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Anna Karenina, is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger. Tolstoy clashed with its editor Mikhail Katkov over issues that arose in the final installment; therefore, the novel's first complete appearance was in book form.
Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel. The character of Anna was likely inspired, in part, by Maria Hartung, the elder daughter of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Soon after meeting her at dinner, Tolstoy began reading Pushkin's prose and once had a fleeting daydream of "a bare exquisite aristocratic elbow", which proved to be the first intimation of Anna's character.
The idea for Anna's violent suicide might have been inspired by the death of a young woman, Anna Stepanovna Pirogova, the mistress of a neighbouring landowner and friend of Tolstoy's. Pirogova threw herself under a goods train after her lover abandoned her. Tolstoy went to view the mangled body in the station house, according to the 2006 edition by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Although Russian critics dismissed the novel on its publication as a "trifling romance of high life", Fyodor Dostoevsky declared it to be "flawless as a work of art". His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired "the flawless magic of Tolstoy's style" and the motif of the moving train, subtly introduced in the first chapters (the children playing with a toy train) and inexorably developed in subsequent chapters (Anna's nightmare), heralding the novel's majestic finale. The novel is currently enjoying popularity as demonstrated by a recent poll of 125 contemporary authors by Time magazine, published in The Top Ten, which declared that Anna Karenina is the "greatest novel ever written".