Anna Karenina (Bantam Classics)

Anna Karenina (Bantam Classics)

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A magnificent drama of vengeance, infidelity, and retribution, Anna Karenina portrays the moving story of people whose emotions conflict with the dominant social mores of their time.  

Sensual, rebellious Anna falls deeply and passionately in love with the handsome Count Vronsky. When she refuses to conduct the discreet affair that her cold, ambitious husband (and Russian high society) would condone, she is doomed. Set against the tragic love of Anna and Vronsky, the plight of the melancholy nobleman Konstantine Levin unfolds.  

In doubt about the meaning of life, haunted by thoughts of suicide, Levin’s struggles echo Tolstoy’s own spiritual crisis.  But Anna's inner turmoil mirrors the own emotional imprisonment and mental disintegration of a woman who dares to transgress the strictures of a patriarchal world.  

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy brought to perfection the novel of social realism and created a masterpiece that bared the Russian soul.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553213461
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/1984
Series: World Classic Literature Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 1008
Sales rank: 378,071
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.88(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torch-bearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.

Date of Birth:

September 9, 1828

Date of Death:

November 20, 1910

Place of Birth:

Tula Province, Russia

Place of Death:

Astapovo, Russia


Privately educated by French and German tutors; attended the University of Kazan, 1844-47

Read an Excerpt

Since Anna Kareninawas published in 1877, almost everyone who matters in the history of literature has put in his two cents (and a few who stand out in other realms--from Matthew Arnold, who wrote a cogent essay in 1887 about "Count Tolstoy's" novel, to Lenin, who, while acknowledging his "first class works of world literature," refers to him as "a worn out sniveller who beat his breast and boasted to the world that he now lived on rice patties").

Dostoyevsky, a contemporary, declared Anna Karenina perfect "as an artistic production." Proust calls Tolstoy "a serene god." Comparing his work to that of Balzac, he said, "In Tolstoi everything is great by nature--the droppings of an elephant beside those of a goat. Those great harvest scenes in Anna K., the hunting scenes, the skating scenes . . ." Flaubert just exclaims, "What an artist and what a psychologist!" Virginia Woolf declares him "greatest of all novelists. . . . He notices the blue or red of a child's frock . . . every twig, every feather sticks to his magnet."

A few cranks, of course, weigh in on the other side. Joseph Conrad wrote a complimentary letter to Constance Garnett's husband and mentioned, "of the thing itself I think but little," a crack Nabokov never forgave him. Turgenev said, "I don't like Anna Karenina, although there are some truly great pages in it (the races, the mowing, the hunting). But it's all sour, it reeks of Moscow, incense, old maids, Slavophilism, the nobility, etc. . . . The second part is trivial and boring." But Turgenev was by then an ex-friend and Tolstoy had once challenged him to a duel.

E. M. Forster said, "Great chords begin to sound, and we cannot say exactly what struck them. They do not arise from the story. . . . They do not come from the episodes nor yet from the characters. They come from the immense area of Russia. . . . Many novelists have the feeling for place . . . very few have the sense of space, and the possession of it ranks high in Tolstoy's divine equipment."

After finishing Anna Karenina, Tolstoy himself said (to himself, in his journal), "Very well, you will be more famous than Gogol or Pushkin or Shakespeare or Molière, or than all the writers of the world--and what of it?"

More great essays than I can recount here have been written about the book, especially those by George Steiner, Gary Saul Morson, Eduard Babev, and Raymond Williams.

Tolstoy criticism continues to thrive, and now includes its own home called the Tolstoy Studies Journal. Resorting to any library today, one can page through recent articles with titles like "Tolstoy on the Couch: Misogyny, Masochism, the Absent Mother," by Daniel Rancour-Lafarriere; "Passion in Competition: The Sporting Motif in Anna Karenina," by Howard Schwartz; "Food and the Adulterous Woman: Sexual and Social Morality in Anna Karenina," by Karin Horwatt; and even "Anna Karenina's Peter Pan Syndrome," by Vladimir Goldstein.

