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Anna Karenina (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Leo Tolstoy , Richard Pevear , Larissa Volokhonsky
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Jan 2003 Penguin Classics

Now the subject of a major new film adaptation from director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice), Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is translated by award-winning duo Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky in Penguin Classics.

Starring Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method) as Anna Karenina, Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) as her husband Alexei, Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy) as Count Vronsky, and also starring Matthew McFadyen, Andrea Riseborough and Kelly Macdonald, this dazzling production of Anna Karenina is adapted for the screen by legendary playwright Tom Stoppard.

Anna Karenina seems to have everything - beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son. But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky. Their subsequent affair scandalizes society and family alike, and soon brings jealousy and bitterness in its wake. Contrasting with this tale of love and self-destruction is the vividly observed story of Konstantin Levin, a man striving to find contentment and meaning to his life - and also a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself.

Acclaimed as the definitive English version of Tolstoy's masterpiece, this edition contains an introduction by Richard Pevear and a preface by John Bayley.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) spent his youth in wasteful idleness until 1851, when he travelled to the Caucasus and joined the army, fighting in the Crimean war. After marrying in 1862, Tolstoy settled down, managing his estates and writing two of his best-known novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878). A Confession (1879-82) marked a spiritual crisis in his life, and in 1901 he was excommunicated by the Russian Holy Synod.

'William Faulkner, it's said, was once asked to name the three best novels ever. He replied: "Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina." If you don't recall why, rush to buy a fine new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky'

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

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Product details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Rev Ed edition (30 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449174
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.

He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before travelling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).

During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879-82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home 'leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude'; dying some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo.

Product Description


The new and brilliantly witty translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is a must (Lisa Appignanesi Independent, Books of the Year)

Pevear and Volokhonsky are at once scrupulous translators and vivid stylists of English, and their superb rendering allows us, as perhaps never before, to grasp the palpability of Tolstoy's "characters, acts, situations" (James Wood New Yorker) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

Part of the beautifully presented 'Wonders of the World' series. Translated and edited by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

'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 ...' From the Introduction. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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'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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sense of Self 18 Oct 2007
By Bentley
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"

- Leo Tolstoy "Anna Karenina"

Anna Karenina is a beautifully written novel about three families: the Oblonskys, the Levins, and the Karenins. The first line (one of the most famous in literature) hints at Tolstoy's own views about happy and unhappy marriages having these same three families also represent three very different societal and physical locations in Russia in addition to distinctly different views on love, loyalty, fidelity, happiness and marital bliss.

Tolstoy seems to stress that `trusting companionships" are more durable and filled with happiness versus "romantic passion" that bursts with flames and then slowly; leaves ashes rather than a firm, solid foundation to build upon.

It is like reading a soap opera with all of its twists and turns where the observer is allowed to enter into the homes, the minds and the spirits of its main characters. The moral compass in the book belongs to Levin whose life and courtship of Kitty mirrors much of Leo Tolstoy's own courtship of his wife Sophia. Levin's personality and spiritual quest is Tolstoy's veiled attempt at bringing to life his own spiritual peaks and valleys and the self doubts that plagued him his entire life despite his happy family life and the fact that he too found love in his life and a committed durable marriage. At the other end of the spectrum is Anna, who also because of her individual choices and circumstances, falls into despair.

It is clear that Tolstoy wants the reader to come away with many messages about the sanctity of marriage, love and family life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greats 6 April 2012
(n.b This review refers to the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation).
I'll keep this review quite short, as there are plenty of others detailing just why this is regarded as one of the all-time great novels.

As this was my first experience of reading Tolstoy, I had been slightly daunted by the literary (and literal!) weight of this novel. Happily, I found that "Anna Karenina" was instantly accessible, in terms of both narrative and style.

The story is a classic tale of a tragic love affair between the beautiful, highly-strung Anna - one of the most complex and authentic portrayals of female psychology in literature - and the passionate, ambitious Count Vronsky; two people whose intense, complicated loves are not enough to prevail over personal misunderstandings and setbacks from Russian high society. Their story is set into relief by the story of Levin, a landowner struggling with his meditations on life, love, work, religion...All of this Tolstoy deals with insightfully and with an engaging wit. The parallel stories were equally absorbing, and the tragedy of the eponymous heroine particularly moving. I believed absolutely in each of the main characters (perhaps with the exception of Kitty, the object of Levin's affection), whose virtues, vices and internal reflections are described with remarkable depth and empathy. My only criticism is that the last section is something of an anticlimax to an otherwise captivating read.

