In my teens, around the time of the wonderful BBC adaptation of War & Peace with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, and ITV’s Anna Karenina with Nicola Pagett as the doomed heroine, I went through a real Russian phase in my reading. We had copies of most of the Russian greats already in the house as my late mum was a big fan. I’ve long planned to start re-reading them, but it’s difficult to make the time. However, the arrival of a lovely new hardback edition of Anna Karenina from the OUP told me it was time!
Although I already know the plot (somewhat hazily by now), I elected not to read the Foreword before the novel. It’s a nice touch in this volume that a spoiler alert prefaces the Foreword advising readers not wishing to know the plot to return later. However, I have read and bookmarked the list of characters with all the different names they appear in the text with.
This translation is by Chekhov specialist Rosamund Bartlett from 2014. (Read Helen Rappaport’s review of it at Shiny here, and an article by Rosamund herself on translating it here). Bartlett’s translation is elegant and immensely readable and although I’m only fifty pages in, I know we’ll get along famously. Sensibly perhaps, she leaves Tolstoy’s famous and oft-quoted opening line unaltered:
All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
I’m only 60 pages in, but already we’ve learned of Oblonsky’s affair with his family’s French governess, and Levin’s return from the countryside to propose to Kitty only to be initially rebuffed for Kitty’s passion for Vronsky who has just put in a first appearance in chapter 14.
I will also soon rewatch the 2012 film which was innovatively filmed totally inside a ballroom. with just the railway scenes done outside (filmed nearby at Didcot railway museum). It stars Keira Knightley and Jude Law and was rather good I recall with an excellent screenplay by Tom Stoppard.
I have approximately 770 pages to go, and I’m going to love every minute of rediscovering this book. I’m going to take my time, reading it alongside other books – unless, like Karen’s recent War & Peace experience I get sucked into not putting it down! Expect updates…
Source: Publisher – thank you.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translated Rosamund Bartlett – new hardback edition to be published Sept 25, previous Oxford World Classics edition available.