Reading Anna Karenina Part 3

From now on, I’d like to say in advance that these posts on Anna Karenina are to be read on your own risk, they might include minor spoilers.

Remember last week when I said that the parts in which Tolstoy has one of the characters reflect on things like agriculture were never quite long enough to get on my nerves? Well, part three changed that for me. Levin’s thoughts on agriculture and how European reforms might not work in Russia were long. Very long. I am not sure if I would wish to reread this part of the novel any time soon.

However, it did not make me dislike Levin. I actually still like him most. It intrigues me that he takes the time to consider the position the workers and he himself are in. And I do think these considerations might be interesting if I had known more about communist thought and other opinions on agriculture at the time. Unfortunately, socio-economic history has never been my forte.

What annoys me a little about Levin is how easily he sometimes seems to give up his own feelings. Somewhere near the end of part three I just wanted to shake him and make him realise he loves Kitty already. I’m not exactly sure why, but I really want them to end up together in a happy manner.

As for Anna and Karenin, I am still unsure. Karenin’s considerations in not divorcing Karenina seemed selfish in that he seems to only consider his reputation. However, I still cannot blame him because Anna’s selfishness keeps getting on my nerves too much.

There was one paragraph on children in this part of the novel that struck a chord with me. When I am around children I am often afraid that they will think I am “pretending” in the manner Tolstoy explains here. This awareness makes me even more self-conscious and this of course leads to actual pretending:

“Though the children did not know Levin well and did not remember when they had last seen him, they did not feel toward him any of that strange shyness and antagonism so often felt by children toward grown-up people who ‘pretend,’ which causes them to suffer painfully. Pretence about anything sometimes deceives the wisest and shrewdest man, but, however cunningly it is hidden, a child of the meanest capacity feels it and is repelled by it.”

13 responses to “Reading Anna Karenina Part 3

  1. I’m asssuming you know that Levin is Tolstoy himself, thinly disguised, and Levin and Kitty’s courtship and marriage closely mirror that of Tolstoy and his wife? I love all the bits about estate management; that’s what makes me feel as though I’ve been transported back to Tolstoy’s day in Russia. It all feels like a perfect snapshot of time and place.

    War and Peace is even better. You get to learn a LOT about how battles were fought and won, back in the day. :)

    Sorry you are not loving AK. I was so smitten with the dashing Vronsky the first time I read it. :)

    • I did not know that Levin is Tolstoy, but I did suspect it. Thank you for confirming it.
      I feel like I should know a bit more about the period to fully appreciate all the descriptions of estate management, etc.

      I am not sure why it is that I don’t particularly like Vronsky or Anna Karenina. I can’t seem to keep my annoyance at bay.

  2. I have to admit that, just in case I sometime get up the nerve to pick up the book… I haven’t read the post. Thanks for the warning! Happy to see you are making more progress though :)

  3. I absolutely love reading your thoughts of this as you go along! I can’t wait to see your final evaluations.

  4. Why do I feel like I’ve read AK when I read your posts? I swear I only got about 1/3 through but this post makes me feel like I did read the whole book. Which is why I have failed finishing the darn thing.

  5. I have never read Anna Karenina so I am enjoying your posts! I am not sure yet if your posts make me want to read it or not ;-) It seems at times you are somewhat ambivalent towards the characters/farming practice discussions and I feel that I would feel ambivalent about those things as well. Hmm…. decisions, decisions!

  6. I read War and Peace a few years ago, exactly five days ago I bought Anna Karenina which I am planning to read this summer, why ? Because I just finished “The elegance of the Hedgehog” and there are so many references to AK that I am now really intrigued.
    Love your toughts, I don’t mind spoilers at all

  7. Sadly this book has already been spoiled for me – but on the bright side, I can read your posts. I want to read it myself some day, but who knows when that day will be…

  8. Hi. Found you indirectly through the Friday Blog Hop. I’ve been feeling guilty for years about not having read Anna Karenina. Some reviews have said it’s impossible to get through, others say it’s wonderful. I found War and Peace a bit dull in places. I think you’ve given me the necessary courage to finally get at AK, so thanks for that!

  9. Haha I knew it was coming, but didn’t want to put you off. That farming section was ok for me, but a little bit too long I agree. I wish Levin didn’t give up on the idea of making farming work better, but he seems very flightly to me and a bit defeatist occassionally like you said. I think Kitty and Levin are detined for each other, but I’m not sure I like that very much.

    And hurray I’m not alone, when I started reading I found Anna terribly selfish and a bit manipulative (that whole thing about making Dolloy go back to her cheating husband stuck in my throat). I think as Karenina has become more manipulative I’ve grown more sympathetic towards her, but still…I’m not sure we’re meant to like her and Vronsky unreservedly though, in fact when I was starting to read this one commenter said I shouldn’t exoect to like all the characters.

  10. I’m still working on part three–it isn’t the most gripping part of the novel so far. It’s been interesting to see what Levin makes of the peasants. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with him as in a way he seems to idealize them and their lifestyle and somehow it doesn’t seem that simple. I’m not entirely sure what I think about Anna and Vronksy. I’m still sympathetic with Anna, but I think Vronsky’s true colors are coming through-particularly with that horse race. I need to get back to posting on AK. I was afraid readers were getting tired of hearing me talk about it, but you have a nice discussion going on here! :)

    • I hope you get back to posting on Anna Karenina. I thought that maybe I had missed them somehow and that you had finished the book already!

  11. i am reading AK right now, I just finished part 3.
    and i have to admit that reading part 3 took a lot of effort. part 1 and 2 were smooth.
    i am glad that i am /was not the only one who struggled with part 3. hope part 4 gets better.

    i liked Anna in the beginning, somewhere from the 2nd part onwards i started disliking her. after finishing part 3 i dont feel any sympathy towards her, actually I dont like her at all anymore. I find her much more selfish than her husband, who has a change of heart at least.

    I am quite indifferent about Vronsky. But the one I really really find disgusting is Stephan (Anna’s brother). He seems to me the most selfish one in novel to me.

    Even I didnt know that Lewin was Tolstoi. He is picturized quite ideal.
    Kitty’s inner change was nice to read. I enjoyed that part.

    As I said i reading part 4 now, so lets see how it continues.

    @iris i love this post. and i am glad that i found it.

    @all comments. i also enjoy reading the comments here.

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