How can Anna live without her lover Count Vronsky? One of the greatest novels ever written, Anna Karenina sets the impossible and destructive triangle of Anna, her husband Karenin, and her lover Vronsky against the marriage of Levin and Kitty. We’ve paired an excerpt of the novel with a scene from the film adaptation, starring Keira Knightly and directed by Joe Wright, below. How do Tolstoy and Wright bring that fateful train station to life?
A BLUSTERING storm was rushing and whistling between the wheels of the train and round the pillars and the corners of the station. The railway carriages, the pillars, the people, and everything that could be seen, were covered on one side with snow, and that covering became thicker and thicker. A momentary lull would be followed by such a terrific gust that it seemed hardly possible to stand against it. Yet people, merrily exchanging remarks, ran over the creaking boards of the platform, and the big station doors were constantly being opened and shut. The shadow of a man stooping slipped past her feet and she heard a hammer striking the carriage wheels. ‘Let me have the telegram!’ came an angry voice from the other side out of the stormy darkness. ‘Here, please, No. 28 !’ cried other voices while many people muffled up and covered with snow ran hither and thither. Two gentlemen passed her with glowing cigarettes between their lips. She took another deep breath to get her fill of fresh air and had already drawn her hand out of her muff to take hold of the handrail and get into the train, when another man wearing a military overcoat came close between her and the wavering light of the lamp. She turned round, and instantly recognized Vronsky. With his hand in salute, he bowed and asked if she wanted anything and whether he could be of any service to her. For some time she looked into his face without answering, and, though he stood in the shade she noticed, or thought she noticed, the expression of his face and eyes. It was the same expression of respectful ecstasy that had so affected her the night before. She had assured herself more than once during those last few days, and again a moment ago, that Vronsky in relation to her was only one of the hundreds of everlastingly identical young men she met everywhere, and that she would never allow herself to give him a thought; yet now, at the first moment of seeing him again, she was seized by a feeling of joyful pride. There was no need for her to ask him why he was there. She knew as well as if he had told her, that he was there in order to be where she was.
‘I did not know that you were going too. Why are you going?’ she asked, dropping the hand with which she was about to take hold of the handrail. Her face beamed with a joy and animation she could not repress.
‘Why am I going?’ he repeated, looking straight into her eyes. ‘You know that I am going in order to be where you are,’ said he. ‘I cannot do otherwise.’
At that moment the wind, as if it had mastered all obstacles, scattered the snow from the carriage roofs, and set a loose sheet of iron clattering; and in front the deep whistle of the engine howled mournfully and dismally. The awfulness of the storm appeared still more beautiful to her now. He had said just what her soul desired but her reason dreaded. She did not reply, and he saw a struggle in her face.
‘Forgive me if my words displease you,’ he said humbly.
He spoke courteously and respectfully, but so firmly and stubbornly that she was long unable to reply.
‘What you are saying is wrong, and if you are a good man, I beg you to forget it, as I will forget it,’ she said at last.
‘Not a word, not a movement of yours will I ever forget, nor can I …’
‘Enough, enough!’ she cried, vainly trying to give a severe expression to her face, into which he was gazing eagerly. She took hold of the cold handrail, ascended the steps, and quickly entered the little lobby leading into the carriage. But in that little lobby she stopped, going over in her imagination what had just taken place. Though she could remember neither his nor her own words, she instinctively felt that that momentary conversation had drawn them terribly near to one another, and this both frightened her and made her happy. After standing still for a few seconds she went into the carriage and sat down. The overwrought condition which tormented her before not only returned again, but grew worse and reached such a degree that she feared every moment that something within her would give way under the intolerable strain. She did not sleep at all that night, but the strain and the visions which filled her imagination had nothing unpleasant or dismal about them; on the contrary they seemed joyful, glowing, and stimulating. Toward morning Anna, while still sitting up, fell into a doze; when she woke it was already light and the train was approaching Petersburg. At once thoughts of home, her husband, her son, and the cares of the coming day and of those that would follow, beset her.
When the train stopped at the Petersburg terminus and she got out, the first face she noticed was that of her husband.
‘Great heavens ! What has happened to his ears?’ she thought, gazing at his cold and commanding figure, and especially at the gristly ears which now so struck her, pressing as they did against the rim of his hat. When he saw her, he came toward her with his customary ironical smile and looked straight at her with his large tired eyes. An unpleasant feeling weighed on her heart when she felt his fixed and weary gaze, as if she had expected to find him different. She was particularly struck by the feeling of dissatisfaction with herself which she experienced when she met him. It was that ordinary well-known feeling, as if she were dissembling, which she experienced in regard to her husband; but formerly she had not noticed it, while now she was clearly and painfully conscious of it.
‘Yes, as you see. Here is a devoted husband; devoted as in the first year of married life, — consumed by desire to see you,’ said he in his slow, high-pitched voice and in the tone in which he always addressed her, a tone which ridiculed those who could use such words in earnest.
‘Is Serezha well?’ she asked.
‘And is this all the reward I get,’ he said, ‘for my ardour? He is quite well, quite well….’
A classic of Russian literature, this new edition of Anna Karenina uses the acclaimed Louise and Alymer Maude translation, and offers a new introduction and notes which provide completely up-to-date perspectives on Tolstoy’s classic work.
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