Monday, January 01, 2007

My Journey Begins

It took a lot of effort not to cheat and dive into Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina before the first of the year. I am reading this classic novel for two of the three challenges I am participating in, the Chunkster Challenge and the Winter Classics Challenge.

Although I was having great difficulty keeping my eyes open at 12:30 a.m. this morning, I at least wanted to read the Introduction in the novel. Once I get through the those beginning extras of the novels I read (I read dedications too), I feel I can really start reading.

There have been times I have had to stop reading introductions because too much of the story is given away (like with Bram Stoker's Dracula), but more often than not, I find introductions a great segueway into the novel itself, providing me with the backdrop, the climate the novel was written in and the history surrounding the novel itself.

In the introduction by Richard Pevear to Anna Karenina, I learned that Tolstoy considered this to be his first actual novel, despite having written War and Peace and The Cossacks earlier in his life. The trilogy, The Cossacks, was a semi-fictionalized autobiography and perhaps that is why Tolstoy felt the books could not be labeled novels. As to War and Peace, Tolstoy argued that "It is not a novel, still less it is a poem, and even less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wished and was able to express in the form in which it was expressed." [vii]

I also found quite interesting the evolution of the characters as Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina. They started off as very different characters than how they ended up in the final product. While I am sure that is nothing new in the process of writing, I still find it intriguing.

According to Pevear, Tolstoy was a conservative man. He was disgruntled about the changes in ideals he saw around him. Anna Karenina was, says Pevear, a rebellion of sorts against the people who sought to corrupt the family and social values and traditions Tolstoy believed in (and how relevant in contemporary times!). If this is so, I find it quite ironic that Anna Karenina is listed as a banned book in some parts of the world. I think it was Nazir Nafisi who commented that this novel, as well as Madame Bovary, were better examples of the negative impact adultery can have on people's lives and neither glamorizes such actions as those seeking to ban it argue.

And so it is with these thoughts that I begin my journey into the lives of Anna, Karenin, Stiva, Dolly, Kitty, Levin, and Vronsky . . .

15 comments:

  1. I hope you enjoy "Anna Karenina", I read it last year. I wasn't happy about how Anna treated her son, or the inordinate amount of time Tolstoy spent describing working in the fields, but I did get through it, and, much to my surprise, I ended up liking it. I wonder if you will find Anna to be a sympathetic character or not. Time will tell.

    Thank you for linking to my site. You are the first!

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  2. I love the idea of reading the introductions first (as I like to begin with the first book of a series, etc.) but have found that many times, as you mentioned, they give too much away. I've resorted to skimming the intro to see if there are spoilers. If there are, then I just begin reading the book. I do like to read any notes that accompany the text - sometimes that's the only way I can understand what's going on! Best of luck to you with reading AK.

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  3. I also read introductions (especially for classics!). I loved Anna Karenina when I read it many years ago. Tolstoy is one of my favorite authors ...and War and Peace was also a favorite of his for me. If you like chunky books, I'd recommend it!

    Wendy (from TBR and Bookies groups...aka 'wenchie' *grin*)

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  4. How I envy you! You are about to embark on quite a journey. I read "Anna Karenina" years and years ago, and till this day, the ending continues to stay with me.

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  5. Kookiejar - Thanks. So far I am enjoying Anna Karenina. I haven't made a lot of progress in the novel yet (darn work!), but it's coming along.

    Ex Libris - Yes, I think that's probably the safest way to do it, skim the intro to try and avoid the spoilers. I'm finding with Anna Karenina that the footnotes are coming in very handy. I have the index at the back of the book marked so I can easily flip to it as I'm reading.

    Wendy - It's always refreshing to hear someone say they enjoyed the book I'm reading, especially one that I hesitated picking up for so long. I was really surprised at how easy Tolstoy is to read. While I won't breeze through it, it's not quite as difficult as I imagined.

    Lotus - Thank you. I am enjoying the journey so far. Whenever I read a novel like this, I always wonder why I took so long to get to it.

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  6. Hi! Just wanted to "meet" another one who's doing both challenges. I've started my Classics book and first off it's Emma. I see you've got that one on your stack. Good luck with your reading!

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  7. I think you must have a brave heart to pick up Anna Kerenina. I'm not that brave yet, but your post has me wishing I'd have chose it for one of my classics. My sister read it in Nov. and loved it. Look forward to your comments about it.

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  8. Iliana - It's nice to meet you! Your blog's is one of the ones I frequent now and then. I hope you enjoy Emma. I plan to get to it next month as it's part of my TBR Challenge too. Good luck to you also!

    Booklogged - I don't know about brave. Determined, yes. LOL

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  9. I'd like to read Anna K, but I guess I better try and finish W&P first! My long neglected book! My version of The Three Musketeers is also translated by Pevear--this mans speaks not only english but french and russian??!!

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  10. Danielle - I'm afraid I've never been with languages. I think it's a wonderful gift, to be able to speak multiple languages. It's amazing.

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  11. Anna Kerenina was one of the first Russian novels I read, too many years ago to remember. But parts of it still live with me and I remember the principle characters as though they were family.

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  12. I've always thought that both Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary were moral tales against adultery. Some people banning these books probably haven't even read them! I enjoyed both of them so much.

    http://3mbooklist.blogspot.com/

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  13. You were the first official person to post after my sister unit so I would love to send you the promised book. She has suggested Oliver Twist but if you've read it then I'll choose something equally special for you. Please email me at nutellaqueen@hotmail.com

    Heather
    www.thelibraryladder.blogspot.com

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  14. John - Thank you for visiting! I can see how many of the characters could stay with you over the years--they certainly are with me even when I'm in the middle of solving a work emergency.

    3m - Thank you also, for stopping in! I am glad to hear another positive comment about Anna Karenina. I still have a ways to go, but I am enjoying it. I find sometimes that I'm drawn to banned books, curious to see what all the fuss is about and never quite understanding why the big opposition in the first place. As you said, most likely these are people who haven't even read them.

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  15. Orange Blossom - Thank you so much! I sent off an e-mail to you. Your grandfather sounds like a remarkable man. I wish I could have met him.

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