A novel by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Samantha Schnee
April 14, 2020 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 200 pages • 978-1-56689-577-4
In this continuation of Anna Karenina’s legacy, Russia simmers on the brink of change and the stories that have long been kept secret finally come to light.
Saint Petersburg, 1905. Behind the gates of the Karenin Palace, Sergei, son of Anna Karenina, meets Tolstoy in his dreams and finds reminders of his mother everywhere: the vivid portrait that the tsar intends to acquire and the opium-infused manuscripts Anna wrote just before her death, which open a trapdoor to a wild feminist fairy tale. Across the city, Clementine, an anarchist seamstress, and Father Gapon, the charismatic leader of the proletariat, plan protests that embroil the downstairs members of the Karenin household in their plots and tip the country ever closer to revolution. Boullosa tells a polyphonic and subversive tale of the Russian revolution through the lens of Tolstoy’s most beloved work.
About the Author
Carmen Boullosa—a Cullman Center, a Guggenheim, a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and a Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes Fellow—was born in Mexico City in 1954. She’s a poet, playwright, essayist, novelist, and artist, and has been a professor at New York University, Columbia University, City College—City University of New York, Georgetown, and other institutions. She’s now at Macaulay Honors College—City University of New York. The New York Public Library acquired her papers and artist books. More than a dozen books and over ninety dissertations have been written about her work.
About the Translator
Samantha Schnee is the founding editor of Words Without Borders, dedicated to publishing the world’s best literature translated into English. Her translation of Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and shortlisted for the PEN America Translation Prize. She won the Gulf Coast Prize in Translation for her work on Boullosa’s El complot de los Románticos.
Praise for The Book of Anna
Words Without Borders, Anticipated 2020 Titles
“The latest novel from one of Mexico’s finest experimental writers is a madcap metafictive romp that picks up a few decades after Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina leaves off. But it’s also an absurdist tour de force account of early revolutionary activity. . . . Reminiscent of Bolaño, Borges, and Pynchon, but Boullosa’s utterly original voice is at its best when it’s let loose.” —Kirkus
“This superb translation from Spanish by Samantha Schnee, founding editor of Words Without Borders, is a book of nimble prose that deftly plays with the boundaries between fiction and history. Drawing together servants, diplomats, anarchists, seamstresses and aristocrats at the eve of the Russian Revolution, Boullosa brings heightened eroticism, feminism, and liberation to Tolstoy’s imagined world.” —Lauren LeBlanc, Observer
“[A] slim, playful sequel set in the early twentieth century that is deeply attuned to the concerns of the twenty-first. . . . Part Bluebeard’s Castle, part Cinderella, Anna’s text has a dreamlike, fairy-tale logic and is fueled by a smoldering eroticism. It reads like a feminist rebuke to her static portrait and to Tolstoy’s efforts to ‘fix’ or correct Anna on the page. . . . The Book of Anna succeeds at defamiliarizing Tolstoy’s original, re-envisioning it through an entertaining feminist lens.” —Chicago Review of Books
“[O]ffers a new twist to Anna Karenina that centers her children on the eve of the Russian Revolution. . . . Boullosa offers an original perspective on this Russian classic that may light the subversive spark lying dormant within.” —Ms. Magazine
“[P]resented in parallel with stories and characters that were not part of Tolstoy’s 1878 novel, The Book of Anna is also an imagining of the book that Anna herself was working on. . . . Boullosa tips the notion of fiction on its head. Set on the eve of the Russian Revolution, The Book of Anna is told in a rich, unique style.” —Buzzfeed
“[T]hreads characters from Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece into an innovative narrative caper that blends history, fiction, and fairytale. . . . The sheer innovation of Boullosa’s multi-layered narrative presents the reader with a nesting doll of fictions and histories—threads that intertwine questions of self-hood, artistic creation, and the many-layered voices of political change. The Book of Anna marks the rare achievement of a writer who balances the weight of Tolstoy’s complicated genius with her own interpretation of events, real and fictitious, with unmitigated brio and a touch of mischievous whimsy. It will surely become a modern classic.” —Paperback Paris
“[An] experimental and playful novel that at once is a tribute to the book Anna Karenina, and also means to revise the portrayal of its central female character. . . . Boullosa continues to charm—though a shade darker—in a section that is written like a fairytale, ostensibly by Anna herself. It has recognizable aspects of Cinderella, but in the shadow of Tolstoy’s book, it reads like a feminist treatise full of metaphors about fate, love, and ownership. . . . An innovative delight.” —The Book Slut
“Anna Karenina’s children and other fictions of Tolstoy’s—who know they aren’t exactly human—intertwine with Carmen Boullosa’s own fictions, who think they are real, and also with the Russian Revolution. A delightfully original and enjoyable book—Russian literature seen through Latin American eyes, and made into something new.” —Salman Rushdie
“What does it mean to say that a fictional character has so infused our collective imagination that she’s ‘taken on a life of her own’? And what if the very vitality of her fictional portrait is what seems to deny her the possibility of living that life—or telling it as her own story? Carmen Boullosa plants an anarcho-feminist bomb in the afterlife of Tolstoy’s novel—and then lovingly collects the scattered pages and bloodied rags that she’s let fly, assembling them into a dreamscape where author, character and reader might finally be pressed to recognize one another’s autonomous voice, and humanity. Historical and yet uncannily actual, readerly and yet deeply writerly, The Book of Anna is a much-needed reminder of the performative power of fiction in unjust and turbulent times.” —Barbara Browning
“A beguiling return to the world created by Tolstoy. This beautiful translation takes Anna Karenina’s story a step further, showing how a single tragedy ripples across generations.” —Elliot Ackerman, author of Waiting for Eden
“For sheer inventiveness and mischievous brio, few contemporary novelists can match Carmen Boullosa. In this, one of her best novels, a nineteenth-century Russian masterpiece is both updated and turned on its head. Comedy and tragedy, realism and fantasy, are all blended flawlessly. The result is a delicious, spicy literary borscht.” —Phillip Lopate
Praise for Carmen Boullosa
“Carmen Boullosa writes with a heart-stopping command of language.” —Alma Guillermoprieto
“A cross between Gabriel Garcia Marquez and W. G. Sebald.” —El País
“This book occupies a Borgesian tradition in which possible and impossible exist simultaneously in one text.” —John Trefry, Full Stop
“[Boullosa] is witty, wacky, iconoclastic, post-modern, and thoroughly original.” —The Modern Novel
“Read Boullosa because she is a masterful commander of fantastic language.” —Words Without Borders
“Mexico's greatest woman writer.” —Roberto Bolaño
“A luminous writer. . . . Boullosa is a masterful spinner of the fantastic.” —Miami Herald
“Utterly entertaining—a comic tour de force. I loved the book and think it deserves a very wide readership.” —Philip Lopate
“Brutal, poetic, hilarious and humane...a masterly crafted tale.” —Sjón
“A lucid translation from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee. . . . [Boullosa's] tale, loosely based on the Mexican invasion of the US known as the ‘Cortina troubles’, evok[es] a history that couldn’t be more relevant to today’s immigration battles in the US.” —Jane Ciabattari, BBC