The second Classics Club spin machine landed on number 6 which means I’ll be reading that classic of realism, Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina.
I’ll be opening it with very high expectations. Some esteemed authors have heaped praise on this novel over the years. Both Dostoevsky and Nabokov considered it ‘flawless’ while William Faulker labelled it “the best written” and Time magazine included it in their Top Ten list in 2007.
Tolstoy had a high opinion of it also, considering it his first true novel (not to be compared with his epic work War and Peace that he viewed as more than a novel. He’s said to have written Anna Karenina after hearing of the suicide at a railway station of a young woman who had been the mistress of a neighbouring landlord. Although Tolstoy arrived at the station after the drama was over, so he didn’t actually see the woman, the incident is said to have stuck in his mind.
He turns the woman into the tragic figure of Anna Karenina, an aristocrat and socialite who turns her back on her insufferably dull and stiff government minister of a husband Alexei Karenin and embarks on a passionate affair with the affluent Count Vornosky.
I first read this novel when I was sixteen and in that phase of life where I read anything I could get my hands on that was written by a foreign author (ie not British or American). Stendhal, Camus, Grass; Tolstoy all passed before my eyes. Actually I probably understood very little but I did feel so superior to my classmates who were all still in Jean Plaidy and Dennis Wheatley phases. All I remember about Anna Karenina was that it was long, had a complicated set of characters whose names kept changing (though not as big a cast as War and Peace which I also struggled through) and I cried at the end.
Will my experience be different second time around? I suspect the names will confuse me once again and I know the length of the novel won’t have changed. But will I cry at the end this time???