Fathers and Sons
Publication Date: May 30, 1965
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When Fathers and Sons was first published in Russia, in 1862, it was met with a blaze of controversy about where Turgenev stood in relation to his account of generational misunderstanding. Was he criticizing the worldview of the conservative aesthete, Pavel Kirsanov, and the older generation, or that of the radical, cerebral medical student, Evgenii Bazarov, representing the younger one? The critic Dmitrii Pisarev wrote at the time that the novel "stirs the mind . . . because everything is permeated with the most complete and most touching sincerity." N. N. Strakhov, a close friend of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, praised its "profound vitality." It is this profound vitality in Turgenev's characters that carry his novel of ideas to its rightful place as a work of art and as one of the classics of Russian Literature.
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born in 1818 in the Province of Orel, and suffered during his childhood from a tyrannical mother. After the family had moved to Moscow in 1827 he entered Petersburg University where he studied philosophy. When he was nineteen he published his first poems and, convinced that Europe contained the source of real knowledge, went to the University of Berlin. After two years he returned to Russia and took his degree at the University of Moscow. In 1843 he fell in love with Pauline Garcia-Viardot, a young Spanish singer, who influenced the rest of his life; he followed her on her singing tours in Europe and spent long periods in the French house of herself and her husband, both of whom accepted him as a family friend. He sent his daughter by a sempstress to be brought up among the Viardot children. After 1856 he lived mostly abroad, and he became the first Russian writer to gain a wide reputation in Europe; he was a well-known figure in Parisian literary circles, where his friends included Flaubert and the Goncourt brothers, and an honorary degree was conferred on him at Oxford. His series of six novels reflect a period of Russian life from 1830s to the 1870s: they are Rudin (1855), A House of Gentlefolk (1858), On the Eve (1859; a Penguin Classic), Fathers and Sons (1861), Smoke (1867) and Virgin Soil (1876). He also wrote plays, which include the comedy A Month in the Country; short stories and Sketches from a Hunter’s Album (a Penguin Classic); and literary essays and memoirs. He died in Paris in 1883 after being ill for a year, and was buried in Russia.
"No fiction writer can be read through with a steadier admiration."