February 16, 2012

“Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
       Russian novelist, playwright and essayist
first line of Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina (1878)
       This sentence — one of the most famous opening lines in literature — is also sometimes translated as “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The title character of Anna Karenina is an aristocratic Russian woman who leaves her husband for a rich count named Alexei Vronsky. Their affair has tragic consequences for Anna. In a contrasting subplot, a country landowner named Konstantin Levin finds happiness in his marriage to Kitty, the sister-in-law of Anna’s brother.
       Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina during a period when his own life with his unfairly-maligned, long-suffering
wife Sophia (nicknamed Sonya) was becoming increasingly unhappy for both of them. It was initially published in installments in the journal Russkii Vestrik (The Russian Herald, a.k.a. The Russian Messenger) from January 1875 to April 1877. The first complete book version, in Russian, was published in 1878. The first English translation was published in 1918. Since then, Anna Karenina has often been cited as one of the greatest novels of all time, though many modern readers seem to find it a bit boring (in its own classic way).


“It may be the silliest damn sentence ever set down by a great author, Leo Tolstoy’s opening of Anna Karenina...He got things backwards. Experience and literature both demonstrate that happy families come in all shapes and sizes, but the burdens of unhappy families (emotional indifference, poverty, alcoholism, irresponsibility) are painfully predictable.”
Robert Fulford
       Canadian journalist, broadcaster and editor
Comment in his weekly column for The National Post, August 2, 2005


“To paraphrase the great fashion critic Leo Tolstoy, each of the terrible red carpet looks from the 2012 Grammy Awards were terrible in their own way. Sacrilegiously terrible: Nicki Minaj, who showed up in a blood red wimple and studded cloak with her own personal confessor. Turns out that was just a prelude to her performance art piece later in the night, ‘The Exorcism of Roman.’
       Vicki Hyman
       American celebrity news journalist
a post in her column on the The Star-Ledger website


“All winning campaigns are brilliant in hindsight — it’s Tolstoy’s First Rule of Politics (corollary: every losing campaign is dysfunctional in its own way).”
       Molly Ball
       Journalist covering national politics for The Atlantic and POLITICO.com
       Her observation in
a February 1, 2012 post on The Atlantic website after Mitt Romney lost Republican primary votes in several states


“I believe it was Tolstoy who once wrote, ‘Tasty fast food items are all alike; every crappy fast food item is crappy in its own way.’ To this principle I must add a corollary which shall forevermore be known as the Stuffed Breadsticks Corollary: “…but some crappy fast food items are crappy IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.” 
Jasper, the online fast food critic
       In his
April 11, 2011 review of the Dunkin’ Donuts Stuffed Breadsticks (Pepperoni & Cheese and Cheeseburger) on The Impulsive Buy website (known for “Putting the ‘ew’ in product reviews”)

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