"Anna Karenina" in Our Time Seeing More Wisely Gary Saul Morson

Russian Literature and Thought Series
Publication date:
05 Dec 2007
Yale University Press
288 pages: 235 x 156mm
Sales territories:

In this invigorating new assessment of Anna Karenina, Gary Saul Morson overturns traditional interpretations of the classic novel and shows why readers have misunderstood Tolstoy’s characters and intentions. Morson argues that Tolstoy’s ideas are far more radical than has been thought: his masterpiece challenges deeply held conceptions of romantic love, the process of social reform, modernization, and the nature of good and evil. By investigating the ethical, philosophical, and social issues with which Tolstoy grappled, Morson finds in Anna Karenina powerful connections with the concerns of today. He proposes that Tolstoy’s effort to see the world more wisely can deeply inform our own search for wisdom in the present day.


The book offers brilliant analyses of Anna, Karenin, Dolly, Levin, and other characters, with a particularly subtle portrait of Anna’s extremism and self-deception. Morson probes Tolstoy’s important insights (evil is often the result of negligence; goodness derives from small, everyday deeds) and completes the volume with an irresistible, original list of One Hundred and Sixty-Three Tolstoyan Conclusions.


Gary Saul Morson is Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities and professor of Slavic languages, Northwestern University. Morson teaches Anna Karenina in a course enrolling 500 students—the largest Slavic Language class offered in America. Among his previous books is the award-winning Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, published by Yale University Press.

Selected as a Favorite Book of 2007 by Books & Culture (Mr. Wilson's Bookshelf)

“Morson is a splendid reader of texts, and his readings in Anna Karenina not only strengthen his arguments but reveal subtleties that have been ‘hidden in plain sight’ for well over a century.”—Robert Belknap, Columbia University

"Gary Saul Morson, long one of our best guides to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, makes a vigorous and bracing argument in this book for why fiction urgently matters in our moral lives."—Robert Alter, author of Imagined Cities: Urban Experience and the Language of the Novel

“Highly readable and passionately argued, Morson’s book makes a bold, important argument and makes it with eloquence and lucid reasoning.”—Robin Miller, Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities and Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature, Brandeis University

“This remarkable book amounts to a thoroughgoing challenge to the entire tenor and purport of Anglophone academic criticism from the 1970s until now.”—Frederick Crews, Professor Emeritus of English, University of California at Berkeley

"In a series of ground-breaking works that together constitute one of the most important critical projects today, Gary Saul Morson has fashioned that rarest of things: an unmistakable voice and original theoretical horizon. Now, in Anna Karenina in Our Time, he brings together many of his central concerns in an altogether singular and demanding reading of Tolstoy’s great novel. Whether one shares all of Morson’s conclusions or not is irrelevant: what matters is the richness of the debate they open for us. We will never read Anna Karenina the same way again."—Michael André Bernstein, University of California, Berkeley