I’m continually trying to understand Polish culture and society. My readings into Russian culture have proven highly instructive, and enormously helpful. Anna Karenina - by Leo Tolstoy has proven to be vexing, instructive, and quintessentially Russian.
Stylistically, this book is interesting, quite a bit of “inner dialog” and 3rd person observation which I find slightly annoying. I’m told this sort of “omniscient narrator” is normal for the time this book was written - but as mentioned above, at times I found it a bit much (“to the depths of his soul, Vronsky wanted to kiss her”).
The characters and settings are delightful. I sense the place and people quite clearly. Especially the portrayal of Russian aristocracy - it’s magnificent and disturbing - the relationship between the peasantry and the aristocracy.
The book is dripping in symbolism (the guy who gets cut in half by a train, the horse who breaks his back, the sexual / ecstatic mowing of the field) - it’s almost to obvious for me. Why does Tolstoy point so strongly at these things? Perhaps he is pointing less strongly at things I’ve missed!
=== Spoiler Below ===
Anna Karenina dies. I found her to be a quiet and silent presence in the book - she loved another man, and that was a central plot point, but it’s almost like she was the center of gravity around which this book moved. She didn’t say a whole lot. Patriarchal? I don’t know.
I’m so happy I read this book - it’s like a very rich dinner that I need to eat slowly, and savor. But as I continue to struggle to understand Polish culture (and Russian culture) I realize the more I know, the less I know.
Published on Saturday, April 26, 2008 (10 years, 9 months, and 4 weeks ago). Posted in: