Thursday, May 26, 2016
by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1875 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment (Tolstoy's negative views of Russian volunteers going to fight in Serbia); therefore, the novel's first complete appearance was in book form in 1878.
Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Anna Karenina recounts St. Petersburg aristocrat Anna Karenina's life story at the backdrop of the late-19th-century feudal Russian society. Having considered War and Peace not a novel, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel. Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it "flawless as a work of art." His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired "the flawless magic of Tolstoy's style," and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as "the best ever written." The novel remains popular, as demonstrated by a 2007 poll of 125 contemporary authors in Time, which declared that Anna Karenina is the "greatest book ever written."
Anna Karenina is the tragic story of a married aristocrat/socialite and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. The story opens when she arrives in the midst of a family broken up by her brother's unbridled womanizing—something that prefigures her own later situation, though she would experience less tolerance by others.
A bachelor, Vronsky is eager to marry her if she will agree to leave her husband Karenin, a senior government official, but she is vulnerable to the pressures of Russian social norms, the moral laws of the Russian Orthodox Church, her own insecurities, and Karenin's indecision. Although Vronsky and Anna go to Italy, where they can be together, they have trouble making friends. Back in Russia, she is shunned, becoming further isolated and anxious, while Vronsky pursues his social life. Despite Vronsky's reassurances, she grows increasingly possessive and paranoid about his imagined infidelity, fearing loss of control.
A parallel story within the novel is that of Konstantin Levin, a wealthy country landowner who wants to marry Princess Kitty, sister to Dolly and sister-in-law to Anna's brother Oblonsky. Konstantin has to propose twice before Kitty accepts. The novel details Konstantin's difficulties managing his estate, his eventual marriage, and his personal issues, until the birth of his first child.
The novel explores a diverse range of topics throughout its approximately thousand pages. Some of these topics include an evaluation of the feudal system that existed in Russia at the time—politics, not only in the Russian government but also at the level of the individual characters and families, religion, morality, gender and social class.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866. It was later published in a single volume. It is the second of Dostoyevsky's full-length novels following his return from 10 years of exile in Siberia. Crime and Punishment is considered the first great novel of his "mature" period of writing.
Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in St. Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her cash. Raskolnikov, in attempts to defend his actions, argues that with the pawnbroker's money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a vermin. He also commits the murder to test a theory of his that dictates some people are naturally capable of such actions, and even have the right to perform them. Several times throughout the novel, Raskolnikov compares himself with Napoleon Bonaparte and shares his belief that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose.