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Public reading of Russian classic to bring life to IC

BY ALYSSA MARIE HARN | OCTOBER 27, 2010 7:15 AM

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Talking about today’s reading of Anna Karenina is as exciting to Anna Barker as talking about Halloween costumes is to a child.

The enthusiasm of the adjunct assistant professor of Russian about the events in the next week was evident in her fast-paced speech and animated gestures as she described the upcoming celebration of Russian literature in Iowa City.

Born and raised in Russia, Barker is excited about the five-day commemoration of the 100th anniversary of author Leo Tolstoy’s death, the 150th anniversary of playwright Anton Chekhov’s birth, and the UI Russian program’s 50th anniversary.

There will be six events running from Tuesday through Oct. 31 in Iowa City to honor this important year in Russian history, including a public reading of The Cherry Orchard, by Chekhov and a reading of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The book will be read today and Thursday near the fountain on the Pedestrian Mall from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The reading will continue on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or until it is finished.

Barker, UI faculty member for eight years, organized the public reading, and she believes the novel is the perfect piece to read.

“I thought that Anna Karenina was a good choice for the reading,” she said. “[Tolstoy] felt that Anna Karenina was his first novel, and it stands out as a book that has its own following.”

Russian Professor Margaret Mills said the upcoming readings ring true to Iowa City’s literary presence in the world.

“Simply sharing the mastery of these works with people walking downtown is going to illustrate one of the reasons that Iowa City has been designated one of the UNESCO Literary Cities of the World,” she said.

Today, Barker will start the event by reading the epigraph and the first paragraph of the book in both Russian and English.

“Books are alive as long as we revisit them,” she said.

The more than 600-page text will be read by 120-140 volunteers in 20-minute chunks. Mills encouraged her students to sign up to read and helped come up with the idea for the reading.

“We [at the Russian language program] are thrilled that Anna took this on herself, and we are going to do everything possible to help her make this happen,” she said.

Jeanette Pilak, the executive director of Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature who helped promote the event by designing the posters, said the reading will bring life to Iowa City.

“We are excited, because this event brings breath and depth of literature to everyone in the community,” she said.

Pilak also said the reading fits well with the mission of the UNESCO designation.

“The City of Literature is about facilitating and assisting in bringing literature to life,” she said.


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