In 1875, The Russian Messenger brought us a serialised version of one of the greatest novels ever, or so The Guardian tells me. They brought us Leo Tolstoy’s “Анна Каренина”. The novel is famous for dealing with the many issues of human existence, and it focuses on the affair between Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. Due to the scandal of their affair, they had to leave St Petersburg and live in Italy, which sounds awful if you ask me. Eventually, they returned to Russia, which was an appalling idea. Apologies for any spoilers here.
I’m sure you have read that intro and are wondering why we are talking about Tolstoy and his look into why romantic love is not superior to love from a good family. Anna Karenina came out a mere 20 years before Tolstoy learned to ride, but already his heart was yearning to show you his undiscovered passion.
Tolstoy is actually using the novel to show how the cycling media works. It uses the idea of romance to sell us new bikes that we don’t need. We need the stability brought by the fixed-gear bike that Anna abandons to run away with GCN (Vronsky) to Italy to look at exotic bikes.
“Derailleurs were invented to cover the empty place where love should be.”
She sees all these excellent trails in Italy that she would love to shred on her tracklocross beast. She feels guilty for betraying Sheldon Brown’s path and following GCN. Slowly her conscience begins to cause her reality to fall apart, and as her grip lessens, she heads back to Russia.
“Anything is better than lies and new model years!”
Back in Russia, she commits suicide by jumping in front of a train. Here we see Tolstoy’s greatness at bringing the human experience down into moments, smaller moments than other authors bring us. In her last moments, as it is all too late, Anna realises that turning her back on the love of tracklocross for shiny and exotic new models was her undoing.
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”