Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Okay, this is going to read more like a boring old book comparison than a blog entry, but bear with me. I don't feel qualified to discuss the finer points of the wonderfully human characters or smoothly running simultaneous plots that Tolstoy is famous for, so just keep in mind that it's a wonderful book and you should read it.

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a long-time favorite of mine, and I felt very lucky to pick up an undamaged copy of the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky at Marden's. Outwardly it's quite pretty, a matte black paperback featuring two shapely knees with some flowers held on top of them, duly following the tradition of printing the title of the book and the author's name.

Now, a little backstory: The Waterville Public Library has an edition of Anna Karenina that, every time I check it out, I want to keep it and put it on my shelf and read it every day. It's translated from the original Russian into elegant and simple English (by Louise and Aylmer Maude), bound in blue leather, trimmed with gold, and it even has a built-in ribbon bookmark. It's my dream book, basically.

Reading Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation gave the impression of a more modern work, with commoner prose and significantly fewer commas. It felt strange (and kind of cool) for a book authored and set in the nineteenth century to read like twenty-first century young adult fiction.

I still prefer my beloved blue book, but I can definitely sense the appeal in this edition. Maybe it will encourage other young people to enjoy Anna Karenina as much as I do.

(Both editions, as well as a third which I haven't read, are available at the Waterville Public Library.)


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