By Gary Saul Morson

In this invigorating new overview of Anna Karenina, Gary Saul Morson overturns conventional interpretations of the vintage novel and indicates why readers have misunderstood Tolstoy’s characters and intentions. Morson argues that Tolstoy’s principles are way more radical than has been inspiration: his masterpiece demanding situations deeply held conceptions of romantic love, the method of social reform, modernization, and the character of excellent and evil. by means of investigating the moral, philosophical, and social matters with which Tolstoy grappled, Morson reveals in Anna Karenina robust connections with the troubles of this day. He proposes that Tolstoy’s attempt to determine the area extra correctly can deeply tell our personal look for knowledge within the current day.


The publication deals fabulous analyses of Anna, Karenin, Dolly, Levin, and different characters, with a very refined portrait of Anna’s extremism and self-deception. Morson probes Tolstoy’s very important insights (evil is frequently the results of negligence; goodness derives from small, daily deeds) and completes the quantity with an impossible to resist, unique checklist of 1 Hundred and Sixty-Three Tolstoyan Conclusions.


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Only unconscious action bears fruit, and a man who plays a part in a historical event never understands its significance. If he tries to understand it, he becomes ineffectual" (W&P, 1127). Critical moments only appear decisive because we forget that they are the product of a hundred thousand small moments creating them. Here we see Tolstoy, whose temperament was anything but understated, taking his prosaic insight to an epic extreme. After all, one may grant the importance of the ordinary without asserting that only the ordinary can be important.

If we are to avoid the horrors of the twentieth century, we may need to think differently. Perhaps Tolstoys insights with their inspiring prescience will help us. They may also help people to live their individual lives more fully and with greater self-awareness. Even where they are overstated, mistaken, or simply perverse they may initiate a dialogue in which something vital may be said. So iconoclastic is Anna Karenina that some of its challenges to common opinion have not even been noticed. When a belief is too iconoclastic, it may remain invisible.

How did he do so? However strange it may sound, I think he accomplished this feat by close observation and philosophical reflection. If one really understands human experience, one can reproduce it such that devices used to do so will disappear. That was Tolstoy s credo and the belief of the artist he describes in Anna Karenina. One must first see what is there, not what convention, received opinion, or the histories of psychology, art, or philosophy tell us should be there. Subtract what everyone "knows," then look.

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