from grace. Her "friends", such as the poisonous Princess Betsy, desert her because she is an uncomfortable reminder of their own failings.In fact, I'd go a little further and suggest that the absence of clearly defined mores has led to the proliferation of petty judgementalism infiltrating every aspect of life. It's like Jacques Lacan said about Dostoyevsky's famous quote, ('If God is dead, everything is permitted'), accurately turning it around to say "If God is dead, nothing is permitted." And so we all throw the first stone at one another...The great Victorian judge and political philosopher James Fitzjames Stephen said that the main deterrent to crime is not the law, but public opinion. He was right. One of the reasons Arab countries have such a low crime rate is that a thief would be shunned by his family and wider community. The most judgmental people I know are self-described non-judgmentalists: they hate (straightforwardly) judgmental people, i.e. people with personalities, who don't have to cling on to PC BS in order to create a persona for themselves.PS. Something I didn't know until recently was that Vronsky, like Levin, was based on Tolstoy's own experiences. He represented Tolstoy's own shallow, artificial lifestyle that he gave up and was ashamed of. Vronsky is mature, attractive and amoral. He sees nothing wrong with pursuing a married woman because society's hypocrisy allows for that, but he gets in deeper than he intended. Not the deepest of characters, but Vronsky's casting in this film was absolutely ridiculous.