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Anna Karenina (The Margellos World Republic of Letters) Hardcover – November 25, 2014
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This, however, is no average reading experience and I feel compelled to write. Anna Karenina is one of the towering novels of the 19th century and this tranlation by Schwartz does it complete justice. We are afforded a complete, intimate look at the psychology if the human mind as guided by the master himself, Tolstoy. It is a novel of love, loss, betrayal and faith and Tolstoy shines an unrelenting light on it all.
The volume itself is beautiful and the introduction by Morson is pithy and enlightening. I would, however, recommend reading the introduction after completing the novel.
As for the translation, I am a rank novice. I can say that I read the P&V translation of War and Peace and found myself feeling closer to the author's intent with Schwartz's beautiful work. But that was a different time and a very different novel. Suffice it to say I do not believe that this translation by Marian Schwartz will do anything but steer you to the heart of Tolstoy's great masterpiece.
Since I have a special interest, I've read quite a few reviews of this book, some of which seem to me wrong-headed. Some want the translator to produce a "flavor" of that Russian grammar -- a pitfall that usually traps the academic reviewer. English and Russian grammar differ by quite a bit, according to everything I've read. For me, the question is always "How would you say this in English?" It turns out that such a question, while basic, has no easy answer.
To anticipate Passover: Why is this Anna Karenina different from all other Anna Kareninas? Since I haven't read the others -- after the Garnett, there are at least four other major ones -- I can compare my sister only to Garnett. My sister's far more readable, for one thing. The prose flies. I can fairly call it a page-turner. I was surprised at how funny it is, how much satire Tolstoy packs in. Garnett seems rather dour in comparison. Also, my sister works with the most recently completed scholarly edition of the text.
The major change from other versions, however, is discussed in the translator's introduction. Tolstoy, as a conscious stylistic choice, stripped his vocabulary of synonyms. That is, he used the same word again and again in a short space. Since some mandarins of English style consider repetition a stylistic mistake, many translators, trying "to save Tolstoy from himself," have varied the repetitions by substituting synonyms and even euphemisms. However, Tolstoy was reacting against precisely this kind of elegance. Indeed, he considered it immoral. This version emphasizes the repetitions, and the effect is that you get Tolstoy's attitude toward each character without him ever explicitly saying this one is good and this one is bad as well as the issues that Tolstoy considers important. The book changes from a romance about a woman who sacrifices all for love to a passionate vision of what makes a good society.
Gary Saul Morson provides a brilliant, erudite introduction to the work -- pure lagniappe.
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I purchased both new translations of Tolstoy's ANNA KARENINA (the other being...Read more