Creating Anna Karenina: Tolstoy and the Birth of Literature’s Most Enigmatic Heroine

Bob Blaisdell. Pegasus, $29.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-64313-462-8
Blaisdell, an editor of Dover prose and poetry collections, offers a riveting account of Tolstoy’s composition of Anna Karenina. Blaisdell’s primary strength lies in going granular: he focuses intently on the years from late 1872 through early 1878, during which Tolstoy conceived, outlined, began, abandoned, picked up, abandoned again, and finally completed a masterpiece he disliked (an “abomination”). Throughout, Blaisdell uses letters, journals, and memoirs to show how Tolstoy’s own life story was woven into the fabric of Anna Karenina. Blaisdell argues that Tolstoy staved off his own suicidal thinkings by creating the suicidal Anna, and, among the male characters, identified as much with the worldly Oblonsky as the idealist Levin. Blaisdell finds vivid characters, too, among the people in Tolstoy’s life, notably including Tolstoy’s long-suffering and serially pregnant wife, Sofia, and his close friend Nikolai Strakhov, whose cheerleading was key in getting Anna Karenina across the finish line—and for whom Tolstoy, Blaisdell contends, had a repressed homoerotic attraction. Most of all, however, Tolstoy comes to life as a complex individual defying easy classification. Tolstoy’s fans will relish learning from, and, occasionally, arguing with Blaisdell’s opinions. This passionate book is almost impossible to put down. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/08/2020
Release date: 08/04/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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