26 October 2013

Book Review

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

To be brief, this book was awful.  Perhaps it was simply the translation I was reading, but this book was mind-numbingly boring, and rather tedious to read, especially since every character had roughly six dozen names, and there was absolutely no consistency in their usage.  The only enjoyable character was Stepan/Stiva/Oblonksy/Etc.; the rest were just miserable.  Anna is a cunt; Alexei is a stupid asshole; Levin is a pussy; Kitty is an idiot; Dolly is insufferable; etc.  I stopped reading about halfway through the second book because I got tired of waiting for a plot twist wherein all the characters die and you discover that the remaining two-thirds of the book are left blank as a good joke on the reader.  Alas, this plot twist did not happen soon enough, and so I put down the book.

Anna is particularly insufferable as a character because her actions simply do not make sense.  While it is obvious that she is not madly in love with her husband, it simply does not make sense, given how she is described, that she would fall for someone like Vronsky.  While her having an affair is understandable; her having an affair with Vronsky is not.  It also doesn’t make sense for her to coldly turn down Vronsky’s offer of marriage.  While it would be reasonable for her to decline an offer eventually, it doesn’t make sense that she never gives the offer serious thought.  Perhaps she’s really more of an ice queen than Tolstoy describes?  But if that’s the case, how could she possibly reconcile Dolly and Stepan?  Her character makes no sense whatsoever.

Levin is also insufferable, but only because I don’t give a single fuck about idealizing eighteenth century farm life, from the perspective of a moderately wealthy landowner.  Tolstoy’s bias towards to the simple country life, as manifest in Levin’s character, is simply annoying.  The farm is no better or worse than the city, and only an asshole romanticizes such dirty, boring work.  Also, Levin’s a total pussy when it comes to women (especially Kitty) which I can’t respect.  At least Stepan has some balls.  But then, it always felt like Levin was Tolstoy’s ideal sort of man, and given that Tolstoy was a pacifist, it make sense that Tolstoy would idealize the herbly sort of loser beta that is Levin.  Wikipedia confirms that Levin does marry Kitty, which, when you think about it, makes this story into a fairy tale.

All in all, this is a very boring book that features, with one notable exception, insultingly unbelievable characters.  There is a lot of extraneous detail that bogs down the work, and surprisingly little insight into the human condition.  But then, Tolstoy was writing a fairy tale.  This book was an incredible letdown, given that it had been highly recommended by a friend.  Thus, I only recommend this book if you’re in the mood to hold a steaming pile of shit in your hands, but don’t want to go the bother of grabbing actual poop.