Anna Karenina

Title page of first edition of Anna Karenina
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The following quote from Anna Karenina illustrates quite well one of the commonest vices of current well-spoken and well-educated dandy people who inhabit our petite bourgeoisie.

Stepan Arkadyevitch took in and read a liberal paper, not an extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he only changed them when the majority changed them–or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.

Stepan Arkadyevitch had not chosen his political opinions or his views; these political opinions and views had come to him of themselves, just as he did not choose the shapes of his hat and coat, but simply took those that were being worn.

Do you recognize yourself, my friend, my simile?

But I want to talk about something else. I’m reading Anna Karenina for two reasons.

  1. It is *the* book* being read by the main characters of the little great novel “The Elegance of the Hodgehog“, to wit: the French concierge Renée and the Japanese Monsieur Ozu.
  2. I can get it one little piece a day through email, thanks to little precious DailyLit.com, a house of books which would even let me subscribe to a RSS feed of Anna Karenina, should I wish so.
  3. (I’ve never read the book).

Soon after starting I made a suggestive conclusion. There are some “memes” which are on the mouth of everybody for one reason or the other. Which are used and abused on many languages. Some of these memes were actually created by someone. Yes, “created”, as in “they did not exist before” as memes. Shakespeare is famous for his new ideas, expressed in his new language. And thus, every time one utters one of these memes, one is quoting some author, with or without one’s knowledge.

Isn’t this all fantastic?

Tolstoy began Anna Karenina with the all too famous phrase:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Do you recognize the sentence, the meme that you must have quoted once at least in your lifetime?

Happy families are all alike.

Well, like it or not, you’re quoting Tolstoy!

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About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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