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Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

  Anna Karenina


  Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky



  [Front and Back Flaps]

  Anna Karenina has beauty, social position, wealth, a husband, and an adored son, but her existence seems empty. When she meets, the dashing officer Count Vronsky she rejects her marriage and turns to him to fulfill her passionate nature--with devastating results. One of the world's greatest novels, Anna Karenina is both an immortal drama of personal conflict and social scandal and a vivid, richly textured panorama of nineteenth-century Russia.

  While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have produced a magnificent translation that is true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team's authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction, a list of principal characters, suggestions for further reading, and full explanatory notes.

  Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive rendition for generations to come.





  Count Leo Tolstoi was born on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana (1828-1910) in the Tula province. He studied Oriental languages and law at the University of Kazan but left before completing a degree. In 1851 he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus. He took part in the Crimean War and after the defense of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 he spent time in St. Petersburg and abroad before settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. In 1862 he married Sofya Andreevna Behrs; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy wrote two great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), as well as many short stories and essays.

  Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have produced acclaimed translations of works by Mikhail Bulgakov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, and Leo Tolstoy. Their translation of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize. Their translations of Tolstoy's What Is Art? and Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita are published in Penguin Classics. Pevear, a native of Boston, and Volokhonsky, of St. Petersburg, are married to each other and live in Paris.

  Acclaim for Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of Anna Karenina

  "The publication of a new translation of Anna Karenina by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is great news for English-speaking readers of Tolstoy. The Pevear-Volokhonsky team must be considered the premier translators of Russian literature into English of our day. Their stylistic sensitivity is unsurpassed; they have provided marvelous renderings of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and Bulgakov; and now readers of Tolstoy in translation can look forward to an experience that comes as close as possible to matching that of those reading in the original."

  --Michael Finke, Washington University

  "The most scrupulous, illuminating and compelling version yet. . . Pevear and Volokhonsky ... combine a profound knowledge of the language with clear and vivid prose, and they bring Tolstoy, whom Vladimir Nabokov called 'the greatest Russian writer of prose fiction,' back to life."

  --Portland Oregonian

  "A significant achievement . . . Tolstoy's book reads as if it could have been written yesterday."

  --San Francisco Chronicle

  "We're fortunate to have this accessible version of his greatest and most universal novel to attract a new generation of contemporary non-Russian readers."

  --St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  " [A] lucid translation of Tolstoy's panoramic tale of adultery and society; a masterwork that may well be the greatest realistic novel ever written. . . . Pevear's informative introduction and numerous helpful explanatory notes help make this the essential Anna Karenina."

  --Kirkus Reviews

  To request Great Books Foundation Discussion Guides by mail (while supplies last), please call (800) 778-6425 or e-mail [email protected] To access Great Books Foundation Guides online, visit our Web site at or the Foundation Web site at

  Anna Karenina



  Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky


  Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910

  [Anna Karenina English]

  Anna Karenina : a novel in eight parts / Leo Tolstoy ; translated

  by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 0-670-89478-8 (he.)

  ISBN 0 14 30.3500 2 (pbk.)

  1. Adultery--Russia--Fiction. 2. Russia--Social life and


  I. Pevear, Richard, 1943-II. Volokhonsky, Larissa. III. Title.

  PG3366.A6 2001

  891.73'3--dc21 00-043356



  Translators' Note

  Further Reading

  List of Principal Characters

  Anna Karenina

  Part One

  Part Two

  Part Three

  Part Four

  Part Five

  Part Six

  Part Seven

  Part Eight



  We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric,

  but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.



  'I am writing a novel,' Tolstoy informed his friend the critic Nikolai Strakhov on 11 May 1873, referring to the book that was to become Anna Karenina. 'I've been at it for more than a month now and the main lines are traced out. This novel is truly a novel, the first in my life ...'

  Tolstoy was then forty-five. He had been writing and publishing for over twenty years. Along with some remarkable shorter pieces - 'The Snowstorm', 'Two Hussars', 'Three Deaths', 'The Wood Felling', 'Sebastopol Stories', 'Family Happiness' - he had produced longer works which he himself referred to as novels. For instance, it was as 'the first part of a novel' that Tolstoy sent the manuscript of Childhood, the opening section of the trilogy Childhood, Boyhood and Youth, to Nikolai Nekrasov, editor of The Contemporary, in 1852. Ten years later, apologizing to the editor Mikhail Katkov for his delay in producing the book he had promised him in return for a loan of a thousand roubles, he wrote: 'I've only just settled down to the novel I sold you the rights to, I couldn't get to it earlier.' This was The Cossacks, begun in 1857, worked on intermittently, and finished 'with sweat and blood' in 1862. In 1864, again writing to Katkov, Tolstoy mentioned that he was 'in the process of finishing the first part of [his] novel on the period of the wars of Alexander and Napoleon', known then as The Year 1805 but soon to be renamed War and Peace. Why, then, did he call Anna Karenina his first novel?

