Friday, July 10, 2015
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (1862)
I started this book before I went to Russia and finished it after I got back (it is a short and manageable book, it was just not the only thing I was reading). I think that if you fear Russian literature, this is a very good choice, because while everyone has more than one name (in classic Russian style), it is very accessible and also illuminating about Russian culture. It was written in the mid-19th century, after Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto and before the Russian Revolution. One description of a character struck me: He was a progressive and a despot, as happens so often with Russians. That certainly resonates today.
The story is about relationships (there are sisters and brothers and mothers and couples as well as fathers and sons). Arkady and his friend Bazarov represent the modern Russia and their fathers are the Russia of old. The thing that is timeless about the book is the role that love plays in their lives and the jealousies that it engenders. The two friends are unable to talk about their attractions and they are so set against the traditional relationships of their parents that they miss the opportunity at happiness--or almost do, in Arkady's case. A short and enjoyable book steeped in Russia's past.