New York: Crowell, 1886. First Edition. hardcover. 1st edition in English (Crowell’s monogram on the title page), later state and issue of front and back ads. Cosway-Style binding in full brown morocco by Richard Smart, with elaborate gilt decorations, those to the front and back surrounding hand painted portraits under glass of Anna and Tolstoy, tooled gilt edges, and gilt dentelles. Fine condition. fine. Item #930
In the wake of War and Peace, Tolstoy took 5 years writing Anna, a serious attempt to construct a flawless novel. His dual plotline juxtaposes the initially contented, but ultimately tragic story, of Anna and Alexei, against the initially tenuous but ultimately satisfying marriage of Kitty and Konstantine, the key figure in each being the young officer Vronsky. The technique is carefully crafted to suit the characters and the events, each scene has its distinctive rhythm, syntax and imagery, and the content, structure and style is polished and refined into perfectly symmetrical pairs of relationships, places, and events. Tolstoy announced his theme and predicted this symmetry in the opening sentence, “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Kitty and Konstantine find meaning, not because their life is without sorrow but because they sacrifice for each other, pardon each other and desire each other’s happiness. Anna’s story is one of fatal attraction. For what appears to be love, but on a deeper level is ego, Anna and Vronsky renounce family, reputation, health and finally life. Her last chance at recovery passes when her husband won’t risk the consequences of a divorce on his career, and threatens her with the loss of her son, which she refuses to consider. So, Anna not only gets her arrow to the neck, but finds an inflated cell phone bill attached to it. These days she’d just insist on divorce at any price, forsaking everything, because sons grow up, time passes, and all but the most bruised move on. And speaking of moving on, I’ve now been divorced so long, I’m starting to forget what’s wrong with me.