True love in opposition: Levin and Kitty’s match set against the triangle of Anna, her husband Karenin, and her lover Vronsky. How can Tolstoy’s crushing rejection scene (drawn from his own life) be portrayed on screen? The film adaptation of Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightly and directed by Joe Wright, is contending for four Oscars tonight (Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Original Score). Let’s see how they do compared to the Oxford World Classic edition before the cinematic contest this evening.
DURING the interval between dinner and the beginning of the evening party, Kitty experienced something resembling a young man’s feelings before a battle. Her heart was beating violently and she could not fix her thoughts on anything.
She felt that this evening, when those two men were to meet for the first time, would decide her fate; and she kept picturing them to herself, now individually and now together. When she thought of the past, she dwelt with pleasure and tenderness on her former relations with Levin. Memories of childhood and of Levin’s friendship with her dead brother lent a peculiar poetic charm to her relations with him. His love for her, of which she felt sure, flattered and rejoiced her, and she could think of him with a light heart. With her thought of Vronsky was mingled some uneasiness, though he was an extremely well-bred and quiet-mannered man; a sense of something false, not in him, for he was very simple and kindly, but in herself; whereas in relation to Levin she felt herself quite simple and clear. On the other hand when she pictured to herself a future with Vronsky a brilliant vision of happiness rose up before her, while a future with Levin appeared wrapped in mist.
On going upstairs to dress for the evening and looking in the glass, she noticed with pleasure that this was one of her best days, and that she was in full possession of all her forces, which would be so much wanted for what lay before her. She was conscious of external calmness and of freedom and grace in her movements.
At half-past seven, as soon as she had come down into the drawing-room, the footman announced ‘Constantine Dmitrich Levin!’ The Princess was still in her bedroom, nor had the Prince yet come down.
‘So it’s to be!’ thought Kitty and the blood rushed to her heart. Glancing at the mirror she was horrified at her pallor.
She felt sure that he had come so early on purpose to see her alone and to propose to her. And now for the first time the matter presented itself to her in a different and entirely new light. Only now did she realize that this matter (with whom she would be happy, who was the man she loved) did not concern herself alone, but that in a moment she would have to wound a man she cared for, and to wound him cruelly…. Why? Because the dear fellow was in love with her. But it could not be helped, it was necessary and had to be done.
‘Oh God, must I tell him so myself?’ she thought. ‘Must I really tell him that I don’t care for him? That would not be true. What then shall I say? Shall I say that I love another? No, that’s impossible! I’ll go away. Yes, I will.’
She was already approaching the door when she heard his step. ‘No, it would be dishonest! What have I to fear? I have done nothing wrong. I’ll tell the truth, come what may! Besides, it’s impossible to feel awkward with him. Here he is!’ she thought, as she saw his powerful diffident figure before her and his shining eyes gazing at her. She looked straight into his face as if entreating him to spare her, and gave him her hand.
‘I don’t think I’ve come at the right time, I’m too early,’ he said gazing round the empty drawing-room. When he saw that his expectation was fulfilled and that nothing prevented his speaking to her, his face clouded over.
‘Not at all,’ said Kitty and sat down at the table.
‘But all I wanted was to find you alone,’ he began, still standing and avoiding her face so as not to lose courage.
‘Mama will be down in a minute. She was so tired yesterday …’ She spoke without knowing what she was saying, her eyes fixed on him with a caressing look full of entreaty.
He glanced at her; she blushed and was silent.
‘I told you that I did not know how long I should stay … that it depends on you.’
Her head dropped lower and lower, knowing the answer she would give to what was coming.
‘That it would depend on you,’ he repeated. ‘I want to say … I want to say … I came on purpose … that … to be my wife !’ he uttered hardly knowing what he said; but feeling that the worst was out he stopped and looked at her.
She was breathing heavily and not looking at him. She was filled with rapture. Her soul was overflowing with happiness. She had not at all expected that his declaration of love would make so strong an impression on her. But that lasted only for an instant. She remembered Vronsky, lifted her clear, truthful eyes to Levin’s face, and noticing his despair she replied quickly:
‘It cannot be … forgive me.’
How near to him she had been a minute ago, how important in his life! And how estranged and distant she seemed now!
‘Nothing else was possible,’ he said, without looking at her, and bowing he turned to go …
One of the greatest novels ever written, Anna Karenina illuminates the questions that face humanity. 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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