Anna Karenina

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Cosima___J
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Anna Karenina

Post by Cosima___J » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:05 pm

I've just finished reading this thoroughly fascinating Tolstoy novel. An exhausting experience! I began to completely identify with Anna (even though I'm NOT an adulteress) Can being trapped in a loveless marriage with a much older man be an excuse to commit adultery? I'm not saying yes or no. But the society people of the novel certainly turned their backs on her, isolating her and making her situation unbearable. The belief that everyone (even people who don't know you) are against you can lead to suicidal thoughts, which Anna unfortunately acts on.

After having read an article in a women's magazine written by a woman with paranoid schizophrenia, I thought that her symptoms were exactly the same as Tolstoy's Anna.

I'm wondering whether people in Tolstoy's day knew anything about schizophrenia? Did his contemporaries recognize that Anna Karenina displayed the typical thoughts/behavior of that mental illness?

jbuck919
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:10 pm

Cosima___J wrote:I've just finished reading this thoroughly fascinating Tolstoy novel. An exhausting experience! I began to completely identify with Anna (even though I'm NOT an adulteress) Can being trapped in a loveless marriage with a much older man be an excuse to commit adultery?
Well don't start a thread on the greatest novel ever written or anything. :)

Can we assume that you are trapped in a loveless marriage with an older man but have not succumbed to adulterous temptations? (OK face, consider yourself slapped.)

Seriously, thanks for introducing an elevated topic. Wish I had something less facetious to contribute.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Cosima___J
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Cosima___J » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:31 pm

Although I liked the novel immensely, I wouldn't call it "the greatest novel ever written". I'd give that accolade to Tolstoy's other monumental work, War and Peace.

Or maybe The Brothers Karamazov, a book I've read at least three times. Thank you Dostoyevsky!

Der Fremde
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Der Fremde » Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:52 am

[quote="Cosima___J"]Although I liked the novel immensely, I wouldn't call it "the greatest novel ever written". I'd give that accolade to Tolstoy's other monumental work, War and Peace.

Sure. I've read Anna several times when I was younger. It seemed then a beautifully constructed work (of course, not reading Russian, my impression was also, in part, created by the translation (was it Constance Bennett?...can't recall). If, at the time, I regarded it as 'the greatest', it was only because I had yet to read War and Peace or The Brothers K. I'm reluctant to use superlatives these days as their magic only lasts as long as I don't think too much about other reading experiences.

Make a prioritized list of favorites, and I guarantee that within a week it will change (ha!). This, for me, applies to musical works as well.

(At the moment, stock for Henry James, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ferruccio Busoni, and Anton Bruckner are soaring, reaching all-time record highs)

"If you can't be with the one you love.........love the one you're with." :lol:
- Der Fremde

"I never know how much of what I say is true." - Bette Midler

John F
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by John F » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:42 am

Cosima___J wrote:Can being trapped in a loveless marriage with a much older man be an excuse to commit adultery?
Is adultery ever excusable? Or to put it another way, how much does the institution of marriage really matter, or more generally, the keeping of a promise? You'd get different answers from a '60s hippie and Pope Francis. If the marriage was not coerced, and unless both husband and wife consent, adultery is a betrayal and the violation of an explicit or implicit pledge if not a sacrament. One may forgive it, but can one really excuse it?
John Francis

SONNET CLV
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by SONNET CLV » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:04 pm

Cosima___J wrote:I've just finished reading this thoroughly fascinating Tolstoy novel. An exhausting experience! I began to completely identify with Anna

A suggestion. Stay away from railway stations.

Meanwhile ... have you had a desire to hear Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9?


The Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler, coined the term, "schizophrenia" in 1911, but the condition had been identified as a discrete mental illness by Dr. Emile Kraepelin in 1887. Since Anna Karenina dates to the early 1870s, Tolstoy couldn't have known the term. But the condition, whether nameless or known by another nomer, was evident in the human population as attested to by artistic depictions. Shakespeare created Richard III, after all, long before Tolstoy.

