Russian author Irina Reyn
For her first novel Reyn took Tolstoyâ€™s 'Anna Karenina' and wrote a modern update set among Russian immigrants in Queens.
Russia has been in the news here, recently. Maybe moreso than at any time since the Soviet Union dissolved seventeen years ago. Today we are looking at the long shadow still cast by Russia over its neighbors, and over its former citizens now living in this country.
Irina Reyn emigrated as a child from the Soviet Union and grew up in and around New York City.
For her first novel, "What Happened to Anna K.", Reyn took Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina" and wrote a modern update set among Russian immigrants in Queens. A Soviet émigré who arrived in the U.S. at age seven, Reyn tells Kurt about how she still grapples with the Russian soul.
Reyn says, "The novel is told from two different characters: that of Anna K., a Russian Jewish immigrant in Regal Park, Queens, and Lev, a Boharian Jewish immigrant. The novel, as I like to say, is sort of in dialogue with Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" in that it is not neccessarily a remake of the book, but it has certain parallels with the original book.
"So, Anna Karenina, of course, becomes the beautiful 37-year-old Anna K., and Levin in Tolstoy's story here is Lev, a Boharian Jewish pharmacist in Regal Park. And, the way their paths cross, sort of converge and diverge is sort of the heart of this book.
"I had read ("Anna Karenina") very closely for about three months about a year before I started writing the novel and when I started writing my own novel, I started seeing parallels between my book and Tolstoy's book. So, at a certain point, I just decided to let those references be explicit. But, I think that I would have never had the guts to undertake something like this if it was something that I had actually set out to do from the beginning. It was a really quite an unconscious move on my part."
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