Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

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Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina
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    Anna Karenina
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    Английский
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Anna Karenina: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Some people say Anna Karenina is the single greatest novel ever written, which makes about as much sense to me as trying to determine the world's greatest color. But there is no doubt that Anna Karenina, generally considered Tolstoy's best book, is definitely one ripping great read. Anna, miserable in her loveless marriage, does the barely thinkable and succumbs to her desires for the dashing Vronsky. I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that 19th-century Russia doesn't take well to that sort of thing.

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Leo Tolstoy


Anna Karenina

Translated by Constance Garnett

PART ONE

Vengeance is mine; I will repay


I

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys' house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted two days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family and the household, were painfully conscious of it. All the members of the family and the household felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that even stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and the household of the Oblonskys. The wife did not leave her own apartments; the husband had not been home for two days. The children ran wild all over the house; the English governess quarreled with the housekeeper, and wrote to a friend asking her to look out for a new employ for her; the man cook had walked off the day before just at dinnertime; the kitchenmaid and the coachman had given warning.

Two days after the quarrel, Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky- Stiva, as he was called in the fashionable world- woke up at his usual hour, that is, at eight o'clock in the morning, not in his wife's bedroom, but on the leather-covered sofa in his study. He turned over his stout, well-cared-for person on the springy sofa, as though he would sink into a long sleep again; he vigorously embraced the pillow on its other side and buried his face in it; but all at once he jumped up, sat up on the sofa, and opened his eyes.

"Yes, yes, how was it now?" he thought, going over his dream. "Yes, how was it? Yes! Alabin was giving a dinner at Darmstadt; no, not Darmstadt, but something American. Yes, but then, Darmstadt was in America. Yes, Alabin was giving a dinner on glass tables, and the tables sang, Il mio tesoro- no, not Il mio tesoro, but something better, and there were some sort of little decanters on the table, and, at the same time, these decanters were women," he recalled.

Stepan Arkadyevich's eyes twinkled gaily, and he pondered with a smile. "Yes, it was jolly, very jolly. There was a great deal more that was delightful, only there's no putting it into words, or even expressing it in one's waking thoughts." And noticing a gleam of light peeping in beside one of the woolen-cloth curtains, he cheerfully dropped his feet over the edge of the sofa and felt about with them for his slippers, a present on his last birthday, worked for him by his wife on gold-colored morocco. And, as he used to do for the last nine years, he stretched out his hand, without getting up, toward the place where his dressing gown always hung in the bedroom. And thereupon he suddenly remembered that he was not sleeping in his wife's room, but in his study, as well as the reason; the smile vanished from his face and he knit his brows.

"Ah, ah, ah! Oo!…" he muttered, recalling everything that had happened. And again every detail of his quarrel with his wife was present to his imagination, all the hopelessness of his position, and, worst of all, his own fault.

"Yes, she won't forgive me, and she can't forgive me. And the most awful thing about it is that it's all my fault- all my fault, though I'm not to blame. That's the point of the whole tragedy," he reflected. "Oh, oh, oh!" he kept repeating in despair, as he remembered the acutely painful sensations caused him by this quarrel.

Most unpleasant of all was the first minute when, on coming from the theater, good-humored and lighthearted, with a huge pear in his hand for his wife, he had not found his wife in the drawing room, to his surprise, nor in the study, but saw her at last in her bedroom, clutching the unlucky letter that revealed everything.

She, his Dolly, forever fussing and worrying over household details, and limited in her ideas, as he considered, was sitting motionless with the letter in her hand, looking at him with an expression of horror, despair and indignation.

"What is this? This?" she asked, pointing to the letter.

And at this recollection, Stepan Arkadyevich, as is so often the case, was not so much annoyed at the fact itself as at the way in which he had met his wife's words.

There happened to him at that instant that which happens to people when they are unexpectedly caught in something very disgraceful. He did not succeed in adapting his face to the situation in which he was placed toward his wife by the discovery of his fault. Instead of being hurt, denying, defending himself, begging forgiveness; instead of remaining indifferent even- anything would have been better than what he did do- his face utterly without his volition ("cerebral reflexes," mused Stepan Arkadyevich, who was fond of physiology) had assumed its habitual good-humored, and therefore stupid, smile.

This stupid smile he could not forgive himself. Catching sight of that smile Dolly shuddered as though from physical pain, broke out with her characteristic heat into a flood of cruel words, and rushed out of the room. Since then she had refused to see her husband.

"It's all the fault of that stupid smile," Stepan Arkadyevich was thinking.

"But what's to be done? What's to be done?" he kept saying to himself in despair- and found no answer.

II

Stepan Arkadyevich was a truthful man in his relations with himself. He was incapable of self-deception and of persuading himself that he repented his conduct. He could not at this date repent the fact that he, handsome, susceptible to love, a man of thirty-four, was not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented was that he had not succeeded better in hiding this from his wife. But he felt all the difficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife, his children, and himself. Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have had such an effect upon her. He had never clearly reflected on the subject, but he had vaguely conceived that his wife must long ago have suspected him of being unfaithful to her, and had shut her eyes to the fact. He had even supposed that she, a worn-out woman no longer young or good-looking, and in no way remarkable or uncommon- merely a good mother- ought from a sense of fairness to take an indulgent view. It had turned out quite the other way.

"Oh, it's awful! Oh dear, oh dear! Awful!" Stepan Arkadyevich kept repeating to himself, and he could think of nothing to be done. "And how well things were going up till now! How well we got on! She was contented and happy in her children; I never interfered with her in anything; I let her manage the children and the house just as she liked. True, it's bad her having been a governess in our house. That's bad! There's something common, vulgar, in flirting with one's governess. But what a governess!" (He vividly recalled the roguish black eyes of Mlle. Roland and her smile.) "But after all, while she was in the house, I kept myself in hand. And the worst of it all is that she's already… It seems as if ill luck would have it so! Oh, oh! But what, what is to be done?"

There was no solution, save that universal solution which life gives to all questions, even the most complex and insolvable: One must live in the needs of the day- that is, forget oneself. To forget himself in sleep was impossible now, at least till nighttime; he could not go back now to the music sung by the decanter women; so he must forget himself in the dream of daily life.

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