This summer, I read the classic Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. I absolutely loved it, but not because of the main character Anna.
Don’t get me wrong, Anna is a very intriguing character. She is flawed, she makes mistakes, but she also has her heart in the right place, she’s never trying to hurt people intentionally, things just happen to her and she makes the wrong decisions. I think this makes her a very relatable character for a lot of people: she shows us our own worst side, but she also shows us that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes, because at the end, Anna deserves forgiveness.
But even though that seems like a lovely story, Anna is not the one who made me fall in love with this book. My absolute favourite character turned out to be Levin, a wonderful alter ego who is here to balance Anna’s mistakes. Levin likes simple life, hard work and integrity. I never saw a character so honestly struggling with his own authenticity before. Levin shows us the important things in life, the value of hard work and the need to find your own philosophy.
What struck me most about this, is that Levin isn’t a very static character. Being kind of perfect, I expected him to stay the way he was at the beginning of his book. But Levin’s quest to stay close to himself doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of growing. He tries out different ways of managing his estate, of figuring out his own love life, of finding the right philosophy for his life. He struggles with the people around him and with religion, but he always finds a solution.
To me, Levin was the most important character of the book, because I learned so much from him. Yesterday, somebody asked me what book I would recommend to someone who wants to understand human nature better. I answered Anna Karenina, because while Anna will teach you how to forgive mistakes, Levin will teach you how to be the best possible version of yourself.