Thursday, September 04, 2008
My Life With Tolstoy
When did I fall in love with Russia? When, at age 9, I rode the Trans-Siberian? The dense birch forests, both graceful and ominous, the little girls' bows holding their braids, the extraordinary kindness of the people of Moscow, the whimsical onion-domed churches...
Or was it 3 years later, when my mum bought me a copy of Anna Karenina?
I have lived with Tolstoy's books ever since, reading Anna Karenina in several different translations. I even made a pledge to re-read that supreme work every summer. It's like being reunited with old friends, and as I mature, I appreciate more some characters, such as Kitty, whom I used to find annoying.
This year however, I bailed out and read instead a new novel, What Happened To Anna K. by Irina Reyn. It's a bold attempt to re-imagine Tolstoy's novel, in the Russian Jewish community of Queens, NYC. Her Anna is much more Emma Bovary than Karenina in my opinion, but I guess that one of the reasons that Tolstoy's work is so extraordinary is because it allows each one of us to read it differently and see things in it others may have not imagined.
Next stop in my life with Tolstoy: re-read War and Peace, this time in the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I'm eager to see Natasha!