I'm fond of reading the ending of Karenina , but after reading Tolstoy's "What is Art?" (1896) I'm less inclined to enjoy the writer. Among the artists whom Tolstoy "trashes" in "What is Art?" is a fellow named Shakespeare, yet Anna is a very Shakespearean character and one questions whether Tolstoy could have conceived of her had we never had Shakespeare. But paradox is not only a feature of Tolstoy, it remains a feature of great art in general.

(Interestingly enough, Tolstoy also trashes himself, at least his books War and Peace and Anna Karenina as "bad art" in his essay. And he didn't seem to like Beethoven too well either, especially that composer's Ninth Symphony. More "bad art".)

jbuck919
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:27 pm

John F wrote:
Cosima___J wrote:Can being trapped in a loveless marriage with a much older man be an excuse to commit adultery?
Is adultery ever excusable? Or to put it another way, how much does the institution of marriage really matter, or more generally, the keeping of a promise? You'd get different answers from a '60s hippie and Pope Francis. If the marriage was not coerced, and unless both husband and wife consent, adultery is a betrayal and the violation of an explicit or implicit pledge if not a sacrament. One may forgive it, but can one really excuse it?
Written by a man who has never been married, though I'm certainly the pot calling the kettle black. Why some people remain faithful to their spouses and others do not is one of life's great mysteries. Run down the list of US presidents and explain to me why George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant apparently never betrayed their wives, in fact remained in love with them, while other presidents with beautiful and accomplished wives, including the nebbishy Warren G. Harding, found it wherever they could get it. Personally, I am very disinclined to cast general aspersions against those who stray. We only live once, and a condemnation to perpetual connubial lovelessness is a bitter pill to swallow just to be true to a callow promise.
SONNET CLV wrote:The Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler, coined the term, "schizophrenia" in 1911, but the condition had been identified as a discrete mental illness by Dr. Emile Kraepelin in 1887. Since Anna Karenina dates to the early 1870s, Tolstoy couldn't have known the term. But the condition, whether nameless or known by another nomer, was evident in the human population as attested to by artistic depictions. Shakespeare created Richard III, after all, long before Tolstoy.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disease that we now know has an organic cause. People who suffer from it have almost literally lost their minds, suffering both delusions and hallucinations that were until recently untreatable let alone incurable. Neither Anna Karenina nor Richard III qualifies, though Anna's behavior near the end is erratic and irrational, and perhaps more inexplicable than we can easily excuse Tolstoy for. The character in Shakespeare who comes closest to this kind of madness is King Lear, but it seems clear that Shakespeare set him up to be driven out of his mind by life circumstances rather than disease, a very dubious proposition that was a dramatic commonplace of the time (and later, including of course in opera), and that would disqualify the play on the grounds of credibility if the writer spinning out the story had been anyone but Shakespeare.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Felix
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Felix » Thu May 08, 2014 12:39 pm

I don't thInk Anna Karenina wasnot the SLIGHTEST BIT schizophrenic. It was the pervailing society in which she lived that was socially schizophrenic. Tolstoy's portrayal of her is a powerful, eloquent protest against the dominnnat culture, even if he did not entirely intend this. The pen out-rides the writer's intentions. She is torn between the love of her son and that of Vronsky and the resulting confusion, which is entirely human, is brilliantly portrayed by Tolstoy.

Tarantella
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Tarantella » Thu May 08, 2014 4:19 pm

Felix wrote:I don't thInk Anna Karenina wasnot the SLIGHTEST BIT schizophrenic. It was the pervailing society in which she lived that was socially schizophrenic. Tolstoy's portrayal of her is a powerful, eloquent protest against the dominnnat culture, even if he did not entirely intend this. The pen out-rides the writer's intentions. She is torn between the love of her son and that of Vronsky and the resulting confusion, which is entirely human, is brilliantly portrayed by Tolstoy.
I don't think any kind of psychological condition such as we identify today is affecting Anna. Although it is entirely possible that Tolstoy was familiar with the early work of Freud, he wouldn't need to know this because any great writer is already prescient and has a deep understanding of the human condition.

I agree with Felix; it's about the dominant culture - but I don't think a society can be schizophrenic. Anna finds that loving Vronsky is not enough - there are other equally important considerations in life which include family, self-respect, belonging and social position. Anna discovers this to her peril. In the crepuscular stages of any grand passion real life resides. Anna cannot look forward to that because she has, unwittingly or otherwise, severed all the ties that will sustain the life she's known.

