If Levin and Oblonsky in Anna Karenina were friends today, they probably wouldn’t bother hooking up. Facebook would provide all the contact they needed to maintain the friendship. Tolstoy describes the friendship in a contemporary way, that I am sure most readers would recognise: “they were fond of one another as friends who have come together in early youth often are, in spite of the difference in their characters and taste.” He continues saying that “Each thought that his own way of living was real life, and that the life of his friend was – illusion” and that Oblonsky knew that Levin “did something, though what it was Oblonsky could never quite understand or feel any interest in (17).”
Of course we all have lots of these friends, and Facebook has allowed us to stay in touch without the irrepressible “sarcastic smile (17)” that Oblonsky gives Levin on seeing him in person. It allows us to keep a much more superficial contact, with those we are fond of because of a shared history alone. It will be interesting to see how novelists of the future deal with technology, given that a lot of our interactions now do occur online, and our interpersonal contact is becoming so shaped by new media.
Tolstoy, Leo. 1877. Anna Karenina. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics.
Image by Tereza Zelenkova. It’s how I imagine Levin’s country to look. Lonely.