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“In Our Home Everyone Said Lévin”: on the Pronunciation of the Surname of Anna Karenina’s Character in L. N. Tolstoy’s Family

, Anastasia V. Sin

Abstract: The article deals with the issue of correct pronunciation of the surname of Konstantin Levin — a character from L. N. Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina. According to the writer’s youngest daughter A. L. Tolstaya and his great grandson I. V. Tolstoy, the author of the novel and all his family pronounced it like “Lévin.” This tradition is currently preserved in the L. N. Tolstoy State Museum in Moscow and in L. N. Tolstoy Museum-Estate ‘Yasnaya Polyana’. Apart from the spoken tradition there is also a written tradition originated from L. N. Tolstoy himself. Manuscripts of Anna Karenina attest to the fact that L. N. Tolstoy, S. A. Tolstaya and all other copyists always wrote “Levin,” letter “ё” (“yo”) being used in necessary cases. N. N. Strakhov who helped L. N. Tolstoy prepare the first separate edition of Anna Karenina (1878) wrote in the same manner. The tradition of spelling the surname of the character as “Levin” is registered in all lifetime and posthumous editions of Anna Karenina as well as in translations into foreign languages. However there is a contradiction in spelling “Lyovin” in two private letters of L. N. Tolstoy’s contemporaries (I. S. Aksakov and K. N. Leontiev), who were not in his inner circle, and a viewpoint of V. V. Nabokov claiming that L. N. Tolstoy derived the character’s surname from his own name Lyov used at home.

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