Paige’s Favorite Book: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

Show Notes for Episode 2.3

Quick Links from the Episode

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (1877)
  • Folio Facts: The smell of old books is known as bibliosmia and is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by the materials of the book. Scientists can now measure the state of preservation of a book by testing this smell using chromatography and spectroscopy.
  • BBE Bookstore: Jennifer presented Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. Interested in reading Sapiens and supporting the podcast? Order from our Bookshop store!
  • We mention the 1905 Revolution in this episode, a hugely important event in Russian history and Jennifer is eternally ashamed that she couldn’t remember what it was about.
  • Creatives’ Corner: Paige plugs YouTube channel Overly Sarcastic Productions. Co-hosts Red and Blue make educational videos about mythology, literature, history, etc. Recommended for any nerd who appreciates a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed

Leo Tolstoy – anna karenina

Main Points from the Episode

  • Why did Jennifer hate Anna Karenina? Well, she didn’t actually hate it, per se. Having read it a while ago, her impression of the book overall is fuzzy. However, here are the things she does remember: Levin and Kitty are adorable and the ending was a shocking twist. Rather than hating the book, teenage Jennifer found that the middle portions just really dragged, especially the portions where Tolstoy starts philosophizing. Sorry, she was uncultured back then and there’s no telling what she would think of it now!
  • What do we think about the latest movie adaptation of Anna Karenina? This is where BBE turns into a house divided. The most recent movie adaptation came out in 2012. Directed by Joe Wright and starring Kiera Knightley and Jude Law, this movie seemed destined for success. Visually, this film is stunning. The unique interpretation of the Russian nobility as being actors on a theater stage also lends itself to beautiful and fanciful sets. Critically, the movie was pretty middle of the road.
    • Jennifer loves this movie because of these visual elements and the whimsical feel that the film often takes, but this is the very reason why Paige hates it, lacking that same emotionally tortured punch that the novel does.
  • Does Tolstoy intend Anna to be a sympathetic character? There are a lot of things to factor into this equation. On the one hand, Anna is not always a likable character, and her self-sabotaging can set your teeth on edge. On the other hand, Anna’s isolation and helplessness in the face of a deeply patriarchal society can be simultaneously rage-inducing and heart-breaking for a modern reader. While Anna might be sympathetic to a modern audience, it is not at all clear that she was intended to be read that way (especially considering Tolstoy’s radical religious views towards the end if his life) or if a contemporary audience would have viewed her as one.

Pictured above: shots from the movie Anna Karenina (2012).

Coming up next is the thrilling sci-fi blockbuster, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review, and to keep up with all the BBE news, follow us on social media. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, head on over to our Bookshop store, or visit our Patreon. Until next time!

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