Death is inevitable.

Felix
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Felix » Fri May 09, 2014 5:43 am

Dear friend Tarantella, I have to disagree with you on some points. You say social schizophrenia doesn't exist, What about the vast majority of Germans who supported Hitler, also in his anti-Semitism and similar siatutations all over the world the Islamic fundamentalists etc. etc? The football fans who are prepared to kill others just because they belong to a rival club? No reason for this behavioor whatever. These people have been separated form their thinking selves and have been transformed into marionettes of evil. Maybe there is another word for this type of schizophrenia; I don't know it. I don't look to Freud as a guide but to my own modest intelligence.

You agree with me that Anna's tragedy results from the dominant culture. At the end of your letter you say ' death was inevitable'; yes, it was in those circumstances. I know many examples in which death was not inevitable, too many to quote, but I will restrict myself to one: that of the great singer, Elizabeth Schumann, She left her husband to have one affair after the other, one, if my memory does not deceive me, with the conductor, Klemperer. The law of those times still exist to some extent, and she was unable to see her son until he came of age. When he did, he quickly got to know her, and later lived with he, or near her,r in London with his wife to whom Elisabeth gave singing lessons. She lived to the end of her life, an honoured and beloved singer without any problems with society Death was not inevitable..I have to restrain myself from giving other examples of a more humane solution of such problems.

Anna Karenina, the novel, starts with a marital crisis between Dolly and her husband, Stepan (Anna's brother). Dolly has ignored his philandering but when it comes to having an affair with a servant in her own household, this is too much for her; paradoxically, Anna brings about the reconciliation. After that Stepan, who evidently has no more sexual satisfaction at home, continues philandering but keeps his affairs well out of his home. Nature wants men, blindly, to plant their seeds, and women relatively less blindly (?) to receive them. Ethical and religious codes have tried to put and end to this, unsuccessfully.A faithful marriage depends on a really good companionship between husband and wife; Anna K. had absolutely none of this. Her husband, as he says to himself, doesn't care what Anna gets up to and is only concerned with social appearances

On rereading the novel, I have just reached the point where Anna has furtively seen her son and is in a state of complete confusion. Her first impulse is to call for Vronsky to confess her grief to him, but Vronsky is with a visitor, a prince, no less, so she can't speeak openly. She escapes to see a female friend. Vronsky can't understand what's going on and gets angry. Up till now he has been an honourable (disgusting word) man, faithful to Anna and has told friends that either they accept him with Anna or he won't accept them. The novel suggests that if Anna had she been able to obtain a divorce and married Vronsky their situation in society would have been considerably better. Some of Vronsky's friends turn away from his relationship with Anna after failing to hear the word 'divorce.' - I still have to read the last pages to see how the estrangement from Vronsky comes about and what leads to Annas fateful visit to he railway station.

Yes, maybe death was inevitable in Anna's case, but much more inevitable was that she would fall in love with a handsome young man. And who knows, when they fall magically in love, what is going to happen next? Fraud wrote pages about trapped housewives turning to neurosis and alcohol. I detest that word 'pledged' in a religious sense, because marriage can be hell.

George Eliot took up with a married man, Henry Lewes. Due to prejudice n England, they had to live abroad. When Lewes had to go into Socciety either in England or abroad, she let him go on his own. What did she care about stupid people? Far from being a 'lost woman' - the utter barbarity of this phrase! - she was a woman who had found herself. How could anyone not be honoured to have her as a guest? They must have spent some time in England as they were often in the front row of Clara Schumann's concerts.

Anna K. didn't have Eliot's independent intellectual resources, as of many women, even today.

Felix

Felix
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Felix » Mon May 12, 2014 3:23 am

I received a notification of reply from CMG for this thread but can't see any letter after my last one. I sent my letter to a friend, Jan, and did get a short reply from her.

First of all, Jan asked me what Nazism and anti-Semitism had to do with Anna. Nothing, except that I was replying to Tarantella about the notion of 'social schizophrenia', a notion which was coined by me. I have already explained what I mean by by this. In any case, To describe Anna as schizophrenic is obviously ridiculous.

