Faye Rapoport DesPres

Anna Karenina

10:44 p.m. on a Thursday night, and I’ve just finished reading Anna Karenina (for the second time — I read it once many years ago). I have taken my time with this reading, finishing a few other things in-between, sometimes picking up the story for an hour, sometimes leaving it for days at a time. Toward the end, I could feel my reluctance to let it go; I started to re-read the same sentences a few times over. But then finally I got caught up in the final scenes, and I read it to the last word.

And now it’s over.

It’s hard to describe how I feel after reading what some people consider the greatest novel ever written. But if I were to try, I’d say this: I feel as if I’ve had a long, deep conversation. I have visited with a mind that left behind its views and considerations of the world. I’m struck by how the thoughts, and questions, and ideas in the novel are so similar to issues I think about, more than 130 years later, in a different country, in a different language, being female not male, being Jewish, not Christian. I am in awe of the way Tolstoy was able to enter the minds of such diverse characters, and paint a portrait of a world that is gone — so accurately that I could hear it, taste it, smell it, and see it. I know I will think for a long time about the ideas he presented about the lives of men and women.

And I will never forget the details. I leave you with this scene featuring Levin:

“Yes, I must make it clear to myself and understand,” he thought, looking intently at the untrampled grass before him, and following the movements of a green beetle, advancing along a blade of couch-grass and lifting up in its progress a leaf of goat-weed. “What have I discovered?” he asked himself, bending aside the leaf of goat-weed out of the beetle’s way and twisting another blade of grass above for the beetle to cross onto it. “What is it makes me glad? What have I discovered?”


What, indeed.



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