What's left, in the year 2000, for me to say?

Once, when I was a girl of eleven or twelve, sprawled on a sofa reading, an adult friend of the family noticed that I went through books quickly and suggested that every time I finished one, I enter the name of the author and title, publisher, the dates during which I read it, and what my impressions were on a three-by-five index card.

That kind of excellent habit is one we can easily imagine cultivated by the young Shcherbatsky princesses, when we first meet them "wrapped in a mysterious poetical veil." Levin wonders from afar, "Why it was the three young ladies had to speak French and English on alternate days; why it was that at certain hours they took turns playing the piano, the sounds of which were audible in their brother's room . . . why they were visited by those professors of French literature, of music, of drawing, of dancing; why at certain hours all three young ladies, and Mademoiselle Linon, drove in the coach to Tverskoy Boulevard, dressed in their satin cloaks, Dolly in a long one, Natalie in a shorter one, and Kitty in one so short that her shapely little legs in tight red stockings were exposed."

Of course, I was an American girl, not a Russian princess, and instead of foreign languages and piano tutors what I had was outside. From dawn to dusk, all summer, we ran to the woods, scavenging lumber, hauling boards, digging holes to build forts that were rarely completed; but we became muddy and tired.
I never followed the family friend's good advice.

Now I wish I had. A reason to keep a reading journal would be to compare the experience of the same book met at different ages. It could provide the deepest kind of diary. Anna Karenina, War and Peace, In Search of Lost Time and Middlemarch hold sway over a reader for weeks, months, a whole summer, and so we tend to remember our lives along with them, the way we would someone we'd roomed with for a period of months and then not seen again. I remember Tolstoy's novels personally--where I was when I first read them, for whom I was pining or from whom I was recovering. (For me, the novels were a bit long to read in the throes.)

Tolstoy himself kept just such a diary, his biographers tell us, a journal of "girls and reading. And remorse." He presented these journals, with all their literary impressions and squalid confessions, to his young fiance, Sofia Behrs, as Levin does to Kitty in Anna Karenina.

In the novel, as in Tolstoy's life, the squalor got all the attention from the young bride to be. But for history, as it might have been for Tolstoy later in his life, his youthful writing about books proves to be not only more important but more personal.

Though I didn't keep a journal of reading, I did keep journals of "feelings," largely of boys whose names the black-bound volumes record. A list of those names no longer conjures the faces or characteristic gestures.

But I remember where I was the first time I read Anna Karenina. I was at Yaddo, a writers' colony in upstate New York, during the high season, and I felt distinctly outside the community's social world. Another young female writer arrived with, it seemed to me, a better wardrobe. I found myself checking what she was wearing at every meal. I hadn't considered that I was visiting a town that for more than 150 years had been a summer "watering hole." A small backpack held all my clothes for the summer. A pretty orchestra conductor with whom I jogged examined a pin-sized stain on my best white blouse. "I wouldn't wear it," she said.

I was twenty-four years old and, I'll admit it, I read the novel to learn about love. I was at the beginning of my life and I'd come from one of the unhappy families Tolstoy mentions. I was, in my own oblique way, writing about that circus in all its distinction. But I wanted my own life to be one of the happy ones and I felt at peace there, in my studio on the second story of an old wooden, formal house. I had the time to lie on my white bed with the pine fronds ticking the window and learn how.

I felt enchanted, as any girl might be, with the balls, the ice-skating parties, most especially with Kitty's European tour to recover from heartbreak. I identified with Anna and with Kitty, never for a second with Varenka, whose position might have actually been closest to my own.

In fact, I was young enough to remember a particular magazine I'd read while in a toy store as a child, no doubt published by the Mattel Corporation, that chronicled a holiday week in the life of a doll called Barbie. Like the characters in Anna Karenina, Barbie also went to an ice-skating party and wore a muff. Barbie also owned formal gowns. Barbie, too, sat to have her portrait painted.

