Leo Tolstoy’s novel begins and ends with a death under a train. The novel’s titular heroine watches as a railroad worker is killed shortly after she meets the dashing soldier, Vronsky. After the two embark on a scandalous affair that tears Anna’s marriage — and reputation — apart, she throws herself onto the train tracks in literature’s most famous suicide. The extreme emotions and passionate affairs it describes make Anna Karenina one of the most acclaimed novels ever written.
Life and death
For Anna, who is haunted by mortality throughout the novel, death becomes an escape from the despair she feels as her life falls apart. For the novel’s other main character, Levin, thoughts of death and the loss of his brother force him to contemplate the true meaning of life.
The athlete who wants to end her own life
She is a brilliant competitor with three Paralympic medals to her name. Yet Marieke Vervoort is set on assisted suicide. Is this inspirational, or a dangerous precedent for others?
Researchers book appointment with death
Scientists say a new blood test can determine how long a life we can expect if we die by natural causes. Do we want to be told when to expect the Grim Reaper?
The new test unlocking the secrets of death
Would you want to know when you are going to die? Scientists have developed a test that can tell how fast your body is ageing. Some think facing death is the key to living a meaningful life.
Anna and Vronsky’s passionate affair has disastrous consequences: Anna finds herself isolated from society, separated from her family, and so desperate that she ends her own life. Many of us still search for passion in our lives — but what does that really mean?
‘Jan, you are the sunshine in my life…’
Are public proposals a good idea? At last week’s Emmy Awards, director Glenn Weiss got down on one knee in front of 10 million viewers. Popping the question has been a big deal for centuries…
Bieber fever ‘more infectious than measles’
Fans of Justin Bieber are so devoted to their idol that their feeling has been called ‘Bieber fever.’ Researchers mapping the spread of Bieber fandom have found it spreads just like a real virus.
Sweet or sickly: The Valentine’s Day divide
Today, couples around the world will show their affection with flowers, cards and messages of love. But research shows that nearly half of us cannot wait for it to be over.
‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ These are the opening words of Anna Karenina, whose main characters struggle to find fulfilment throughout the novel. Should happiness be our ultimate goal? And how can we find it?
Message from locked-in patients: ‘we’re happy’
Imagine you could see and hear the world around you, but not interact with it — not even by blinking. Would you be happy? Amazingly, new ‘mind-reading’ technology says the answer is ‘yes’.
Humble cartoonist holds secret to happiness
Do we take life too seriously? For decades Matt Pritchett has turned hard-hitting news into funny cartoons. He says humour can be found (almost) anywhere because “nothing matters very much.”
Secrets of happiness discovered (at last!)
It has taken a mere 200,000 years and should solve all our problems: no fewer than nine books are to be published this autumn on the key to happiness. The answer is ‘hygge’ and it is Danish.
Russia in the 1870s was a society at a crossroads. As old traditions began to fade, questions of gender roles, European influence, and class all contributed to feelings of uncertainty, confusion and doubt. How is our own culture changing?
Fears social media is fuelling teen suicides
Yesterday, The Sunday Times reported that teenage suicides in England have nearly doubled in eight years. Now the government is calling on social media to do more to protect young people.
Furious conservatives attack #MeToo Gillette
Gillette has released a bold new advert attacking “toxic” masculinity, sparking fierce debate. Some say the ad is insulting and wrong, while others praise its progressive message.
How LGBT icon Edie Windsor changed America
Is history made by sudden changes, or “countless small acts of persistence”? For Barack Obama, it is the latter — and Edith “Edie” Windsor, who died on Tuesday, was the perfect example.
Tolstoy reflects on the nature of religion throughout Anna Karenina. Many of the novel’s most devout figures are ridiculed for hypocrisy, but Levin eventually comes to find comfort and faith in a purer form of Christianity. How is religion viewed today?
Judges to decide if veganism is a religion
What should the verdict be? In a landmark anti-discrimination case, a charity worker who was sacked from his job is arguing that veganism should be recognised as a “religion or belief”.
‘Beginning of the end’ for Western religion
Should we care that organised religion is dying out in Western societies? A survey published earlier this week revealed that levels of religious belief in Britain are at an all-time-low.
‘God wanted Trump to be president’
That is the incredible claim made by Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders. Whether divine intervention is at play or not, Trump is extremely popular among America’s evangelicals.