Monday, January 14, 2008

I DID IT! (rated 3 stars)

by Leo Tolstoy

The day I never thought would come is finally here. Today I closed Anna Karenina FOREVER! The force-fed nightmare is over. While there were certainly beautifully written passges (helped by the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation, no doubt) I can’t ever imagine reading this book ever again. I will say the scene at the horse races was lyrical and sparked the imagination. And when Levin went on the hunting trip with Stiva, the natural descriptions made me feel as if I was there. But my brain was so choked by the extended description of Russian provincial politics at approximately page 600, I put the book down for a month and wouldn’t touch it. Way to throw a wrench into whatever plot momentum this thing had, Count Lev. 

At that point, knowing the fate of the heroine anyway, I couldn’t help wondering what could possibly be so important that we had to delay the climax for still another 200 pages. As I recall the upshot of those provincial elections was that….Levin was so confused by all the political doublespeak that he a) didn’t understand the voting process, and b) forgot who he was supposed to vote for anyway. So I made it through all that for absolutely no pay off whatsoever. Dear Tolstoy, allow me to quote Tim Gunn: I can’t want you to succeed more than you do! If the (secondary) main character can’t be bothered to understand it all—WHY SHOULD I? The only redeeming event in those final infernal pages were the descriptions of Anna’s internal emotional break down. I just kept thinking, “Yes, that’s just like a woman.” But that did not take up 200 pages. I persevered to say I had done it, but I would not recommend it.  

This fall, when I began Anna Karenina, I was excited by the announcement of the new Pevear-Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace, but at this point I don't know if I could do the slog.  Maybe a 4 pages a day program, but right now I don't know if I have the strength.


Jillian said...

Ohhh Russian Lit, my fav!!

Kudos to you! I have yet to find the stick-to-it-ness to finish.

Vertigo said...

Its a shame you didn't enjoy AK. Tolstoy is my favorite writer and that my favorite story. I guess one needs to know the history of Tsarist Russia at the time and enjoy Tolstoy's philosophy to really dive into the story.
Well, congratulations on finishing the story. :)