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BOOK REVIEW: Anna Karenina, By Leo Tolstoy

In Search Of A Miracle

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Reprinted from The Epoch Times email distribution

Many writers consider Anna Karenina the greatest work of literature ever. Aside from being a novel about betrayal, faith, family and marriage, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is also a story about one man’s search for meaning in a complicated world. 

Konstantin Levin, the story’s second main character, spends a large portion of the novel trying to figure out how his wife Kitty could believe in a higher power he’s never seen any signs of. 

Konstantin Levin in Anna Karenina (2012 film)

One day, he was listening to a peasant talk about two landowners—a stingy one and a generous one—and asked the peasant, Fyodor, how it could be that these two men were so different from each other. 

Fyodor replied that the generous landowner “lives for his soul” and “does not forget God,” leading Levin to realize the miracle that he’s been looking for this whole time—goodness. 

Levin reasons that it’s rational for a person to live for his needs like food and shelter, but not for goodness. Yet, humanity knows about this concept called “goodness,” and many people even give up their own personal interests to be good. 

So, he reasons, where could this idea have come from if it wasn’t bestowed upon humanity by some higher force? 

Levin, the educated noble, likely never expected that an offhand comment by a simple peasant would be what gave him the epiphany he’d been hoping for. 

Perhaps that’s also part of the miracle that Tolstoy points out—just like every person who still strives for goodness against the odds. Each righteous person is a manifestation of the goodness gifted to humanity and a testament to the strength of this miraculous gift. 

And perhaps, just like the generous landowner in Fyodor’s story, they can also awaken others to the miracle of goodness in subtle, unexpected, and powerful ways. 

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1 comment

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Robert Henry March 16, 2021 at 1:23 am

Thankyou for the concise, insightful review of “Anna Karenina.”

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