  It is true that the early trilogy and The Cossacks are semi-fictionalized autobiography and in retrospect Tolstoy may have decided they could not properly be considered novels. But what of War and Peace? Isn't it the quintessential novel, the greatest of the species? Not according to its author. In a statement published after the appearance of the first three volumes, he declared enigmatically: 'What is War and Peace? It is not a novel, still less is it 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 is expressed.' For Tolstoy, a 'true novel' was evidently
something more specific than a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length.

  In fact, none of the great Russian prose writers of the nineteenth century, with the possible exception of Turgenev, was on easy terms with the novel as a genre. Gogol called Dead Souls, his only novel-length work, a poem. To define this unusual 'poem' he invented the notion of a hybrid genre, midway between epic and novel, to which he gave the name 'minor epic'. He found the novel too static a form, confined to a conventional reality, involving a set of characters who all had to be introduced at the start and all had to have some relation to the hero's fate, and whose possible interactions were too limited for his inventive gifts. It was the form for portraying ordinary domestic life, and Gogol had no interest in ordinary domestic life. Dostoevsky, who also referred to his work as 'poetry', transformed the novel into another sort of hybrid - the 'novel-tragedy' of some critics, the 'polyphonic novel' of others. Nikolai Leskov, an artist almost equal in stature to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, though less known outside Russia, made masterful use of the forms of the chronicle, the legend, the tale, the saint's life, even the local anecdote and the newspaper article, but lost all his gifts when he turned to the novel. As for Chekhov, though he tried several times to write one, the novel was simply alien to his genius.

  When Tolstoy called Anna Karenina his first novel, he was conceiving the form in the same restricted sense that Gogol found so uncongenial. He was deliberately embracing the conventional limits of the genre. This was to be a novel in excelsis, portraying a small group of main characters (in the final version there are seven, all related by birth or marriage), set in the present and dealing with the personal side of upper-class family and social life, Indeed, Anna Karenina introduces us to the most ordinary Russian aristocrats of the 1870s, concerned with the most ordinary issues of the day, behaving in the most ordinary ways, experiencing the most ordinary joys and sorrows. The one character who might seem out of the ordinary - Konstantin Levin - is also most ordinary, as Dostoevsky pointed out in his Diary of a Writer (February 1877, II, 2): 'But of Levins there are a great many in Russia, almost as many as Oblonskys.' The author's task was to manoeuvre us, for some seven or eight hundred pages, through and among these ordinary people and their doings. It was not that Tolstoy was so charmed by ordinary life. In 1883, six years after finishing Anna Karenina, he would begin the second chapter of a famous novella with the words: 'Ivan Ilyich's life was most ordinary, and therefore most terrible.' As with the novella, so with the novel: the polemic of Anna Karenina rests on the ordinariness of its characters.

  Anna Karenina is polemical, first of all, in its genre. To publish such a book in the 1870s was an act of defiance, and Tolstoy meant it as one. By then the family novel was hopelessly out of fashion. The satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin noted at the time that the family, 'that warm and cosy element ... which once gave the novel its content, has vanished from sight... The novel of contemporary man finds its resolution in the street, on the public way, anywhere but in the home.' The radical intelligentsia had been attacking the 'institution' of the family for more than a decade. Newspapers, pamphlets, ideological novel-tracts like N. G. Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done?, advocated sexual freedom, communal living and the communal raising of children. Questions of women's education, women's enfranchisement, the role of women in public life, were hotly debated in the press. On all these matters Tolstoy held rather conservative views. For him, marriage and childrearing were a woman's essential tasks, and family happiness was the highest human ideal. As Nabokov observed in his lecture notes on Anna Karenina, 'Tolstoy considers that two married people with children are tied together by divine law forever.' An intentional anachronism, his novel was meant as a challenge, both artistic and ideological, to the ideas of the Russian nihilists.

  There was always a provocative side to Tolstoy's genius, and it was most often what spurred him to write. Anna Karenina is a tissue of polemics on all the questions then being discussed in aristocratic salons and the newspapers, with Konstantin Levin acting as spokesman for his creator. There are arguments with the aristocracy as well as with the nihilists on the 'woman question'; with the conservative Slavophiles as well as with the radical populists on the question of 'going to the people' and the exact geographical location of the Russian soul; with both landowners and peasants on questions of farm management; with advocates of old and new forms of political representation - local councils, provincial elections among the nobility - and of such judicial institutions as open courts and rural justices of the peace; with new ideas about the education of children and of peasants; with the new movements in art and music; with such recent fashions among the aristocracy as spiritualism, table-turning, pietism and non-Church mysticism, but also with the 'official' Church, its teachings and practices; with corrupt and ineffective bureaucrats, lawyers, capitalists foreign and domestic; with proponents of the 'Eastern question' and supporters of the volunteers who went to aid the Serbs and Montenegrins in their war with the Turks (Tolstoy's handling of this last issue was so hot that his publisher refused to print the final part of the novel, and Tolstoy had to bring it out in a separate edition at his own expense).

