EPS Review #186 - Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons , by Ivan Turgenev, Oxford, tr. Freeborn, 1991 [1862], 215pp.

Another book club foray into the classics (actually I have it out of order with The Road -- Turgenev was back in June). We liked it, but not as much as Madame Bovary. Roger made a nice Russian stew with figs. More things should have figs in them.

On a purely historical note, I was surprised to learn that serfs were actually slaves. My friend David, a historian, looked at me wryly as I displayed this ignorance, and said yes, they were emancipated about the same time as were the slaves of the USA.

It was not the politics, nor the generational misunderstandings that linger in my (always romantic) memory though -- it was Odintsova's failed love affair with Bazarov and, to a lesser extent, Arkady. How beautifully described it all is, and how rare to explain bluntly that Anna Sergeyevna found love too disturbing to her equilibrium -- that's not a truth you get much of in modern fiction.

Anna Sergeevna did not respond to him. 'I'm frightened of this man,' was the thought that flashed through her head.

`Goodbye, ma'am,' said Bazarov, as though he'd guessed what she was thinking, and set off in the direction of the house.

Anna Sergeevna followed quietly after him and, calling Katya to her, took her by the hand. She did not part from her until that evening. She did not play cards and took to laughing more and more, which certainly did not go well with her pale and embarrassed look. Arkady was puzzled and watched her in the way that young people watch -- that is to say, constantly asking himself what it all meant. Bazarov locked himself in his room; at tea-time, however, he returned. Anna Sergeevna wanted awfully to speak kindly to him but she did not know how to begin.

The slight falling out of Bazarov and Arkady is also well done. Poor Russia, that used to produce such aspirational and artistic literature.

Ravi wrote: I absolutely loved Turgenev as a boy. And am rediscovering Pushkin through Eugene Onegin the opera. Interestingly Vikram Seth wrote The Golden Gate, his verse novel about life in the Bay Area, in iambic pentameter inspired by Pushkin's use of it in Onegin.

Meg wrote: Thanks for your review -- I'd like to read this. Recently read Doctor Zhivago (probably too low brow for you but I loved it!) and had similar feelings of admiration for Russian thought and literature and wondered what in modern literature can compare, or what folks would do with it if presented with work of such depth and complexity...would it be appreciated? Are we capable of producing it? What a great way to learn about Russian history!

David wrote: Didn't mean to be wry.

Turgenev has stunning poems in prose. Maybe there is a good translation out there. His famous short story is First Love. I remember being a little bit shocked when I was closer to the son's age than the father's. Not sure how I'd feel now.

Mark wrote: Jummy!