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The story behind the origins of Anna Karenina and the turbulent life and times of Leo Tolstoy.
Anna Karenina is one of the most nuanced characters in world literature and we return to her, and the novel she propels, again and again. Remarkably, there has not yet been an examination of Leo Tolstoy specifically through the lens of this novel.
Critic and professor Bob Blaisdell unravels Tolstoy’s family, literary, and day-to-day life during the period that he conceived, drafted, abandoned, and revised Anna Karenina. In the process, we see where Tolstoy’s life and his art intersect in obvious and unobvious ways.
Readers often assume that Tolstoy, a nobleman-turned-mystic would write himself into the principled Levin. But in truth, it is within Anna that the consciousness and energy flows with the same depth and complexities as Tolstoy. Her fateful suicide is the road that Tolstoy nearly traveled himself.
At once a nuanced biography and portrait of the last decades of the Russian empire and artful literary examination, Creating Anna Karenina will enthrall the thousands of readers whose lives have become deeper and clearer after experiencing this hallmark of world literature.
Bob Blaisdell is Professor of English at the City University of New York’s Kingsborough College. He is a reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Christian Science Monitor, and the editor of more than three dozen Dover literature and poetry collections. He lives in New York City.
"That Creating Anna Karenina is a major contribution to Tolstoy scholarship makes it no less of a delight to read. Blaisdell's passion for the subject, and his always-surprising discoveries about the great man and his creation, kept me turning the pages unstoppably. This is a wonderful book." Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia, staff writer at The New Yorker
“Captivating. How did Anna Karenina evolve from a trivial high-society adulteress, whom Tolstoy despised, into one of the deepest, most sensitive tragic heroines in all of literature? What happened inside Tolstoy to condition this metamorphosis? Creating Anna Karenina is a worthy companion to the novel.” Janet Fitch Los Angeles Review of Books
In its study of the comings and goings of the Tolstoy household at the time of the novel’s composition, Creating Anna Karenina asks if one of the world’s greatest novels was in fact just as much a product of everyday minutia—like who stops by for a visit with what kind of gossip to tell—as it was the culmination of long-simmering ideas about morality and desire. The New Republic
A fuller understanding of any work—and especially of its creation—requires the resurrection of its creator and his milieu. Blaisdell manages to do precisely that. Boris Dralyuk, Executive Editor, Los Angeles Review of Books, from the Foreword
"Despite scores of biographies in dozens of languages, we know remarkably little about Tolstoy in the 1870s, a decade when the writer conceived and wrote Anna Karenina, one of the world’s best-know and best-loved novels. In Creating Anna Karenina, Bob Blaisdell is the first to provide a granular, stop-action, magnifying-glass-level look at the creation of this astonishingly great book; Blaisdell conjures the novelist’s world, and painstakingly reveals the overlaps with the world of the novel. Tolstoy breathed in his world, and exhaled the novel." Professor Michael Denner, Editor of Tolstoy Studies Journal
A riveting account of Tolstoy’s composition of Anna Karenina. 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. Publishers Weekly