  There is, in other words, no neutral ground in Tolstoy's novel. His writing is 'characterized by a sharp internal dialogism', as Mikhail Bakhtin has noted, meaning that Tolstoy is conscious at every moment not only of what he is presenting but of his own attitude towards it, and of other possible attitudes both among his characters and in his readers' minds. He is constantly engaged in an internal dispute with the world he is describing and with the reader for whom he is describing it. 'These two lines of dialogization (having in most cases polemical overtones) are tightly interwoven in his style,' as Bakhtin says, 'even in the most "lyrical" expressions and the most "epic" descriptions.'* The implicit conflict of attitudes gives Tolstoy's writing its immediate grip on our attention. It does not allow us to remain detached. But, paradoxically, it also does not allow Tolstoy the artist to be dominated by Tolstoy the provocateur. His own conflicting judgements leave room for his characters to surprise him, lending them a sense of unresolved, uncalculated possibility. Pushkin, speaking of the heroine of his Evgeny Onegin, once said to Princess Meshchersky, 'Imagine what happened to my Tatiana? She up and rejected Onegin ... I never expected it of her!' Tolstoy loved to quote this anecdote, which he had heard from the princess herself.

  * See 'Translators' Note 1 below.


  Tolstoy was mistaken when he told Strakhov that the main lines of Anna Karenina were already traced out. In an earlier letter, dated 25 March 1873 but never sent, he spoke even more optimistically about finishing the book quickly. The letter is interesting for its description of what started him writing. For more than a year he had been gathering materials - 'invoking the spirits of the time', as he put it - for a book set in the early eighteenth century, the age of Peter the Great. That spring his wife had taken a collection of Pushkin's prose down from the shelf, thinking that their son Sergei might be old enough to read it. Tolstoy says:

  The other day, after my work, I picked up this volume of Pushkin and as always (for the seventh time, I think) read it from cover to cover, unable to tear myself away, as if I were reading it for the first time. More than that, it was as if it dispelled all my doubts. Never have I admired Pushkin so much, nor anyone else for that matter. 'The Shot', 'Egyptian Nights', The Captain's Daughter!!!. There was also the fragment, 'The guests arrived at the summer house'. Despite myself, not knowing where or what it would lead to, I imagined characters and events, which I developed, then naturally modified, and suddenly it all came together so well, so solidly, that it turned into a novel, the first draft of which was soon finished - a very lively, very engaging, complete novel, which I'm quite pleased with and which will be ready in fifteen days, if God grants me life. It has nothing to do with what I've been plugging away at for this whole year.

  As it happened, the novel took him not fifteen days but four more years of work, during
which much that had come together so suddenly through the agency of 'the divine Pushkin' was altered or rejected and much more was added that had not occurred to him in that first moment of inspiration.

  The earliest mention of the subject of Anna Karenina comes to us not from Tolstoy but from his wife, Sophia Andreevna, who noted in her journal on 23 February 1870 that her husband said he had 'envisioned the type of a married woman of high society who ruins herself. He said his task was to portray this woman not as guilty but as only deserving of pity, and that once this type of woman appeared to him, all the characters and male types he had pictured earlier found their place and grouped themselves around her. "Now it's all clear," he told me.' Tolstoy did not remain faithful to this first glimpse of the guiltless adultress when he began writing the novel three years later, but she re-emerged in the course of his work and finally overcame the severe moral judgement he tried to bring against her.

  The fate of Tolstoy's heroine was suggested to him by a real incident that occurred in January 1873, a few miles from his estate. A young woman, Anna Stepanovna Pirogov, the mistress of a neighbouring landowner and friend of the Tolstoys, threw herself under a goods train after her lover abandoned her. Tolstoy went to view the mangled body in the station house. It made an indelible impression on him.

  Thus, well before inspiration struck him in the spring of 1873, Tolstoy had in mind the general 'type' of his Anna and her terrible end. When he did begin writing, however, despite his admiration for Pushkin's artless immediacy ('The guests arrived at the summer house'), he began with his ideas. And the main idea, the one he struggled with most bitterly and never could resolve, was that Anna's suicide was the punishment for her adultery. It was from this struggle with himself that he made the poetry of his heroine.