Ondertexts
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev
Search

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev[1†]

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a Russian novelist, short story writer, poet, playwright, translator, and popularizer of Russian literature in the West[1†]. Born on November 9, 1818, in Oryol, Russia, Turgenev died on September 3, 1883, in Bougival, near Paris, France[1†][2†]. His first major publication, a short story collection titled “A Sportsman’s Sketches” (1852), was a milestone of Russian realism[1†]. His novel “Fathers and Sons” (1862) is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century fiction[1†].

Turgenev occupied an uneasy position between old-guard Tsarist rule and increasingly fashionable political radicalism[1†][3†]. He poured into his writings not only a deep concern for the future of his native land but also an integrity of craft that has ensured his place in Russian literature[1†][2†]. His works offer realistic, affectionate portrayals of the Russian peasantry and penetrating studies of the Russian intelligentsia who were attempting to move the country into a new age[1†][2†][4†].

Early Years and Education

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born on November 9, 1818, in Oryol, Russia[2†][1†]. He was the second son of a retired cavalry officer, Sergey Turgenev, and a wealthy mother, Varvara Petrovna, née Lutovinova, who owned the extensive estate of Spasskoye-Lutovinovo[2†][1†]. The dominant figure of his mother throughout his boyhood and early manhood probably provided the example for the dominance exercised by the heroines in his major fiction[2†]. The Spasskoye estate itself came to have a twofold meaning for the young Turgenev, as an island of gentry civilization in rural Russia and as a symbol of the injustice he saw inherent in the servile state of the peasantry[2†].

Turgenev was first educated at Moscow boarding schools, then tutored at home, in the best tradition of the Russian gentry, for several years before he entered Moscow University in the fall of 1833[2†][4†]. Moscow University was, intellectually speaking, the place to be at that juncture[2†][4†]. After the standard schooling for a son of a gentleman, Turgenev studied for one year at the University of Moscow, then moved to the University of Saint Petersburg from 1834 to 1837, focusing on Classics, Russian literature, and philology[2†][1†][3†]. He was finally sent, in 1838, to the University of Berlin[2†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Ivan Turgenev started his career in the Russian civil service and spent two years working for the Ministry of Interior from 1843 to 1845[1†]. However, his true passion lay in literature, and he soon left his civil service career to focus on writing[1†].

Turgenev’s first major publication was a short story collection titled “A Sportsman’s Sketches” (1852), which was a milestone of Russian realism[1†][2†]. The collection, which depicted the lives of Russian peasants through the eyes of a nobleman, was considered revolutionary at the time and contributed to the Tsar’s decision to liberate the serfs[1†].

His novel “Fathers and Sons” (1862) is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century fiction[1†][2†]. The novel, which explores the conflict between generations, introduced the character of Bazarov, a nihilist who rejects all authority and tradition. The novel sparked fierce debate between radicals and conservatives, reflecting the deep divisions in Russian society at the time[1†].

Turgenev wrote several other notable novels, including “Rudin” (1856), “Home of the Gentry” (1859), and “On the Eve” (1860)[1†][2†]. These works offer realistic, affectionate portrayals of the Russian peasantry and penetrating studies of the Russian intelligentsia who were attempting to move the country into a new age[1†][2†].

Despite his success, Turgenev faced criticism and even exile for his liberal views[1†]. He spent many years in western Europe, partly due to his personal and artistic stand as a liberal between the reactionary tsarist rule and the spirit of revolutionary radicalism that held sway in contemporary artistic and intellectual circles in Russia[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Ivan Turgenev’s literary career was marked by a series of significant works that had a profound impact on Russian literature and society. His first major publication was a short story collection titled “A Sportsman’s Sketches” (1852), which was a milestone of Russian realism[1†][2†]. This collection of vignettes of rural life in Russia, as seen through the eyes of a sportsman, was instrumental in raising public awareness about the harsh realities of serfdom[1†][2†].

Following are some of his notable works:

Each of these works not only reflects Turgenev’s mastery of the novel form but also provides a window into the social and political climate of Russia during his time[1†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Ivan Turgenev’s work is distinguished by its sophisticated lack of hyperbole, balance, and concern for artistic values[5†]. His work is imbued with sorrow but pulses with life, bearing powerful testimony to the fleeting beauty of existence[5†][6†]. His narratives are imbued with a deep sense of empathy and pathos, effortlessly balancing the concrete setting with existential symbolism[5†][6†].

