Anna Karenina is a novel by Leo Tolstoy, first published in serial form in 1875–77. It is considered one of the major works of realist fiction.
The novel centers on Anna, a married woman who begins an affair with the affluent Count Vronsky during her husband’s year-long business trip to Moscow.
The plot takes place against the backdrop of high society’s distinction between the “hoi polloi” and the elite upper classes, represented by St. Petersburg society’s social season (the “season”), but also by the rural gentry, who get together at the Moscow horse races. The main characters find themselves locked into social roles that define their lives and are unable to live within these roles.
In fact, Anna Karenina is widely regarded as one of the major works of realist fiction, renowned for its complex characterizations, realistic depictions of 19th-century Russian society and political system, prescient insights into human psychology, use of multiple narrations, and detailed depiction of rural life after serfdom was abolished in 1861. Since its publication it has been adapted many times into various media including opera and film.
The book was originally published in eight parts, with each part appearing in a different issue of the Russian magazine The Russian Messenger; these were subsequently collected into a single volume. It is often seen as a book with two distinct parts: “the tragedy” (chapters 1–15) and “the comedy” (chapters 16–25).
Tolstoy’s first draft of Anna Karenina was completed in 1873, although he continued to revise it until 1877 when it was published in serial form by The Russian Messenger magazine (known as Russky Vestnik). The novel ran through eight parts before it came to an end in 1877.