I was scrolling through my Kindle (which I hardly every look at) this morning and found I had downloaded a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s been years–and years and years and years–since I read it. These words reminded me of why I downloaded it to begin with. Because seriously, how can one not read on?
Amazon’s blurb says that Tolstoy wrote this in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 for the periodical The Russian Messenger. It goes on to say Tolstoy considered the book “his first true novel, after he came to consider War and Peace to be more than a novel. Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it a ‘flawless as a work of art,’ an opinion 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 Time poll of 125 contemporary authors in which Anna Karenina was voted the ‘greatest book ever written.’
First words from Anna Karenina, chapter 1
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Everything was in confusion in the Oblongskys’ 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 she could not go on living in the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family and household were painfully conscious of it. Every person in the house felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that the stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys. The wife did not leave her own room, the husband had not been at home for three 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 situation for her; the man-cook had walked off the day before just at dinner time; the kitchen-maid, and the coachman had given warning.
I’m putting this on my “read again” list for this year.
Have you read it?
What do you think about that first line?
Or the line about stray people in an inn having more in common?