I mention this not to call attention to the rather girlish and unsophisticated imagination I still had but rather to show how far into a child's fantasy Tolstoy ventures before then shocking us by rendering our heroine's aversion to touching her husband. And here I'm not talking only about Anna. He makes mention of Kitty's "revulsion" toward Levin as well.

I read--that first time--for the central characters, to see whom they married; to decide what was dangerous in a man, what fulfilling; what kind of love to hope for, to fear.

I didn't like Vronsky. Or I did, but I was afraid of him. Vronsky says something at the beginning of the novel that the repeat reader will never forget. We meet him, in his first appearance, as Kitty's suitor, and already fear--as her mother will not quite let herself--that he will turn out to be a cad. The conversation in the parlor turns to table-rapping and spirits, and Countess Nordston, who believed in spiritualism, begins to describe the marvels she has seen.

Vronsky says, " '. . . for pity's sake, do take me to see them! I have never seen anything extraordinary, though I am always on the lookout for it everywhere.' " He says this in Kitty's living room, in her presence. Of course, he has not yet seen Anna.

That night, after flirting with Kitty, he goes straight home to his rented room and falls asleep early, musing, "That's why I like the Shcherbatskys', because I become better there."

His yearning for the extraordinary, the small account he gives to the peace-giving quality of the Shcherbatskys, tells his whole story, the way a prologue often announces the great Shakespearean themes. Kitty's father has never liked or trusted Vronsky, while her mother favors him, considering Levin only a "good" match, but Vronsky a "brilliant" one.

The dangers and glory of that kind of exceptionalism--in love--were for me, that first time, the subject of the novel.

That question of the viability of extraordinary and ordinary loves was even more riveting for me, at twenty-four, than the differences between happy and unhappy families. This dilemma, in fact--along with work and how to get by on little money in New York City--was the main thing my friends and I talked about. How X loves Y, but Y loves Z, but Z loves . . . all coming down to whether we would have great loves or have to "settle," as we put it.

Of course, we all want to have something extraordinary, in love. None of us, at twenty-four anyway, wants to settle or be settled for.

Part of what is touching, on a second reading, is Vronsky's first meeting with Anna. If you had asked me about that scene before I reread the book, I would have relied on convention and said that Vronsky met a beautiful woman at the train station. But on first seeing Anna--who will be for Vronsky the great love--Vronsky sees her full of life, but not necessarily exceptional. He glances at her once more "not because she was very beautiful" but because of an expression on her face of "something peculiarly . . . soft." Vronsky has not had an ordinary family life. He doesn't much remember his father, and his mother, now "a dried-up old lady," had been "a brilliant society woman, who had had during her married life, and especially afterward, many love affairs notorious in all society." Tolstoy makes it clear that Vronsky does not love or respect his mother.

Anna says, " 'The countess and I have been talking all the time, I of my son and she of hers.' "

Vronsky recognizes Anna first as a mother, a mother miserable to be away--for only a few days--from her beloved son. We might say that what seemed extraordinary for him was just the quality of ordinary maternal devotion his own mother never had.

And here we feel the tragic parallel. Anna is bound to become a woman like Vronsky's mother, notorious for her affair. Later on, her great concern will be that her son may lose respect for her.

Vronsky will wish for nothing more than to make his daughter legitimate and to marry Anna, in the usual way.

" 'My love keeps growing more passionate and selfish, while his is dying, and that's why we're drifting apart,' " Anna says, near the end. " 'He is everything to me, and I want him more and more to give himself up to me entirely. And he wants more and more to get away from me. . . . If I could be anything but a mistress, passionately caring for nothing but his caresses; but I can't and I don't care to be anything else. And by that desire I rouse aversion in him, and he rouses fury in me, and it cannot be different.' "

There, Anna is, I believe, talking about sex. But by then, Vronsky wants the precious ordinary: a marriage, a family--which is as unattainable for him as his heightened passion is for Kitty or Levin or Dolly or even Stiva.


