This is the life story of Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, whose merit enabled Russian writers to penetrate the West and become even more popular than they were!
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a Russian novelist, playwright, short story writer, poet, translator and popularizes of Russian literature in the West. He was born on November 9, 1818, in Orel, not far from the city of Mtsensk in Russia, and died on September 3, 1883, in France, in Buzhival.
His first major publication, a collection of short stories entitled “Hunter’s Records” (1852), was a turning point in Russian realism, and his novel “Fathers and Children” (1862) is considered one of the leading works of 19th century fiction.
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born into a noble Russian family. From his father Sergei Nikolayevich Turgenev (born in 1793 and died in 1834), who was a colonel of the Russian cavalry and mother of Varvara Petrovna Turgenev (born in 1787 and died in 1850).
His father belonged to an old but impoverished family of the Russian aristocracy. Ivan’s mother comes from a rich family. She spent an unhappy childhood with her stepfather abusing her. She left the house after the death of her mother and lived with her aunt. When she was 26, she inherited great wealth and then married Turgenev. Ivan and his brothers, Nikolaj and Sergei, were raised by their mother, a very educated and authoritative woman, on the family estate. She employed foreign governesses; Thanks to them, Ivan learned French, German and English. In the house they had a rich library of German and French books, which he read regularly.
The father spent little time with his family – although he treated the children well, his absence bothered Ivan, who often felt bad about it (their relationship is described in the autobiographical novel “First Love”). When Ivan was four years old, the family moved to Germany and France, but in 1827 they moved to Moscow to educate their children.
After finishing the elite primary and secondary school, Turgenev studied for one year at the University of Moscow, and then transferred to the University of St. Petersburg from 1834 to 1837, where he studied classics, Russian literature and philology. The history of antiquity and the Middle Ages was taught to him by Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol. During his studies, his father died of kidney disease, and then his younger brother Sergei died of epilepsy.
From 1838 to 1841, he studied philosophy, especially Hegel, and history at the University of Berlin. He returned to St. Petersburg where he graduated. Turgenev was impressed by German society, and believed that Russia could make the best progress by accepting Western ideas. Like many of his educated contemporaries, he was especially against serfdom.
In 1841, Turgenev began his career in the Russian civil service and spent two years as an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (from 1843 to 1845). As a child, he heard the verses of Mikhail Heraskov, a famous poet from the 18th century. These verses were the inspiration for an early attempt at literary work for which he received positive reviews from Visarion Belinsky, then the most respected Russian literary critic.
Towards the end of his life, Turgenev did not spend much time in Russia: he lived in Baden-Baden or Paris, often near the famous opera singer Pauline Viardot, with whom he was in a relationship.
Turgenev never married, but he had numerous love affairs. From one of them, an illegitimate daughter Paulinet was born. He was tall and broad-shouldered, but he was timid, reserved, and gentle in voice. When Turgenev was 19, while traveling by steamer to Germany, the ship caught fire. This is how the story “Fire at Sea” came about.
His closest literary friend was Gustave Flaubert, a French writer, with whom he shared similar social and creative ideas. Both rejected extremist right-wing and left-wing political views and had a rather pessimistic view of the world. His relations with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were often tense, since the two of them, for personal reasons, were not inclined to Western Europe, like Turgenev.
Turgenev, unlike Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, has no religious motives in his works, which represented a more social aspect of the reform movement. He considered himself an agnostic. Traveling together to Paris, Tolstoy wrote about Turgenev in the diary that he was boring.
Their enmity escalated to such an extent in 1861 that Tolstoy challenged Turgenev to a duel, after which he apologized. They haven’t spoken in 17 years. Dostoevsky ridicules Turgenev in the novel “Devils” (1872) through the character of the empty novelist Karmazinov. However, in 1880, Dostoevsky’s speech in the unveiling of Pushkin’s monument brought reconciliation with Turgenev’s.
Turgenev occasionally visited England, and in 1879, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.
Turgenev’s health was damaged in later years. In January 1883,, an aggressive malignant tumor metastasized to the upper spinal cord, causing severe pain during the last months of life.
On September 3, 1883,, Turgenev died at his home in Bujival near Paris. He was buried in Russia in the Volkovo cemetery in St. Petersburg. At his funeral, Tolstoy prayed: “Friend, return to literature!”. Shortly after the course, in honor of Turgenev, Tolstoy wrote the work “Death of Ivan Ilyich”.
Turgenev published the poem “Parasha” in 1843, which is considered his first published work.
He published the work “Hunter’s Records”, a collection of short stories, based on his observations of the peasant way of life and nature, while he was hunting in the forests around his mother’s estate Spaskoje. Most of the stories were published in the 1852 edition, and others were added in later editions.
The book is attributed to the influence of public opinion in favor of the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Turgenev himself considered the book to be his most important contribution to Russian literature. His descriptions of nature in these stories were unsurpassed, in the opinion of contemporaries and the profession. One of the short stories “Bezhin lug”, later became the basis of the controversial film “Bezhin lug” (1937) directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
In 1852, at the beginning of his career, Turgenev wrote an obituary for Nikolai Gogol, intended for the public in St. Petersburg. It was censored in St. Petersburg, and publication was not allowed, but Moscow censorship allowed it to be published in newspapers in that city.
