Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1878)


Most top ten lists of bloody brilliant novels have Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in them.

Leaving aside the oft-discussed and compelling story of betrayal, hanky-chewing, faith, nail-gnawing, marriage and related hand-wringing unravellings, here a couple of slices of Tolstoy style to savour. Nom nom.

Lessons from Leo – repetition

Stephen Arkadyevich smiled. He knew so well this feeling of Lenin’s, knew that for him all the girls in the world were divided into two sorts: one sort was all the girls in the world except her, and these girls had all human weaknesses and were very ordinary girls, the other sort was her alone, with no weaknesses and higher than everything human.

Ah, oxymoronic love logic. Always so earnest – and some neat repetition that works to concentrate it.

For those of you who can’t count or have had too many scoops, that’s four girls, three sort/s, three alls, two hers, two knews, two worlds, two humans and two weaknesses.

That’s a hit rate of a repeated word every three. Or, d’oh, 33 percent of the words in that one small paragraph of only two sentences were repeats.

Intense, huh? And kind of all comes together to make it sound slowly reasoned and calculated and not from someone head over heels in love. Which, in turn, makes it cute and endearing. Naw. Charming, even.

Talking of ‘charming’, here’s the maestro again making sure we get the point that Anna is indeed ‘enchanting’.

Some supernatural force drew Kitty’s eyes to Anna’s face. She was enchanting in her simple black dress, enchanting were her full arms with the bracelets on them, enchanting her firm neck with its string of pearls, enchanting her curly hair in disarray, enchanting the graceful, light movements of her small feet and hands, enchanting that beautiful face in its animation; but there was something terrible and cruel in her enchantment.

Hmm. [Scratches head.] That woman has a certain characteristic but try as I might I just can’t put my pinky on it.

You need both hands to count the six enchantings and one enchantment. Works, though, doesn’t it? Definitely left with a strong impression of Anna’s allure.

Wonder what her underwear was like.

Okay, okay, okay – that’s enough repetition.

Lessons from Leo – lips and losing it

Let’s finish with this little lesson from Leo on how to do lips and peepers. Oh, and someone teetering on the cliff edge of losing control.

[Kitty and Levin meeting again…]

Had it not been for the slight trembling of her lips and the moisture that came to her eyes, giving them an added brilliance, her smile would have been almost calm as she said: “It’s so long since we’ve seen each other!”

I can see the tiniest and prettiest little hairs on those quivery little lips. So tanks for dat, Leo.

Actually, Tolly rather rates his trembly lips and uses them again elsewhere in another example of Wobbly Lip Syndrome being so closely related to losing control in:

…but his lips trembled disobediently, and he could not get the words out.

Love ‘disobediently’ there.

I’m feeling they were fish-belly white and frilly. Need to lie down.

Thanks for being here.

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Guy Nicholls

Freelance copywriter – writing compelling copy to sell, explain or entertain.

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