Why Anna Karenina and Leo Tolstoy
I first read Anna Karenina in college and I immediately fell in love with Anna’s story. It was my introduction to Tolstoy and Russian literature. I often get asked whom my favorite writer is which is a very difficult question to answer. More often than not, my answer is Leo Tolstoy. This book made a connection to my soul across time and space. I reread the novel in my thirties and had a much different, but equally profound, experience. I will be rereading this one again and I’m curious to see how it resonates now that I’m in my forties.
I deeply love Russian literature and there was no question that I would pick a Russian novel to represent Mt. Elbrus which is located in Russia. Anna Karenina was my first love and that is why I chose this novel. However, there is a tremendous library of Russian literature to explore. The short stories of Anton Chekhov are masterpieces of the short format. Fyodor Dostoyevsky is considered the equal of Tolstoy and he is best known for Crime and Punishment (1866) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Vladmir Nabokov wrote the classic Lolita which is included in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels . Alexander Pushkin, Alexksandr Solzhenitsyn, Ivan Turgenev… the list goes on. Perhaps no country has done more to influence modern literature than Russia.
More About Anna Karenina
Described by William Faulkner as the best novel ever written and by Fyodor Dostoevsky as “flawless,” Anna Karenina is Leo Tolstoy’s classic tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. A rich and complex masterpiece, the novel charts the disastrous course of a love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer. Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, and in doing so captures a breathtaking tapestry of late-nineteenth-century Russian society. As Matthew Arnold wrote in his celebrated essay on Tolstoy, “We are not to take Anna Karenina as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life.”
Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he is best known for the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852–1856), and Sevastopol Sketches (1855), based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. Tolstoy’s fiction includes dozens of short stories and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Family Happiness, and Hadji Murad. He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays.