"However much you knock at nature's door, she will never answer you in comprehensible words." -- Ivan Turgenev
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (, ) ( – ) was a Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His first major publication, a short story collection entitled A Sportsman's Sketches, is a milestone of Russian Realism, and his novel Fathers and Sons is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century fiction.
"A poet must be a psychologist, but a secret one: he should know and feel the roots of phenomena but present only the phenomena themselves in full bloom or as they fade away.""Circumstances define us; they force us onto one road or another, and then they punish us for it.""Death's an old joke, but each individual encounters it anew.""I agree with no one's opinion. I have some of my own.""In days of doubt, in days of dreary musings on my country's fate, you alone are my comfort and support, oh great, powerful, righteous, and free Russian language!""In the end, nature is inexorable: it has no reason to hurry and, sooner or later, it takes what belongs to it. Unconsciously and inflexibly obedient to its own laws, it doesn't know art, just as it doesn't know freedom, just as it doesn't know goodness.""Most people can't understand how others can blow their noses differently than they do.""Nature creates while destroying, and doesn't care whether it creates or destroys as long as life isn't extinguished, as long as death doesn't lose its rights.""One may speak about anything on earth with fire, with enthusiasm, with ecstasy, but one only speaks about oneself with avidity.""People without firmness of character love to make up a fate for themselves; that relieves them of the necessity of having their own will and of taking responsibility for themselves.""The word tomorrow was invented for indecisive people and for children.""There are some moments in life, some feelings; one can only point to them and pass by.""Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.""Time, as is well known, sometimes flies like a bird and sometimes crawls like a worm, but human beings are generally particularly happy when they don't notice whether it's passing quickly or slowly.""To desire and expect nothing for oneself and to have profound sympathy for others is genuine holiness.""We sit in the mud... and reach for the stars.""Whatever a person may pray for, that person prays for a miracle. Every prayer comes down to this - Almighty God, grant that two times two not equal four.""Who among us has the strength to oppose petty egoism, those petty good feelings, pity and remorse?""Women... can't live with 'em... can't shoot 'em."
Turgenev was born into a wealthy landed family of the Russian aristocracy in Oryol, Russia, on 28 October 1818. His father, Sergei Nikolaevich Turgenev, a colonel in the Imperial Russian cavalry, was a chronic philanderer. Ivan's mother, Varvara Petrovna Lutovinova, was a wealthy heiress, who had had an unhappy childhood and suffered in her marriage. Ivan's father died when Ivan was sixteen, leaving him and his brother Nicholas to be brought up by their abusive mother. After the standard schooling for a son of a gentleman, Turgenev studied for one year at the University of Moscow and then moved to the University of Saint Petersburg, focusing on Classics, Russian literature, and philology. He was sent in 1838 to the University of Berlin to study philosophy, particularly Hegel, and history. Turgenev was impressed with German society and returned home believing that Russia could best improve itself by incorporating ideas from the Age of Enlightenment. Like many of his educated contemporaries, he was particularly opposed to serfdom.
When Turgenev was a child, a family serf had read to him verses from the Rossiad of Mikhail Kheraskov, a celebrated poet of the 18th century. Turgenev's early attempts in literature, poems, and sketches gave indications of genius and were favorably spoken of by Vissarion Belinsky, then the leading Russian literary critic. During the latter part of his life, Turgenev did not reside much in Russia: he lived either at Baden-Baden or Paris, often in proximity to the family of the celebrated singer Pauline Viardot, with whom he had a lifelong affair.
Turgenev never married, although he had a daughter with one of his family's serfs. He was tall and broad-shouldered, but was timid, restrained, and soft-spoken. His closest literary friend was Gustave Flaubert. His relations with Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were often strained, as the two were, for various reasons, dismayed by Turgenev's seeming preference for Western Europe. His rocky friendship with Tolstoy in 1861 wrought such animosity that Tolstoy challenged Turgenev to a duel, afterwards apologizing. The two did not speak for 17 years. Dostoyevsky parodies Turgenev in his novel The Devils (1872) through the character of the vain novelist Karmazinov, who is anxious to ingratiate himself with the radical youth. However, in 1880, Dostoyevsky's speech at the unveiling of the Pushkin monument brought about a reconciliation of sorts with Turgenev, who, like many in the audience, was moved to tears by his rival's eloquent tribute to the Russian spirit.
Turgenev occasionally visited England, and in 1879 the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law was conferred upon him by the University of Oxford.
Turgenev died at Bougival, near Paris, on 4 September 1883. On his death bed he pleaded with Tolstoy: "My friend, return to literature!" After this Tolstoy wrote such works as The Death of Ivan Ilyich and The Kreutzer Sonata.
Turgenev first made his name with A Sportsman's Sketches (??????? ????????), also known as Sketches from a Hunter's Album or Notes of a Hunter, a collection of short stories, based on his observations of peasant life and nature, while hunting in the forests around his mother's estate of Spasskoye. Most of the stories were published in a single volume in 1852, with others being added in later editions. The book is credited with having influenced public opinion in favour of the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Turgenev himself considered the book to be his most important contribution to Russian literature; It is reported that Pravda, and Tolstoy, among others, agreed wholeheartedly, adding that Turgenev's evocations of nature in these stories were unsurpassed.One of the stories in A Sportsman's Sketches, known as "Bezhin Lea" or "Byezhin Prairie", was later to become the basis for the controversial film Bezhin Meadow (1937) - directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
In the 1840s and early 1850s, during the rule of Tsar Nicholas I, the political climate in Russia was stifling for many writers. This is evident in the despair and subsequent death of Gogol, and the oppression, persecution, and arrests of artists, scientists, and writers, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky. During this time, thousands of Russian intellectuals, members of the intelligentsia, emigrated to Europe. Among them were Alexander Herzen and Turgenev himself, although the latter's decision to settle abroad probably had more to do with his fateful love for Pauline Viardot than anything else.
In 1852, when his first major novels of Russian society were still to come, Turgenev wrote an obituary for Nikolai Gogol, intended for publication in the Saint Petersburg Gazette. The key passage reads: "Gogol is dead!... What Russian heart is not shaken by those three words?... He is gone, that man whom we now have the right (the bitter right, given to us by death) to call great." The censor of Saint Petersburg did not approve of this and banned publication, but the Moscow censor allowed it to be published in a newspaper in that city. The censor was dismissed; but Turgenev was held responsible for the incident, imprisoned for a month, and then exiled to his country estate for nearly two years.
he was still in Russia in the early 1850s, Turgenev wrote several novellas (povesti in Russian): "The Diary of a Superfluous Man ("??????? ??????? ????????"), Faust ("?????"), The Lull ("???????"), expressing the anxieties and hopes of Russians of his generation.
In 1854 he moved to Western Europe, and during the following year produced the novel Rudin ("?????"), the story of a man in his thirties, who is unable to put his talents and idealism to any use in the Russia of Nicholas I. Rudin is also full of nostalgia for the idealistic student circles of the 1840s.
In 1858 Turgenev wrote the novel A Nest of the Gentry ("?????????? ??????", published 1859) also full of nostalgia for the irretrievable past and of love for the Russian countryside. It contains one of his most memorable female characters, Liza, whom Dostoyevsky paid tribute to in his Pushkin speech of 1880, alongside Tatiana and Tolstoy's Natasha Rostova.
Alexander II ascended the Russian throne in 1855, and the political climate became more relaxed. In 1859, inspired by reports of positive social changes, Turgenev wrote the novel On the Eve ("????????"), portraying the Bulgarian revolutionary Insarov.
The following year saw the publication of one of his finest novellas, First Love ("?????? ??????"), which was based on bitter-sweet childhood memories, and the delivery of his speech ("Hamlet and Don Quixote", at a public reading in Saint Petersburg) in aid of writers and scholars suffering hardship. The vision presented therein of man torn between the self-centred scepticism of Hamlet and the idealistic generosity of Don Quixote is one that can be said to pervade Turgenev's own works. It is worth noting that Dostoyevsky, who had just returned from exile in Siberia, was present at this speech, for eight years later he was to write The Idiot, a novel whose tragic hero, Prince Myshkin, resembles Don Quixote in many respects. Turgenev, whose knowledge of Spanish, thanks to his contact with Pauline Viardot and her family, was good enough for him to have considered translating Cervantes's novel into Russian, played an important role in introducing this immortal figure of world literature into the Russian context.
Fathers and Sons ("???? ? ????"), Turgenev's most famous and enduring novel, appeared in 1862. Its leading character, Bazarov, was in turns heralded and reviled as either a glorification or a parody of the 'new men' of the 1860s. However, the issues treated in the novel transcend the merely contemporary. Many radical critics at the time (with the notable exception of Dimitri Pisarev) did not take Fathers and Sons seriously; and, after the relative critical failure of his masterpiece, Turgenev was disillusioned and started to write less.
