Childhood, Boyhood, Youth

(Fiction; 1852; repr., Penguin Books, 1964)

Today, many readers have read or recently reread Anna Karenina, thanks to Oprah Winfrey’s selection of the book for her club. The translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Penguin, 2004) is wonderfully fluent and brings new life to the classic, and one can only be thankful that so many readers have taken the book up. But one also wonders what Tolstoy, who turned down the opportunity to be the first Nobel Laureate in Literature, would think of the source of his novel’s enhanced popularity. A materialist who eschewed materialism, the master would likely have stood scathingly apart; and in the wake of Oprah’s debacle with haplessly fictionalizing memoirist James Frey, we suspect that Tolstoy would agree with the New York Times op-ed writer who wrote that if Oprah wants to help publishing she might do so by choosing better books. Hear, hear!

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