“She was in that highly-wrought state when the reasoning powers act with great rapidity: the state a man is in before a battle or a struggle, in danger, and at the decisive moments of life-those moments when a man shows once for all what he is worth, that his past was not lived in vain but was preparation for these moments.”
LEO TOLSTOY, ANNA KARENINA
Anna Karenina is full of these “decisive moments of life”: Vronsky’s horse race; Levin working with the peasants; Anna reuniting with her son; The death of Lenin’s brother; Kitty’s labor; Anna’s final hours; Lenin’s revelation. These are visceral and unforgettable moments.
However it’s also full of superfluous scenes, characters, and dialogue. Is this the secret that makes Tolstoy’s world full and rich? Do these moments shine the way they do because of the slog it took to reach them?
In this way perhaps it mirrors life. And maybe that’s why, when Faulkner was asked his three favorite novels, responded, “Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina”.
You can’t help but notice the same thread of mania running through both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy’s characters. Karenina’s frenzied paranoia is the same of Raskolnokov’s. A temperament that when taken to its extremes, results in death. Don’t swim out too far…