Monday, February 27, 2012

Now and then

I have read both Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina before, when I was about 14-15 years old and it seems amazing to me how much my perspective changed. I did not look so much into Raskolnikov's reasons for murdering the old lady and I remember completely buying his theory about the old crone. Also, I thought his relationship with Sonya was all about true love and pure emotions.
As we are now starting to read Anna Karenina, I feel ambivalent towards it. The last time I read it I was highly prejudiced against Anna, but I also profoundly disliked Vronsky. The only character I liked and pitied was Levin, though most of the passages about his life in the country bored me terribly. As I am re-entering the universe of this book again and trying to pretend not to have read it before, I have a different perception of Anna and I am more indulgent of her.
Maybe it is because we are reading these books in a class, but I am also paying much more attention to details and I find new meanings in small things, which I did not do years ago. In some way, it feels as if I am reading a different book, as if Tolstoy or Dostoevsky had severely edited parts of their novels in the past years and now I am reading the new, updated version.

Have you read any of the books we have been reading in this class before?If so, how is your perception of the characters different? Do you like them more or less? Are there symbols that you notice now and you didn't notice the first time?

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  1. I read Anna Karenina when I was 15 or 16, and I remember feeling the same way you did: Levin was the only character I found at all tolerable but a lot of what made him appealing (his love of the country and discomfort in high society) also led to what I thought were excruciatingly boring parts of the book. Now I think I'm less invested in liking the characters and more interested in what Tolstoy has to say about societal change relative to what we saw in Fathers and Sons and Crime and Punishment.

  2. I've been having very similar thoughts, having read Crime and Punishment for class in high school. But, I think the biggest change for me might have been the pacing of our reading. I know we had to speed through it a bit this time, but the last go round I was forced to read the book at the pace of a part per day (so, just about one week). The thought that the entire tone of the novel was breathless running about, whereas in this go round I came to realize that there are actually some slower developments.

    It does have me thinking though with Anna Karenina, about what pace I might read the novel outside of class, and what pace Tolstoy imagined us reading at. With so many chapters but going part by part, I wonder if it changes how we are all going to experience the novel.

    1. Cory makes an interesting point about the intended pacing of the novel, which is actually something that my group discussed in class today. It seems that there are natural stopping points within the novel - and not just because of its division into books. If I weren't required to read until the end of Book One, I may have stopped upon realizing that a major scene change was occurring, such as when the setting switched from Moscow to the countryside or St. Petersburg during the transition from one chapter to the next.

      It seems unlikely to me that Tolstoy intended the for the novel to be read so rapidly, especially considering that it was published in parts and written with so many chapters.

  3. I read neither Crime and Punishment nor Anna Karenina before, but I have read A Hero of Our time in high school and for about 3 different classes at college. The biggest change for me was that until this past class I had only read parts of novel, never in its entirety. Reading a novel in full was my favorite. In high school I read Bela and Taman', 1 class (Princess Mary @ the Fatalist), another class (Fatalist, MM) and lastly Taman' just once.

    Extending this to Anna Karenina, I was wondering what do you think the originals readers' perceptions of AK were as they were reading it as it was published in installments (1873-77)?

  4. I read Crime and Punishment when I was 14, the difference was immense. In my head I' be built up Raskolnikov to be this tragic, romantic hero, who was forced into committing the crime. Where as now, I can see him as a more realistic individual with all the faults that he's portrayed with, that I seemed to have missed the first time through.

  5. Interesting post, Iulia. One thing I love about AK is that my reading of the novel is different each and every time I read it. AS many of you mention, it changes with pacing (of the reading) and with age. (Cory: I can't believe you read C&P in a week's period in high school. Wow! Alex: You make an interesting point regarding the reading of AK. You are correct in that there are stopping points within the books, but the books themselves are foundational to the structure, too.)

  6. Addie: As I was reading the comments, I realized that there might be something else to the stopping points within the published parts. As Tolstoy did not publish this book in its entirety, he might have adapted his views to the public's reaction or to his own changing convictions. If I remember correctly, Levin changes very much by the end of the book and he oscillates between believing and non-believing before he settles down and chooses one of the two. I think this is exactly what happened to Tolstoy while writing this book; he must have changed his mind a lot.

    Sara: I realize now that when I was 14, I was just very much invested in the plot without noticing the author's thoughts on the topic he was writing about. Yes, I am also looking into societal changes more than trying to relate to characters.

    Cory: Do you think that if you read the books a couple of years from now and you take your time you might have a completely different experience?

    Alex: This might seem a bit odd, but I always had this feeling that authors sometimes just try to convey their views in works with being so technical about how people are going to perceive it. What I mean by this is that what if Tolstoy never thought about how long it was going to take people to read AK? What if he only thought about the ideas in there and showing evolution and progress through his characters? It makes me think about J.K. Rowling, I don't know if she meant for people to read about one year in Harry Potter's life in one day, but yet it happened with a lot of readers ( including me :) ).

    Lea: Yes, I agree. I think I was quite infatuated with poor Raskolnikov myself, the first time I read the book.

    Professor Kelly:Since you mention your reading of the novel is different every time you read it I just want to say that I will take up War and Peace again one day. That should be interesting, especially since I read it in my first semester of college when thins started changing for me so much. I think that we relate to books differently depending on the time in our lives we read them. You know how much I related to Andrew last semester, next time I read the book, I might be a huge Natasha fan:).