Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, February 24, 2012

Father and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Son by Ivan Turgenev (1862, 204 pages, translated by Richard Hare)

Prior to today I have posted on two short stories by Ivan Turgenev (1818 to 1883, Russia) and his novella, Diary of a Superfluous Man.   (There is some additional background information on Turgenev in my prior posts on him.)\

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two, March 12 to March 22.   All you need do is post on one short story by an Irish author and send me a comment or and e mail and I will include it in the master post at the end of the challenge.  

Fathers and Sons is a very important European novel, listed on most best 100 novels of all time lists.  It is included by Clifton Fadiman in his The Life Time Reading Plan.   Turgenev was a close friend of Gustave  Flaubert.

Fathers and Sons was the first Russian work to be widely read out side of the country.   As the novel opens two young men fresh from the university go for a visit to the modest country estate of the father of  Arkady.   His father feels a bit uncomfortable as he has recently had a child with one of the servant women and has kept this from his son.    The son's friend is an advocate of nihilism, a new philosophy that repudiates all ideas that cannot be scientifically proved.    The friend, Bazarov, strongly condemns everything about life in Russia from the Czar to the peasants.

I do not see a need or wish to give a plot summery (there is one here if you are doing your homework).

The power in this book is in several things.   One of them, as the title suggests, is its its brilliant portrayal of the relationship between the two young men and their fathers.   Another is in its portrayal of the coming changes in Russia, the Russian Revolution was still over fifty years in the future.   We can see the radical Bazarov is not really ready to turn everything over to the peasants.  There are also beautiful descriptions of the natural wonders of rural Russia.   Bazarov gets in a duel over a petty point of honor, he is still enough of a traditionalist to hold to old codes of honor.    One of the most moving parts of the book is when Bazarov goes to visit his own parents, very traditional people who love their son with all their heart but have no comprehension of what is behind his strange and radical to them views.

I really enjoyed reading Fathers and Sons.   It is not hard to read or follow at all.

I plan to begin to read the stories in his Sportsman's Sketches soon.   Please share your experience with  Turgenev with us.

Mel u


@parridhlantern said...

I loved this book, when I read it years ago, in fact it's one of the books that I remember fondly from my Russian phase, so much so that I want to read it again at some date, Turgenev is definitely one of the greats of Russian Lit.

Mel u said...

Parrish Lantern-I am really looking forward to reading Sportman's Sketches-Turgenev's artistic intelligence is so subtle I find him hard to write about-thanks as always for your comments

Fred said...

Mel u,

According to what I have read, Dostoyevsky's _The Possessed_ (aka _The Demons_, _The Devils_) is his answer to Turgenev's _Fathers and Sons_. It also deals with the coming revolution, terrorism, and the conflict between the Russophils (Dostoyevsky) and the Westernizers (Turgenev).

Dostoyevsky actually satirizes Turgenev in the novel by making him the foolish old Westerner Stepan Trofimovitch whose son Pyotr is the nihilist/revolutionary.

Mel u said...

Fred, your comment makes a lot of sense to me, thanks very much as always

Nancy said...

Beautiful blog makeover, Mel. I will have to check on Fathers and Sons (I'll take your word about the book being an easy read); I've seen it in bookstores but I never dared pick it up because of my embarrassing experience with Leo Tolstoy (God bless his beautiful literary soul) and War and Peace. Thanks, Mel.

HKatz said...

I definitely want to look into this one particularly for the portrayal of father-son relationships and the historical background. Good review.

As for the Irish short story week, I think I can do that; I've read some Joyce recently and took out a book on Irish short stories.