Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

“All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade.” -Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I guess I was right in my previous blog post about the 2012 Anna Karenina film. Reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina through Signet Classic paperback edition showed me that while the film impressed me a lot, it was really not enough to capture the entire alleged semi-autobiography of Tolstoy interspersed in the orginal novel version.

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Small wonder why it was hailed by writers and non-writers worldwide as one of the world’s greatest novels ever written. It was depicted twelve times, cited numerous times by succeeding writers. So, the 2012 Keira Knightley starrer that I watched was actually the twelfth media depiction of Tolstoy’s magnificent novel.

It is thick as it was fluid and creatively styled. There are so many facets to this novel that it’s not sufficient to write about it in a single book review, but time constraints prevent me from ruminating any further. (I have hundreds of books waiting in line that demands my leisurely attention.)  Count Tolstoy was not called a literary giant for no reason. In fact, I have no words to describe this novel. It’s just beautiful beyond words and masterful in the way the story unfolded. Previously, I have read some creations that made allusions to or reference to Anna Karenina, and now I am not surprised.

Reading it felt like finding the roots of the old oak tree of realist novels. Like many great novels, most of the events are inspired by or influenced by events that happened in the author’s life. The character and struggles of the main character Konstantin Levin, for one, parallels some of Tolstoy’s life events like his manner of proposal to his fiancee Sophia Behrs. The very spiritual struggles Levin had were clearly marked, as if it mirrored the author’s own struggles: “And not only the pride of intellect, but the stupidity of intellect. And, above all, the dishonesty, yes, the dishonesty of intellect. Yes, indeed, the dishonesty and trickery of intellect.”

I read the last few chapters after Anna’s tragic suicide by the train station when I was aboard a bus on the way San Pablo City with my family. My sister was astounded with the thick book I had been reading for almost two weeks, but we managed to have fun together just the same:

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I am amazed at how brave Tolstoy must have been for publishing this at a time when most of the issues depicted were taboo in Russia. For some reason, I think being a real writer requires fearlessness of expressing one’s views. This courage and spunk renders a huge part of what makes a piece of literature very appealing. Some are good with swords, but some use their words as a worthy replacement.

Recently, I found a really strong-willed contributor in Youngblood Inquirer when he fiercely took a stab at the Presidential sister. If basing on this criteria, I may say that I am not a writer at all because I could not really write something so actively in opposition to people, in general. I’d prefer to keep human harmony and attack ideas instead.  The thought of war worries me a lot, although I acknowledge that many of the best literary masterpieces were done and inspired by previous wars like World War II. I’d like to admire the literary effects of such hardship but while I think that writing from a place of pain is compelling, therapeutic, and powerful, I’d still like to have enough “dumbness” in me to enjoy life. The problem with super smart people is that they can get too caught up with the intellectual experiences that life sometimes tend to just slip away miserably.

Here’s an intriguing and surprising tidbit that complements the reading of this novel: there is actually a MAP of all locations mentioned in Anna Karenina. A guy named Peter Biggins, possibly a fellow bookworm and mapping enthusiast, used point data to plot those locations. You can click here to see the map! Even the birth and death place of Tolstoy was shown. 🙂 I only feel bad that I have nto thought of doing something like this first but I am mighty glad that this kind of information is already available online. 🙂 It means I have some kindred spirits somewhere out there. 🙂

And while many of the classics are thicker than my usual reading fare, I think it’s best to always go back to the masters and the roots. If all books were as good as this one, I might as well die from eye strain but I won’t stop reading them.