Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy


Anna Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy

Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz

Yale University Press, 2014

2016 Texas Institute of Letters' Soeurette Diehl Frasier Award for Best Translation.

2015 Read Russia Special Jury Mention

Finalist, 2015 American Literary Translators Asssociation, National Translation Prize in Prose

Tolstoy produced many drafts of Anna Karenina. Crafting and recrafting each sentence with careful intent, he was anything but casual in his use of language. His project, translator Marian Schwartz observes, "was to bend language to his will, as an instrument of his aesthetic and moral convictions." In her magnificent new translation, Schwartz embraces Tolstoy's unusual style—she is the first English language translator ever to do so. Previous translations have departed from Tolstoy's original, "correcting" supposed mistakes and infelicities. But Schwartz uses repetition where Tolstoy does, wields a judicious cliché when he does, and strips down descriptive passages as he does, re-creating his style in English with imagination and skill.

Tolstoy's romantic Anna, long-suffering Karenin, dashing Vronsky, and dozens of their family members, friends, and neighbors are among the most vivid characters in world literature. In the thought-provoking Introduction to this volume, Gary Saul Morson provides unusual insights into these characters, exploring what they reveal about Tolstoy's radical conclusions on romantic love, intellectual dishonesty, the nature of happiness, the course of true evil, and more. For readers at every stage—from students first encountering Anna to literary professionals revisiting the novel—this volume will stand as the English reader's clear first choice.


"Very few people will read Anna Karenina more than once in their lives, and the translation a first-time reader chooses is most likely to be the one closest at hand. This review will probably not send a reader who has read the novel before scurrying off to read it again. But if there is a Tolstoyan out there who is interested in reading a translation that is exquisitely mindful of the book's complex texture, or someone who has meant to get to Karenina but hasn't yet got around to this particular pleasure, Schwartz's tribute to Tolstroy's craft and sensitivity should be at the top of the list." -- Jim Kates, The Arts Fuse

"Tolstoy did not wish to please; he wished to correct, instruct, inspire, persuade. And as Marian Schwartz notes, he “wholly intended to bend language to his will.” In her astonishing new translation, she takes seriously Tolstoy’s disgust with smooth Russian literary style, setting a new standard in English for accuracy to Tolstoyan repetition, sentence density and balance, stripped-down vocabulary and enhanced moral weight. A rough, powerful, unromantic Anna that wakes the reader up and rings true."—Caryl Emerson, Princeton University

"Schwartz has produced a comparatively lean and straightforward Anna Karenina, one far more Tolstoyan than most of its English-language predecessors. If that makes it less inviting to the millions of readers who made Edmonds' version such a huge success, well, Tolstoy himself knew something about that kind of risk." -- Steve Donoghue, The World from a Different Angle,

"Marian Schwartz's translation of Anna Karenina represents the culmination of a distinguished corpus,comprising some seventy volumes of Russian literature in English. . . . A masterpiece." -- Carol Apollonio, Times Literary Supplement, March 20, 2015

"The selling point for this edition, though, is that translator Marian Schwartz, who has won numerous awards for her translations, has maintained Tolstoy's idiosyncrasies. . . . Schwartz took a risk, but the risk seems to have paid off because she seems to understand the rhythm Tolstoy was trying to create with his language. . . . So if you haven't read any version of Anna Karenina yet, you should read Schwartz's version. If you've read another translation, give this one a shot anyway. After all, an excellent translation like this one can only make the experience of reading Anna Karenina even more enjoyable." -- Christopher Iacono, Three Percent


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