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Anna Karenina 1935

Anna Karenina, 1935

Anna and Vronsky have an intense relationship that feels—at least to them—markedly different from the casually clandestine affairs that others in their social set indulge in.

Traveling to visit Anna at her country home, Vronsky:

“…felt all the torture of his own and her position, all the difficulty there was for them, conspicuous as they were in the eye of all the world, in concealing their love, in lying and deceiving; and in lying, deceiving, feigning, and continually thinking of others, when the passion that united them was so intense that they were both oblivious of everything else but their love . . .

“He vividly recalled all the constantly recurring instances of inevitable necessity for lying and deceit, which were so against his natural bent. He recalled particularly vividly the shame he had more than once detected in her at this necessity for lying and deceit. And he experienced the strange feeling that had sometimes come upon him since his secret love for Anna. This was a feeling of loathing for something—whether for Alexey Alexandrovitch [Anna’s husband], or for himself, or for the whole world, he could not have said. But he always drove away this strange feeling. Now, too, he shook it off and continued the thread of his thoughts.”

Anna and Seryozha

Anna and Seryozha

The “most profound mirror” of their predicament is Anna’s son Seryozha: “This child, with his innocent outlook upon life, was the compass that showed them the point to which they had departed from what they knew, but did not want to know.”

Having gone down the path of adultery with Vronsky, a choice that felt inevitable to her, she seems frozen, or perhaps more accurately stuck:

“If ever at any moment she had been asked what she was thinking of, she could have answered truly: of the same thing, of her happiness and her unhappiness. She was thinking, just when he came upon her, of this: why was it, she wondered, that to others, to Betsy (she knew of her secret connection with Tushkevitch) it was all easy, while to her it was such torture?”

Anna and Vronsky

Anna and Vronsky

When Anna tells Vronsky she is pregnant with his child:

“. . . he felt that the turning-point he had been longing for had come now; that it was impossible to go on concealing things from her husband, and it was inevitable in one way or another that they should soon put an end to their unnatural position.”

But Anna is still in denial, refusing to see how terrible her position has become—in relation to her husband, to her son, to her lover, to society, and to herself. Reading Anna Karenina in my early twenties, with almost no experience of life, I don’t think I had any awareness of how trapped Anna has already become at this juncture in the novel. Reading these lines now: heart-stopping, horrifying.