Have you noticed the quote at the beginning of Anna Karenina? "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." I've been thinking about it this past week as I read and I have been wondering who is going to claim vengeance and upon whom? First guess of course--Alexei Karenin on Anna or on Anna and Vronsky. We'll see if that is the case.
I don't think I'll be giving away any spoilers, but just in case...I am a third of the way through part two (approximately page 150 in the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation).
As I've finally met Anna's husband I am getting an idea of what he's like. I'm trying not to let myself be too judgmental--it's too early in the novel I think to be assigning judgment, but those first impressions are sometimes lasting. Alexei is a high ranking government official and well respected. First thoughts--he mocks his wife, which of course doesn't go down well in my book, yet he isn't a jealous man. He believes jealousy is insulting to his wife and he feels he should trust her. However, back in Petersburg where Vronsky has followed Anna there is gossip floating about. Nothing inappropriate has happened yet, but tongues are wagging. And Anna questions how she feels towards Alexei.
"For a moment her face fell and the mocking spark in her eye went out; but the word 'love' again made her indignant. She thought: 'Love? But can he love? If he hadn't heard there was such a thing as love, he would never have used the word. He doesn't even know what love is'."
I'm wondering what the attraction is to Vronsky? Purely physical? Intellectual? Flattery? It's still early days, though, isn't it?
I've been told that Tolstoy was a moralist, so expect his characters to pay for their sins, and thinking of that initial quote I am expecting heavy judgment to be made. He sounds a little bit Victorian and I suppose this was the Victorian era in Britain, so perhaps it all carried over and across borders. Let's see--we have Madame Bovary in 1857, Kate Chopin's The Awakening in 1899, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles in 1891, and those are only the first three that come to mind. Anna Karenina was published in 1877. There are heroines littered all over the pages of great novels fated to come to unhappy endings for their actions.
I've not said anything about Tolstoy, but I've read some brief biographical information. He came from one of the best and oldest families in Russia. As a youth he was self conscious and scrutinized his own actions, which would carry over through the rest of his life. He was an assiduous diary keeper, so we are left with a well documented record of his life. He had quite the social life, but he was embarrassed by his plain, peasant features. He sounds rather like Levin as he wanted to farm on his ancestral estate, but he couldn't overcome the distrust of the peasants. Instead he lead a life of dissipation which continued during the years he served in the army. Somewhere around this time he was writing and had gained some notoriety. He seems to have undergone a serious inner struggle between his good and bad impulses. It was through his travels in Europe which began in 1857 that he underwent a transformation from a dissolute youth to someone more introspective. Very tellingly he met Victor Hugo and read Les Miserables, whose talents he admired. It sounds as though he went through philosophical and spiritual struggles throughout his life that were defined somewhat when he fought in the Crimean War, and no doubt some of these struggles are probably going to be apparent in the pages of Anna Karenina.
By the way, his house still stands and is now a museum. It includes some 22,000 books in his library! Impressive.
I'm thoroughly enjoying Anna Karenina so far, it's so much more readable than War and Peace (which was still very readable only so many battle scenes and so much philosophizing) as well as Les Miserables (more battle scenes and philosophizing), but still this is a fascinating era to learn about through literature.
This week I hope to get through the rest of part two.