I am definitely not religious in the conventional sense and would prefer the word 'adultery' to be cancelled from the English vocabulary.

Jan does not like Anna as a fictional character and finds her 'superficial'. Other ladies at the coffee party we once attended agreed with her and someone thought she did well to end under a train Jan replaced my notion of social schizophrenia with 'inherent human evil'. Could anything be more evil and barbaric than this suggestion?. It was this discussion that led me to reread the novel.

Anna's superficiality and stupidity,according to Jan:

Firstly she is resented as belonging to an aristocratic class, a 'noble' lady. A novelist can use any chraracter he wishes, whether they belong to the aristocracy, are bourgeois or street sweepers; all all depends on how the character is treated and what it reveals about society as a whole.Woks of art cannot be judged by the social position of the characters in them.

Tolstoy, to begin with, does not show her intelligence, but takes itf. or granted that she is an educated woman. She speaks French impeccably and also English. When Vronsky leaves her bruskely to spend five days with his military companions we find her reading Hypoolie Taine, a French philosopher. More significant si her meeting with Levin .Llevin has avoided meeting Vronsk, but whe he does he gets on very well with him and, with other friends who are prepared to encounter the ?lost woman,' invites him to meet Anna and he consents. When he meets her he is entirely enchanted. H e finds it easy to converse with her and is completely stunned by her beauty and intelligence, to the point of being oblivious of the people and the world around him. They talk about the latest tendencies in French art and literature. A stupid, superficial woman, no doubt!!

Jan also writes that 'toy boys' soon tire of their adorers. If thereis one thing one can't call Vronsky, despite the deficiencies he may have, it is a 'toy boy'. He an Aanna had about the same age;h e was seriously in love with her, but his love was 'schizophrenically' divided between her and his military mates and career. She certainly adored him absolutely and she may well have committed suicide because of a broken heart, as well as her situation as a 'lost woman' iin 'Society.' Vronsky,at thsi point, is still deetrmoned to maary . Jan adds that it is a male dominated morality. I agree with her her.

At the point I have reached - the meeting with Levin - her husband has conceded to a divorce, but this has been dragging for months due to the custody of Anna's son, presumably whether she can see him not.This son has spent his boyhood longing for her, looking for her. When he goes for a walk in the park, he looks at the back of every woman an is disappointed when the woman is not his mother. H doesn't believe she is dead has he has been told,. This is what I call cruelty and immorality.

I said in previous letters that Anna was the victim of prevailing immoral morality. Jan adds that it is a male dominated norality and I agree with her. Anna K. is isolated but Vronsky can flit about in society as he pleases.I still have to read the last dread-filled pages of the novel to read.

Felix

John F
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by John F » Mon May 12, 2014 6:10 am

A bunch of messages disappeared from CMG a while back and were never restored.
John Francis

Felix
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Felix » Mon May 12, 2014 6:45 am

Thanks, John, for letting me know. I was expecting a bunch of negative replies as I am an out and out non-conformist on the subject concerned. But I like negative replies as they make one think. I am now keeping copies of my letters. - So this problem is continuing on CMG. Maybe my last letter will als disappear. I hope it will be solved soon. solved soon. I wrote a letter to Lance bust received no reply.

Felix

John F
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by John F » Mon May 12, 2014 7:52 am

The problem happened twice in the space of a few days, but not since. My guess is it's some kind of difficulty with the servers at the company hosting CMG, or with the backups it presumably makes of the sites it hosts. If so, it's beyond Lance's or our control.
John Francis

Felix
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Felix » Mon May 12, 2014 12:39 pm

Thanks again, John. If it's the fault of the hosting company then surely John or Corlyssw would inform them? It was Tarantella who persuaded me to join CMG. I have only just put my foot through the door and it has happened to me twice Maybe there is a computer intelligence which says,'here comes this diabolical' Felix and we have to scotch him.' My ywo longish letters have nevertheless survivied. I'm sorry I couldn't read other mails. on this interesting subject. It's a bit like belonging to a book reading club. I know I lashed out , not at you personally, but at your thoughts expressed about inexcusable adultery.