Turgenev, on the orders of the Russian tsar, spent a month in prison, and then he was expelled to his country for two years. During that time, in 1854, Turgenev wrote the short story “Mumu”, about a deaf and dumb peasant who is forced to drown the only creature in the world that brings him happiness, his dog Mumu. This work aims to show the cruelty of society.
While still in Russia in early 1850, Turgenev wrote several short stories, such as The Diary of a Superfluous Man and Faust, in which he expressed the hopes and difficulties of the Russians of his generation.
In the 1940s and early 1950s, during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, the political climate in Russia was frightening for many writers. This can be seen in the despair and later death of Gogol, and the torture, persecution and arrest of artists, scientists and writers.
During that time, thousands of Russian intellectuals emigrated to Europe. Among them are Alexander Herzen and Turgenev, who moved to Western Europe in 1854. Although that decision probably had more to do with Turgenev’s love for Paulina Viardot, more than anything else.
He wrote the novel “Rudin” (1857), a story about a man in his thirties, who cannot develop talents in Russia.
Under the influence of the critic Visarion Belinski, Turgenev abandoned romantic idealism and turned to realism. Turgenev portrayed him in “Jakov Pasinkov” (1855).
In the period from 1853 to 1862, Turgenev wrote some of his most beautiful short stories, as well as the first four novels: “Rudin” (1856), “Noble Nest” (1859), “On Christmas Eve” (1860). .) and Fathers and Children ”(1862).
Some of the themes of these works are the beauties of early love, the failure to make dreams come true, and unrequited or unhappy love. He found great inspiration for these works through his love for Paulina and his relationship with his mother, because of which he reluctantly remembered his childhood, since she raised him strictly. She managed the life and work of more than 500 serfs with the same strict demeanor with which she raised him.
In 1859, Turgenev wrote the novel The Noble Nest, which is also full of nostalgia for the irreversible past and love for the Russian countryside. It features one of the most impressive female characters, Lisa.
Alexander II came to the Russian throne in 1855, and the political climate became more relaxed. In 1859, inspired by positive social changes, Turgenev wrote the novel “On the Eve of the Day” (published in 1860).
The following year, one of the most esteemed novels, “First Love”, was published, based on bitter-sweet childhood memories.
Turgenev’s knowledge of Spanish, thanks to his contact with Pauline Viardot and her family, was enough to translate Cervantes’ novel into Russian, and thus played an important role in introducing this immortal world novel into Russian literature.
“Fathers and Children”, Turgenev’s most famous novel, was published in 1862. His main character, Eugene Bazarov, is considered the “first Bolshevik” in Russian literature. Turgenev painted a classic portrait of a nihilist in the mid-nineteenth century.
It is believed that this work is the real reason for his stay in prison after writing the obituary for Gogol. Namely, the authorities were bothered by his metaphorical depiction of the conflict between the old and the new generation, which in fact represents a conflict between the Liberals and the Democrat educators.
He received positive criticism from many contemporaries for his objectivity, but also because of interfering in political issues, he bothered many. He influenced many European writers with his literary works.
Departure from Russia
Negative criticism for the work “Fathers and Children” prompted Turgenev to decide to leave Russia. As a result, he lost a large number of his readers. Many radical critics of the time (with the exception of Dimitri Pisarev) did not take the work “Fathers and Children” seriously, and after the relatively critical failure of his masterpiece, Turgenev was disappointed and reduced his writing.
The next novel “Smoke” was published in 1867, with which he again experienced failure in his country.
The works “Breakfast with the leader of the nobility”, “Bachelor”, “Provincial”, “Where it’s thin, there it breaks”, had great success on stage.
His last significant work, which tries to show the problems of modern Russian society, “Novina”, was published in 1877.
Short stories, such as “Spring Waters” and “Poems about Prose”, were also written in the later years of his life. Works, including “Poems in Prose” and “Klara Milic”, were published in magazines.
Turgenev wrote about topics that can be found in the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but he did not approve of the religious and moral themes that his two great contemporaries brought to their literary work.
Turgenev was closer to the temperament of his friends, Gustave Flaubert and Theodore Storm, who often revived memories of the past and evoked the beauty of nature.
Some of Turgevel’s most famous quotes:
- “If you wait forever for the right moment, you will never start anything”.
- “A truth that is not told at the right time is worse than a lie”.
- “Love is stronger than death and the fear of death”.
- “Only those people who either do not know what they want or are not worthy of being understood remain misunderstood”.
- “The word “tomorrow” was coined for indecisive people and children”.
- “It is useless for a person with prejudices to prove the unjustifiability of his prejudices”.
- “Rudin” (1857)
- “Noble Nest” (1859)
- “On the eve of the day” (1860)
- “First Love “(1860)
- “Fathers and Children”(1862)
- “Smoke” (1867)
- “Spring torrents” (1872)
- “Newspaper” (1877)
- “Diary of a Superfluous Man” (1850)
- “Faust” (1855)
- “Hunter’s Records” (1852)
- “Mumu” (1854)
- ” Jakov Pasinkov” (1855)
- “Asja” (1858)
- “Spring Waters” (1872)
- “Poem in Prose” (1883,)
- ” Bachelors” (1843)
- “Where it is thin, there it is torn” (1847)
- “Breakfast with the leader of the nobility” (1849)
- “A month in the countryside” (1850)
- “Provincial” (1851)
- “Evening in Sorrento”(1882)
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