What Is Anna Karenina About?

Updated: February 09, 2023
The novel tells the story of the life of aristocrat Anna Karenina, who starts an affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. The novel explores a range of social issues throughout its narrative, including marriage, divorce, infidelity, and suicide.
Detailed answer:

Anna Karenina is a novel by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, first published in serial installments in the periodical The Russian Messenger from 1873 to 1877. It was regarded as a radical work at the time because of its informal tone and its relatively complex psychological portrayal of many characters.

The book explores the tragic life of an adulterous wife and her doomed affair with a wealthy landowner. Readers drawn to this classic by its historical setting or literary significance may find themselves surprised by its modern-day themes of adultery and love affairs gone wrong.

Tolstoy’s narrative focuses on the themes of morality, marriage, faith, and social change, and examines the psychology of adulterers. The adulterous affair depicted in the novel was controversial upon publication; contemporary critics were shocked by its explicitness (even more so than Les Liaisons dangereuses). Also autor makes the contrast between city life and rural life as well as the roles of women in society. The book discusses the dichotomy between public life and private life too.

The work has been adapted for film, radio and television many times since its publication; it has also been retold in operas such as Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (1879).

The novel has been translated into more than 170 languages. It has been admired both for its realistic portrayal of Russian aristocratic life and for Tolstoy’s particular brand of Christian humanism, which permeates all his major works.

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