Excerpted from "Anna Karenina"
by .
Copyright © 1984 Leo Tolstoy.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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"One of the greatest love stories in world literature."
—Vladimir Nabokov

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Anna Karenina Bantam Classics 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
391 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anna Karenina is an enchanting read. The characters are fascinating, and Tolstoy has such an ease of language and creates such comfortable vantage points into their worlds that the pages fly by. Some parts, of course, are more difficult to follow, due to changes in custom, common knowledge and culture, such as the more intricate realities of the Russian nobility, but the people in the book, their mindsets - especially Anna and Levin, the two main protagonists - are so intimately relateable it's a little disconcerting.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What can I say about this book that hasn't been said before? My version was a newer translation by Joel Carmichael -- extremely readable, very enjoyable, and a surprisingly fast read. I couldn't believe how quickly the story moved for me, and I found myself totally drawn in by the characters, their emotional states, and the various conflicts that developed.My only real qualm was the excess of detail on the plight of the Russian peasants/farmers. Yes, I know that was important to Tolstoy, but I admit that I skimmed quite a few of those sections since they didn't move the story forward and I wanted to get back to the people I cared about.On the whole, I found myself very surprised by how much I enjoyed it!(And on a slightly related note, when I called my cousin in New Brunswick for a chat -- after not having spoken to her for about four months -- we discovered that we'd both read Anna Karenina at the same time... completely unawares! That was a fun surprise!)
superfastreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Synopsis:The tale of a society woman and her unconventional love affair contrasts with that of a landowner struggling with faith and duty.Review:Anna Karenina. The very words have struck me with fear and awe ever since a disastrous Russian History class in 12th grade, where I discovered my superpower¿s limits for the first time. I elected to read Anna for my final paper because I wanted to read Anna, but I had four AP exams happening at the same time and should¿ve chosen something much shorter. The whole thing blew up in my face and I ended up getting in trouble for not reading the entire book, which at my school was an honor offense. Since other girls in my class had out-and-out cheated, I ended up just having to take a C on the paper (which was very well-written on the 200 pages I actually read). I think that might have been what kept me out of my top-choice college but I ended up loving the school I went to so, as you see, things worked out for the best even though AP exams are my Kryptonite.Here I am *cough* years later, and I find that Anna Karenina is an astonishingly fast read. I couldn¿t be more riveted by all of the characters Tolstoy presents to me: passionate, foolish Anna; tormented, brooding Levin; flighty, honest Kitty; and ¿he¿s just not that into you¿ Vronsky. Tolstoy masterfully shifts between (rare) third person omniscient, first person stream-of-consciousness, and many scenes where point-of-view shifts between several characters as they interact with each other.As Anna and Vronsky¿s relationship implodes, Tolstoy ratchets up the tension by leaving us inside Anna¿s head as she has the mother of all panic attacks. Anyone who¿s ever been unable to let well enough alone in a relationship will connect with Anna¿s torment as she tries to force Vronsky to be loving towards her without seeing that her need and dependence is driving him away. She¿s a black hole that can¿t be filled, and Vronsky responds with the cold hammer of indifference. It¿s horrifying, because it¿s so true to life, and Tolstoy doesn¿t miss a single shade of the horror.Levin¿s story was a welcome reprieve from Anna¿s darkness. Though he¿s suffering metaphysical pangs related to his inability to have faith, he never seems in danger the way Anna does, even though he contemplates suicide from time to time. I think it¿s because his struggles are honest. He¿s not lying to himself the way Anna is. Anna wants her infidelity to be something other than it is. She wants to call evil good. Levin, on the other hand, wants to know the nature of goodness, because, despite his atheism, he sees good in the world and wants to be as close to it as he can. His frustration comes when he sees how his own innate selfishness and pettiness keep him from his goal.Some the best passages in