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by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy's great novel concerns the impossible and destructive triangle of Anna, her husband Karenin, and her lover Vronsky. Set against the backdrop of pre-revolutionary Russia, it illuminates some of the most important questions which beset humanity.
In 1872 the mistress of a neighbouring landowner threw herself under a train at a station near Tolstoy's home. This gave Tolstoy the starting point he needed for composing what many believe to be the greatest novel ever written. In writing "Anna Karenina" he moved away from the vast historical sweep of "War and Peace" to tell, with extraordinary understanding, the story of an aristocratic woman who brings ruin on herself. Anna's tragedy is interwoven with not only the courtship and marriage of Kitty and Levin but also the lives of many other characters. Rich in incident, powerful in characterization, the novel also expresses Tolstoy's own moral vision. "The correct way of putting the question is the artist's duty", Chekhov once insisted, and "Anna Karenina" was the work he chose to make his point. It solves no problem, but it is deeply satisfying because all the questions are put correctly.
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