I can't comment on the comparative merits of this version, as it is the only one I have read, but I found it very fluid and bright, and I will certainly choose Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of "War and Peace" when I get round to reading it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent translation with extensive notes 23 Mar 2012
By Mhr
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This famous novel is very interesting regarding the triangle relationship of the three characters in the main plot - Anna, her husband and her lover. But, the descriptions of activities and thought of Levin, a land-owing aristocratic farmer, in the sub-plot is detailed and long since it is Tolstoy himself in real life.

The translation was done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a prize-winning multi-lingual husband and wife team. The texts are excellent. Also, another major advantage of this version is that, on top of a good introduction by one of the translators, there are extensive notes on Russia's historical and political background, proverbs (Russian, French and Classical Roman), Orthodox religious rituals, people's customs, literary allusions, etc. I feel that, without these detailed notes, this novel may well partially remain a "closed book" to the reader who (like me) has no Russian cultural background.

The earlier Penguin Books version - called `Anna Karenin' - was issued in the 1950s. It contains the translator's introduction running to only three pages, and has no notes at all. The current, newer version (published in 2000) is highly recommendable.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unhappy families 13 Jan 2008
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." That line opens and sets the tone of "Anna Karenina," a tangled and tragic tale of nineteenth century Russia. Tolstoy's story of lovers and family is interlaced with razor-sharp social commentary and odd moments that are almost transcendent. In other words, this is a masterpiece.

When Stepan Oblonsky has an affair with the governess, his wife says that she's leaving him, and now the family is about to disintegrate. Stepan's sister Anna arrives to smooth over their marital problems, and consoles his wife Dolly until she agrees to stay. But on the train there, she met the outspoken Countess Vronsky, and the countess's dashing son, who is semi-engaged to Dolly's sister Kitty.

Anna and Vronsky start to fall in love -- despite the fact that Anna has been married for ten years, to a wealthy husband she doesn't care about, and has a young son. Even so, Anna rejects her loveless marriage and becomes the center of scandal and public hypocrisy, and even becomes pregnany by Vronsky. As she prepares to jump ship and get a divorce, Anna becomes a victim of her own passions...

That isn't the entire story, actually -- Tolstoy weaves in other plots, about disintegrating families, new marriages, and the melancholy Levin's constant search for God, truth, and goodness. Despite the grim storyline about adultery, and the social commentary, there's an almost transcendent quality to some of Tolstoy's writing. It's the most optimistic tragic book I've ever read.

For some reason, Tolstoy called this his "first novel," even though he had already written some before that. Perhaps it's because "Anna Karenina" tackles so many questions and themes, and does so without ever dropping the ball.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
arrived on time daughter has nearly finished reading it already
Published 16 days ago by n thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars simply stunning
I have read this many times, it is one of my favourite Russian novels. I think Anna is very foolish but I feel very sorry for her and she is a likeable character despite her flaws. Read more
Published 1 month ago by StarryNight
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me.
I struggled with this masterpiece, it did nothing for me, I was relieved when I reached the last page. Read more
Published 1 month ago by cristofori
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed
Tolstoy was a good writer but for me it didn't really live up to my expectations
Published 1 month ago by The Critic
4.0 out of 5 stars Translation not so good?
I bought this Kindle version of the book because the print was so small on a 1977 edition of a 1954 translation of the book that I have. Read more
Published 2 months ago by William StVigor
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Book arrived in condition described. Pleased
Published 2 months ago by Veronica
4.0 out of 5 stars Very few criticisms
Certainly one of the better classics. As usual with nineteenth century novels (especially those on such a grand scale), Anna Karenina does tend to give a hell of a lot of detail on... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
Anna Karenina is a truly outstanding novel, for its interweaving of themes, profound understanding of character and presentation of an era (though it transcends the specific... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Will Strange
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
A book to change your life.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs.M.Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolstoy's bodice ripper; or tales of the landed gentry before the...
Written in the 1870s, this novel, is set in what appears a golden age in pre-revolution Russia. And for all of Tolstoy's liberalism, it is a story of the landed aristocracy with a... Read more
Published 4 months ago by "Belgo Geordie"
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