Turgenev's next novel, Smoke ("???"), was published in 1867 and was again received less than enthusiastically in his native country, as well as triggering a quarrel with Dostoyevsky in Baden-Baden.
His last substantial work attempting to do justice to the problems of contemporary Russian society, Virgin Soil ("????"), was published in 1877.
Stories of a more personal nature, such as Torrents of Spring ("?????? ????"), King Lear of the Steppes ("??????? ?????? ???"), and The Song of Triumphant Love ("????? ????????????? ?????"), were also written in these autumnal years of his life. Other last works included the Poems in Prose and "Clara Milich" ("After Death"), which appeared in the journal European Messenger.Turgenev wrote on themes similar to those found in the works of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, but he did not approve of the religious and moral preoccupations that his two great contemporaries brought to their artistic creation. Turgenev was closer in temperament to his friends Gustave Flaubert and Theodor Storm, the North German poet and master of the novella form, who also often dwelt on memories of the past and evoked the beauty of nature.
Turgenev's artistic purity made him a favorite of like-minded novelists of the next generation, such as Henry James and Joseph Conrad, both of whom greatly preferred Turgenev to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. James, who wrote no fewer than five critical essays on Turgenev's work, claimed that "his merit of form is of the first order" (1873) and praised his "exquisite delicacy", which "makes too many of his rivals appear to hold us, in comparison, by violent means, and introduce us, in comparison, to vulgar things" (1896). The notoriously critical Vladimir Nabokov praised Turgenev's "plastic musical flowing prose", but criticized his "labored epilogues" and "banal handling of plots". Nabokov stated that Turgenev "is not a great writer, though a pleasant one", and ranked him fourth among nineteenth-century Russian prose writers, behind Tolstoy, Gogol, and Anton Chekhov, but ahead of Dostoyevsky. His idealistic ideas about love, specifically the devotion a wife should show her husband, were cynically referred to by characters in Chekhov's "An Anonymous Story."
1857 - Rudin (?????), English translation: Rudin
1859 - Dvoryanskoye Gnezdo (?????????? ??????), English translations: A Nest of Gentlefolk (Coulson), A House of Gentlefolk (Garnett), Home of the Gentry (Freeborn)
1860 - Nakanune (????????), English translation: On the Eve
1862 - Otzy i Deti (???? ? ????); English translation: Fathers and Sons
1867 - Dym (???); English translation: Smoke
1877 - Nov (????); English translation: Virgin Soil
Selected shorter fiction
1850 - Dnevnik Lishnego Cheloveka (??????? ??????? ????????); novella, English translation: The Diary of a Superfluous Man
1852 - Zapiski Okhotnika (??????? ????????); collection of stories, English translations: A Sportsman's Sketches, The Hunter's Sketches
1855 - Yakov Pasynkov (???? ????????); novella
1855 - Faust (?????); novella
1858 - Asya (A??); novella, English translation: Asya
1860 - Pervaia Liubov (?????? ??????); novella, English translation: First Love
1870 - Stepnoy Korol' Lir (??????? ?????? ???); novella, English translation: King Lear of the Steppes
1872 - Veshnie Vody (?????? ????); English translation: Torrents of Spring
1881 - Pesn' Torzhestvuyushey Lyubvi (????? ????????????? ?????); novella, English translation: The Song of Triumphant Love
1883 - Klara Milich (????? ?????); novella, English translation: The Mysterious Tales
1843 - Neostorozhnost (??????????????); A Rash Thing to Do
1847 - Gde Tonko Tam i Rvetsya (??? ?????, ??? ? ??????); It Tears Where It is Thin
1849/1856 - Zavtrak u Predvoditelia (??????? ? ????????????); Breakfast at the Chief's
1850/1851 - Razgovor na Bol'shoi Doroge (???????? ?? ??????? ??????); A Conversation on the Highway
1846/1852 - Bezdenezh'e (??????????); Lack of Money
1851 - Provintsialka (????????????); English translation: A Provincial Lady
1857/1862 - Nakhlebnik (?????????); English translation: The Hanger-On; Fortune's Fool; The Family Charge
1855/1872 - Mesiats v Derevne (????? ? ???????); English translation: A Month in the Country
1882 - Vecher v Sorrento (????? ? ????????); An Evening in Sorrento