Anna Karenina concern the nature of marriage, which Tolstoy examines from all angles. There are the bad marriages, of course, like Anna¿s, and like that of Anna¿s brother Oblonsky who is a compulsive philanderer. But there is also a marriage that¿s just a normal marriage between two people trying to get used to one another. They have ups and downs, times of tenderness and times of warfare, and Tolstoy shows it all.There are scenes in Anna Karenina that I¿ll never forget: Levin in the fields mowing with the peasants, Kitty at the ball, Karenin forgiving his wife as she gives birth to another man¿s son, Levin¿s brother on his deathbed, Kitty¿s giving birth to her first child, and many others¿but most of all, I will never forget Anna, proud Anna with her dark hair and sad eyes. I want to shake her by the shoulders and tell her to see the truth about Vronsky, that their love is counterfeit, that she doesn¿t have to put up with it from him or put up with Karenin¿s mocking piety or society¿s stupid rules. I¿m so angry because I love her so very, very much.(A note on the translation: I found the Joel Carmichael translation to be accessible, and the introduction said it has a lot to do with the
librarymeg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I chose this book to begin my program of Russian novels during the summer, mainly because of its reputation as Tolstoy's crowning glory and the favorite novel of countless writers. I was disappointed in Anna's storyline, mainly because I found her to be an irritating, rather than tragic, character. Much more rewarding for me was the storyline of Kitty and Levin. These characters saved what, for me, would otherwise have been a very long and mostly unrewarding book. I seem to differ from the majority of Russian literature fans in this opinion, but would without hesitation recommend that people interested in Tolstoy begin with War and Peace as opposed to Anna Karenina.
tairngire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aside from the offputting length, the sometimes incomprehensible Russian names and titles (which my copy tried hard to diffuse) and the now dull and dated tangents into things like 19th century Russian politics and farming techniques, I loved Anna Karenina. There's something about reading novels by Russian writers, especially from the 19th century, that is simultaneously intriguing and daunting. And of course, Tolstoy is one of the best.The thing I loved about Anna and the other characters were that they were so achingly human. It doesn't seem to happen often in a novel where you are at the same time disgusted, embarassed for, angry at, and empathetic with a character, because he/she is just so imperfect and real. As a reader, you want to take every character at one point, give them a well-deserved slap in the face and then a good hug.While Levin, Karenin, Kitty, Vronsky, Anna and etc. are all completely different as people, there lies a sense in the novel that all of their fates are decided on how honestly they live: on how they can live true to themselves without the watchdog of society at their backs. I think this conflict, Tolstoy's use of realism and the tumultuous Russian psyche at the time, allows Anna Karenina to transcend beyond merely a tragic, upper-class love story and into something anyone can relate to.
cataylor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read it on my honeymoon.... I am now divorced. At least I didn't throw myself under a train.
emanate28 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I know this is one of the timeless classics, but I just can't get through the thing. I tried as a teenager and tried again 15+ years later...and still ran out of steam. My problem is that I find Anna uninteresting and don't like any of the characters. Someone please tell me what keeps you going to the end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first read by Tolstoy...felt intimidated, maybe. But, pleased I chose to read this story of it's many different forms, exhibited in each of the characters included in story. Not difficult to read; some interpretations included for a possible unfamiliar term or phrase. I did see movie with Kiera Knightly, Jude Law---- that sparked my interest. Some slight differences in movie and book ( not unusual) but has helped me with the reading of Anna Karenina, as Tolstoy does sometimes "seem to overdo, over explain at times" and could cause a disinterest if not aware of great story line and of my great desire to find out why things took the turns they did in the characters Tolstoy presented. Just wish I had another book like this to read! would be great for group discussions.. Russian culture, customs 1800's; and aforementioned characters and the types of love exhibited.
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