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Monday, 5 November 2012

BOOKS: Vladimir Nabokov: Lectures on Russian Literature

Extract from Leo Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenin' [Note Nabakov's preference for 'Karenin' rather than 'Karenina'] ... And so it went on and on: the same shaking and knocking, the same snow on the window, the same rapid transitions from steaming heat to cold and back again to heat, the same passing glimpses of the same figures [conductor, stove-tenders] in she shifting dusk, and the same voices, and Anna began to read and to understand what she read.  Her maid was already dozing, with her mistresses's red bag in her lap, clutching it with her broad hands, in woolen gloves, of which one was torn at a finger tip [one of these little flaws that correspond to a flaw in Anna's own mood].  Anna read but she found it distasteful to follow the shadows of other people's lives.  She had too great a desire to live herself.  If she read that the heroine of the novel was nursing a sick man, she longed to move herself with noiseless steps about the room of a sick man; if she read of a member of Parliament making a speech, she longed to be delivering the speech herself; if she read of how Lady Mary had ridden to the hounds, and had teased her sister-in-law, and had surprised everyone by her pluck, Anna too wished to be doing the same.  But there was no chance of doing anything; and she toyed with the smooth ivory knife in her small hands, and forced herself to go on reading.  [Was she a good reader from our point of view?  Does her emotional participation in the life of the book remind one of another little lady?  Of Emma?].

"The hero of the novel was about to reach his English happiness, a baronetcy and an estate, when she suddenly felt that he ought to feel somehow ashamed, and that she was ashamed, too [she identifies the man in the book with Vronski].  But what had he to be ashamed of? 'What have I to be ashamed of?' she asked herself in injured surprise.  She laid down the book and sank against the back of her fauteuil, tightly gripping the knife in both hands.  There was nothing.  She went over all her Moscow impressions.  All was good, pleasant.  She remembered the ball, remembered Vronski's face of slavish adoration, remembered all her conduct with him: there was nothing shameful.  And for all that, in this point in her memories, the feeling of shame was intensified, as though some inner voice, just at that point when she thought of Vronski, were saying to her, 'Warm, very warm, hot.' 

Greta Garbo as a Hollywood Anna Karenina [1935] directed by Clarence Brown
 - a black and white film and how it might have looked in colour

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