I have not yet read the last pages the novel as i fell asleep while reading.this afternoon.. I've just finished the encounter between Anna and Levin was much like a love at first sight. I prefer the Italian expression 'colpo di fulimine' , a strike of lightning. I am not as morally 'loose' as I might seem. I have refused overwhelming temptations with men who had a steady boyfriend whom I didn't want to hurt. But Anna K's situation situation is quite different.

The meeting between Anna and Levin has all the characteristics of a 'strike of lightning'. he is spell bond and entirely enaamoured of her, her beauty, her intelligence, her naLuraless in expressing ideas, the ease with which he can communicate with her, who expresses ideas that he finds appropriate to their themes, Naturally Levin has no intention of doing anything about it. Imagine the complications which would have ensued!. I suppose this could be an argument against a free for all But this is our ethical code., I have studied cultures which had completely different codes. -At any rate, Tolstoy new the human nature of his period
ant this is what enriches his novel.

The whole subject of faithfulness in marriage or companionship is a big subject and merits a thread of its own.

Felix

John F
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by John F » Mon May 12, 2014 12:56 pm

Corlyss has left CMG. Lance has been notified. I've no doubt he has taken it up with the ISP, but that's his business and I haven't asked him about it. At least you know that it had nothing to do with you personally. And I certainly didn't take anything you've said personally either - in fact, I'm afraid I've forgotten it.

Trying to remember, my comment was based on the difference between forgiving someone's wrongdoing and excusing it. To make an excuse is to try and defend or justify it, to say that it isn't so bad or not bad at all. To forgive or pardon wrongdoing is to say that though indefensible, one personally chooses not to make the wrongdoer suffer for it. Some use the words interchangeably; in America we say "Excuse me," in the U.K. they say "Pardon me." I think the distinction is important and worth observing. I said more back then, but now I've moved on and will leave it at that.
John Francis

Felix
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by Felix » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:08 am

I think this thread on Anna Karenina died on its feet when the glitches occurred on CMG.I was just reading the novel and finished it.. I still wanted to make some rounding off remarks. I sent them to a friend and copy them below. I had more to say but willleave it at this.

The Anna Karenina tragedy is hard to take - nevertheless I met a girl friend on Sunday who said lovingly that this was her favourite novel: she keeps it close to her heart. Putting aside all questions of morality, bad and good, Tolstoy is at his most inspired and brilliant in the three sections dealing with her deteriorating relationship with Vronsky, her desperation and her aimless wanderings at railway stations, getting on and off trains until she decides to take the final leap. Tolstoy really gets under the skin of his characters, their psychology and conflicting emotions. He does not spare us a single blow or pulse beat of emotion and this goes on for pages. No society has the right to torture and kill a woman in this way, even if she, with infinite regret and anguish, leaves her son, or rather, is prevented from seeing him. I think of the actress Anna Magnani whose husband left her for Ingrid Bergman: when the divorce Took place and the question of custody of the children came up, she said immediately, "The children can go to whom ever they wish to whenever they please." This is a big step towards civilisation. - No the evil was not in Anna K. but in the society that surrounded her.

The novel has a disappointingly happy ending, though, to begin with there is more drama, because Levin actually plans to commit suicide, gets the ropes and the pistol ready or hides them to resist the temptation because he thinks his life is meaningless This would have been a seriously disconcerting act, since he has his pretty wife and their child. But then a chance conversation with a peasant transforms his life. The peasant says we live and work to serve God." I mean I always had a feeling of this since youth even if the 'God' was not a distinct entity. This vaery faith can lead us to despair. Levin is not, at any rate, impressed with the Church and its evils. From this point on he becomes a happy person and the last part of the novel is devoted to the idyllic life of Levin's Kitty and her family. Anna is never remembered and does not come up again.

Felix

John F
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by John F » Thu Jun 05, 2014 6:36 am

It's been a long time since I read the novel, but I've always thought the part after Anna's suicide was tacked on, perhaps to serve some need of the author's rather than of his characters. Not going to read it again to see if I still feel that way about it.
John Francis

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