Anna Karenina

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is a book I attempted repeatedly without much success. The translation I had was “wrong”;  I couldn’t find the ‘right’ time for it – couldn’t find time at all on some occasions. But I’ve put aside Middlemarch for this. While I enjoyed what I read of Eliot’s prose, I just didn’t have the time to devote to it. Large sections of it are digressions from the plot; it’s sort of difficult to pick the book up again only to find yourself in the middle of a contemplation on the flaws of  medicinal practices in rural England.

With Anna Karenina, on the other hand, Tolstoy weaves such a rich tapestry that it’s possible to leave this for months on end, and still be able to re-immerse yourself in it. Each chapter stands on its own, and doesn’t need the others to support it.

I only just finished it this morning, and  I haven’t had time to think about it, so this isn’t really a ‘review’. I just wanted to assert that sometimes you do need to find the “right time” for a book. Keeping away from this blog has definitely allowed me to do that. I no longer feel pressured to constantly read and read and read just so I can post. I no longer compile list after list of books I want to read, but leisurely pick one off a shelf whenever I’m in the mood for it. I no longer feel bad about re-reading books. In fact, I no longer feel bad about having unread books on my shelf. I know I’ll get around to them eventually.

P.S. I realised I didn’t hate the Constance Garnett translation after all. Although it probably isn’t nearly as ‘Russian’ or modern as the Pevear-Volokhonsky, I actually came to prefer the Garnett because it had a proseyness to it that I liked. Gave it a distinctly 19th century feel. I’m not entirely sure what I mean by ‘proseyness’ because all novels are  in prose., but whatever. Given up trying to express myself coherently, hopefully you understand what I mean.

» T for Tolstoy: this book was read as a part of the A to Z challenge.

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14 thoughts on “Anna Karenina

  1. I’m glad that stepping away from the blog helped you like this all the more! I agree, there is a right and wrong time for things and not feeling compelled to blog makes some books just so much more enjoyable! I’m trying to step away more myself. Hard to do.

    I do miss your web presence, but I know your school work is more important, of course! I’m so glad that you enjoyed AK. I did too when I read it years ago.

    1. Thanks for not forgetting me, Rebecca! I wish I could update my blog more often but I guess I’m just not reading as much as I used to because I don’t have anything to post about these days! My finals are over though, so hopefully I’ll be able to post more in the following weeks :)

  2. Yay you finished it (and liked it)! I definitely know what you mean about the translation. I feel the same with Proust’s Moncrieff translation. :)

    1. Ooh, I remember reading your posts about translations of Proust. I’ll definitely keep your comments in mind when I get around to reading his work. So upset that I’ve missed out on all these read-a-longs.. esp. the 2666 one!

  3. I think the Garnett translation is underrated, it’s the first version of Anna I read and so dear to my heart. I think it does have the tone of many 19th century English novels, which works for me!

    I sometimes feel pressured by blogging in terms of what I read, how much I read etc as well. I think the thing is not to obsess or take blogging competitively. Glad to hear your break helped you get some enjoyable reading done.

    1. Hmm, I guess it depends on what you want from a translation. But yes, the Garnett does seem to be underrated. It’s probably because of the whole Oprah & P/V translation thing, hahah.

  4. Tuesday! Glad you finally made it through this and liked it no less! Congrats!

    Lately I’ve been suffering with something of the same kind of pressure you mention – worrying overmuch about my book selections because I worry they won’t interest others, rather than simply listening to my inner reader and selecting what feels best to me. And I agree that the pressure to post can take away from the reading experience, so I’m glad your time away has been liberating in the capacity as well. I just try to remind myself from time to time about why it is I keep my blog (visitors are great, but it’s really a way for ME to keep track of my reading and things that interest me) to help keep things in perspective.

    Look forward to hearing from you again, whenever that might be!

    1. Thanks Steph :D

      My time away has been very liberating! I think I’ve actually been reading much, much less than before, but whatever works for my brain. I missed you guys though :)

  5. I finally had to just throw away all those lists I had been making, return my library books, and concentrate on reading books of my shelf. It’s so much more enjoyable reading a book when I want to rather than when the library or my list dictates I have to have it done by.

    Congrats on finishing Anna Karenina! You must feel so accomplished. I read it a few years ago for school and can vividly remember my push to the finish. I was so thankful to be done with it that I don’t think I ever truly appreciated it for what it is.

    1. I don’t think I’ll feel ‘accomplished’ until I’ve read everything that’s worth reading in the world (not something that’s achievable in one lifetime, clearly), but I enjoyed Anna Karenina very much.

      And hurrah for spontaneity :)
      I couldn’t quite make myself throw the lists away, but I try not to look at them. And I haven’t made any new ones lately!

  6. I’d love to read this book one of these days, after I finish some of the other classics lined up in my shelf perhaps.

    I think I understand what you mean about “proseyness”. On rare occasions, I get the feeling that what I’m reading lacks a certain amount of lyrical quality, like the natural difference in form between technical writing and creative writing.

    1. Hmm, I don’t know. I understand what you mean, but I thought Anna Karenina was quite lyrical! I think I was probably referring to how dense a novel it is, when I wrote this post. Well, if not dense, then wordy.

  7. I have some vague understanding of what you’re trying to say here. I also encountered (and have come to appreciate) Tolstoy’s way of putting together “a rich tapestry” in his works, a whole world within each chapter as I was reading War and Peace last year. :)

    Anna Karenina is a book I would very much love to read one of these days. Thank you for sharing your experience here. This is giving me a spontaneous feeling of really wanting to read the book the soonest time possible. :D

    1. Wow, kudos to you. I salute anyone who has read War and Peace. My copy is sitting on the bookshelf, looking very heavy and daunting. I think I’ll give it a try in the summer (it’s winter here right now, so still a fair few months to go, hahah)

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