Sergeyevich Turgenev was a major Russian novelist and playwright.
His novel Fathers and Sons is regarded as a defining work of 19th-century
Turgenev was born into an old and wealthy family at Orel, Russia,
in the province of the same name, on October 28, 1818. His father
Sergei Nikolaevich Turgenev, the colonel of a cavalry regiment,
died when he was sixteen, leaving Turgenev and his brother Nicholas
to be brought up under the care of their abusive mother, Varvara
Petrovna Lutovinova, who owned large estates and many serfs.
the normal schooling for a child of a gentleman's family, Turgenev
studied for a year at the University of Moscow, then the University
of St Petersburg focusing on the classics, Russian literature
and philology. He was finally sent in 1838 to the University of
Berlin to study philosophy (mostly Hegel) and history. Turgenev
was impressed with the more modern society he witnessed in Western
Europe, and went back home a "Westernizer", as opposed
to a "Slavophile", believing that Russia could improve
itself by imitating the West and abolishing outdated institutions
such as serfdom.
family serf read to him verses from the Rossiad of Kheraskov,
a celebrated poet of the eighteenth century. Turgenev's early
attempts in literature, poems and sketches, had indications of
genius and were favorably spoken of by Belinsky, then the leading
Russian 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
Garcia-Viardot, with whom he had a life-long affair.
never married, although he had a daughter with one of his family's
serfs. Tall and broad, Turgenev's personality was timid, restrained
and soft-spoken. His closest literary friend was Gustave Flaubert.
Turgenev occasionally visited England, and in 1879 the degree
of D.C.L. was conferred upon him by the University of Oxford.
He died at Bougival, near Paris, on 4 September 1883.
brain was weighed in 1883 at an incredible 2021 gm.
Turgenev made his name with A Sportsman's Sketches, also known
as Sketches From a Hunter's Album or Notes of a Hunter. Based
on the author's own observations while sport hunting birds and
hares in his mother's estate of Spasskoye, the work appeared in
a collected form in 1852. In 1852, between Turgenev's Sketches
and his first important novels, he wrote his now notorious obituary
to his idol Gogol in the St. Petersburg Gazette.
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 St. Petersburg did not approve
of this idolatry and banned its publication, but Turgenev managed
to fool the Moscow censor into printing it. These underhanded
tactics landed the young writer in prison for a month, and he
was forced into exile at his estate for nearly two years.
next work was A Nest of Nobles in 1859, and was followed the next
year by On the Eve, a tale which contains one of his most beautiful
female characters, Helen. On the Eve (of reform), with Turgenev's
portrayal of Bulgarian revolutionary Dmitri, would have been very
exciting politically to many contemporaneous readers. In 1862
Fathers and Sons was published, an admirably-structured novel
in which the author famously described the revolutionary doctrines
then beginning to spread in Russia. His lead character Basarov
is heralded by many as one of the finest characters of the 19th
century novel. 19th century Russian critics did not take to Fathers
and Sons. The stinging criticism, especially from younger radicals,
disappointed Turgenev and he wrote very little in the years following
Fathers and Sons.
later novels, with their antiquated language and stilted situations,
are considered inferior to his earlier efforts. Smoke was published
in 1867 and his last work of any length, Virgin Soil, was published
in 1877. Aside from his longer stories, many shorter ones were
produced, some of great beauty and full of subtle psychological
analysis, such as Torrents of Spring, First Love, Asya and others.
were later collected into three volumes. His last works were Poetry
in Prose and Clara Milich, which appeared in the European Messenger.
Turgenev is considered one of the great Victorian novelists, ranked
with Thackeray, Hawthorne, and Henry James, though his style was
much different from these American and British writers. Turgenev
has often been compared to his Russian contemporaries, Leo Tolstoy
and Feodor Dostoevsky, who wrote novels about some of the same
issues. A melancholy tone pervades his writings, a morbid self-analysis.