Turgenev’s literary reputation rests primarily on his narrative prose works, which include novels, novelettes, novellas, and short stories[5†][7†]. His work is characterized by a highly crafted style, psychological characterization, and an ability to articulate the concerns of his age[5†][8†]. He created probing psychological portraits of representative members of society, so accurate that the terms he used to describe them passed into the common currency of Russian literature[5†][8†].

His most famous novel, “Fathers and Sons”, aroused controversy as it depicted the conflict between the older, reactionary generation and the younger, revolutionary generation[5†][8†]. The “nihilist” hero, Evgeni Bazarov, pleased partisans of neither side, signaling Turgenev’s demise as a major contributing force in the Russian literature of his age[5†][8†].

Turgenev’s work, particularly “A Sportsman’s Sketches”, played a significant role in arousing the indignation of the Russian intelligentsia over the mistreatment of serfs by the Russian nobility[5†][8†]. It is probable that this book had a significant effect on Czar Alexander II, who liberated the serfs in 1861[5†][8†].

In conclusion, Turgenev’s work is not only a mirror to his society but also a reflection of the deep concerns for the destiny of his country[5†][8†]. His narratives, while being love stories on the surface, are underlined by his concern for the future of Russia[5†][8†].

Personal Life

Ivan Turgenev led a life that was as intriguing as his literary works. Despite his noble birth and the wealth of his mother, Turgenev’s personal life was marked by a series of complex relationships[1†][2†].

Turgenev never married, but he had some affairs with his family’s serfs, one of which resulted in the birth of his illegitimate daughter, Paulinette[1†][9†]. He was tall and broad-shouldered, but was timid, restrained, and soft-spoken[1†]. His relationship with the renowned singer Pauline Viardot was a significant part of his life[1†][9†][10†]. He lived either at Baden-Baden or Paris, often near Viardot, and there were rumors that he fathered a child with her[1†][10†].

Despite his personal complexities, Turgenev was a man of deep sensitivity and empathy. His personal experiences, particularly his relationships, profoundly influenced his literary works[1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Ivan Turgenev’s legacy is deeply rooted in his profound impact on Russian literature and his unique position between the reactionary tsarist rule and the spirit of revolutionary radicalism[2†][1†]. His works, which include the short-story collection “A Sportsman’s Sketches” (1852) and the novel “Fathers and Sons” (1862), offer realistic, affectionate portrayals of the Russian peasantry and penetrating studies of the Russian intelligentsia[2†][1†].

Turgenev’s writings reflect not only his deep concern for the future of his native land but also an integrity of craft that has ensured his place in Russian literature[2†][1†]. His work evolved towards extended character studies and subtle examinations of the contrariness of love[2†][11†]. Despite his early unremarkable and imitative poetry, his poem “The Misty Morning” (1843) has become one of the most beloved Russian romances[2†][12†].

His novels remind us that life does not owe us anything, and there is a nobility in being prepared to suffer because of the actions of others[2†][13†]. This perspective, combined with his liberal stance, has made Turgenev a figure of significant influence and respect in the literary world[2†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Ivan Turgenev [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Ivan Turgenev: Russian author [website] - link
  3. New World Encyclopedia - Ivan Turgenev [website] - link
  4. Gale - Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) [website] - link
  5. Britannica - Ivan Turgenev - Russian Novelist, Exile, Realism [website] - link
  6. The Guardian - A brief survey of the short story part 50: Ivan Turgenev [website] - link
  7. eNotes - Ivan Turgenev Short Fiction Analysis [website] - link
  8. eNotes - Ivan Turgenev Analysis [website] - link
  9. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Ivan Turgenev [website] - link
  10. CliffsNotes - Fathers and Sons - Ivan Turgenev Biography [website] - link
  11. Britannica - Ivan Turgenev - Russian Novelist, Realism, Fathers and Sons [website] - link
  12. Vassar College Libraries - Ivan Turgenev and His Library an Exibition (23 January through 10 June 2019) [document] - link
  13. The National Endowment for the Humanities - Ivan Turgenev Was Distrusted by the Left and the Right [website] - link
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; additional terms may apply.
Ondertexts® is a registered trademark of Ondertexts Foundation, a non-profit organization.