Anna Karenina, Alive and Not That Well in Queens


Thought hundreds of pages about the Russian aristocracy described a world utterly foreign from our own? Irina Reyn’s English-language take on Anna Karenina may be refreshingly slimmer than Tolstoy’s opus but the world it describes is no less fascinating.

What Happened to Anna K. (2008) features the insular community of Russian-speaking Jewish émigrés from Bukhara in Central Asia, clustered around the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens. This world is suffocating to 35-year old Anna who, though thoroughly Americanized (she and her husband no longer read much serious Russian literature because “after thirty years of communism, didn’t they deserve Danielle Steel?”) still harbors pieces of that enigmatic Russian soul.

Anna’s adventurous passion drives her from her husband and son and into an affair with a hipster writer from Manhattan. Just like Anna Karenina meets her Count Vronsky at a train station, Anna K. meets her David Zuckerman while waiting for the subway.

Spoiler alert: What Happened to Anna K. ends not too differently from the original. You can guess the setting.

Check out this history of the Bukharian Jewish Community:

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