Turgenev is an author who no longer belongs to Russia only. During the last fifteen years of his life he won for himself the reading public, first in France, then in Germany and America, and finally in England.
In his funeral oration the spokesman of the most artistic and critical of European nations, Ernest Renan, hailed him as one of the greatest writers of our times: 'The Master, whose exquisite works have charmed our century, stand more than any other man as the incarnation of the whole race,' because 'a whole world lived in him and spoke through his mouth.' Not the Russian world only, we may add, but the whole Slavonic world, to which it was 'an honour to have been expressed by so great a Master'.
As regards his method of dealing with his material and shaping it into mould, he stands even higher than as a pure creator. Tolstoi is more plastical, and certainly as deep and original and rich in creative power as Turgenev, and Dostoevsky is more intense, fervid, and dramatic. But as an artist, as master of the combination of details into a harmonious whole, as an architect of imaginative work, he surpasses all the prose writers of his country, and has but few equals among the great novelists of other lands.
To one familiar with all Turgenev's works it is evident that he possessed the keys of all human emotions, all human feelings, the highest and the lowest, the novel as well as the base.
But there was in him such a love of light, sunshine, and living human poetry, such an organic aversion for all that is ugle, or coarse and discordant, that he make himself almost exclusively the poet of the gentler side of human nature.
We may say that the description of love is Turgenev's speciality.
Rudin is the first of Turgenev's social novels, and is a sort of artistic introduction to those that follow, because it refers to the epoch anterior to that when the present social and political movements began. This epoch is being fast forgotten, and without his novel it would be difficult for us to fully realise it, but it is well worth studying, because we find in it the germ of future growths.
It was a gloomy time. The ferocious despotism of Nicholas I - overweighing the country like the stone lid of a coffin - crushed every word, every thought, which did not fit with its narrow conceptions.
Dimitrie Rudin is the typical man of that generation, both the victim and the hero of his time - a man who is almost a Titan in word and a pigmy in deed.
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Born in Orel in central Russia in 1818 Ivan Turgenev studied at the universities in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Berlin and worked briefly for the civil service before turning to writing. He wrote several novels that examined the social, political and philosophical issues of the time as well as many plays and short stories. Living mainly in Baden-Baden and Paris Turgenev was acquainted with a variety of influential writers and met Dickens and Trollope among others on his travels to England. He was widely perceived to be the first major Russian writer to achieve great success in Europe. Turgenev died in Paris in 1883. The subtitle of Richard Garnett's biography (reissued in Faber Finds) of his grandmother, Constance Garnett (1861-1946) is A Heroic Life. It couldn't be more apt. She remains the most prolific English translator of Russian literature: twelve volumes of Dostoevsky, five of Gogol, six of Herzen (his complete My Past and Thoughts), seventeen of Tchehov (her spelling), five of Tolstoy, eleven of Turgenev and so on. Many of these will be appearing in Faber Finds. In all she translated over sixty works. It is not, however, the sheer quantity that is to be celebrated, though that in itself is remarkable, it is more the enduring quality of her work. Of course there have been critics - translation is a peculiarly controversial subject, but there have been many more admirers. Tolstoy himself praised her. Of her Turgenev translations, Joseph Conrad said 'Turgeniev (sic) for me is Constance Garnett and Constance Garnett is Turgeniev'. Katherine Mansfield declared the lives of her generation of writers were transformed by Constance Garnett's translations, and H. E. Bates went so far as to say that modern English Literature itself could not have been what it is without her translations. This extraordinary achievement was accomplished despite poor health and poor eyesight, the latter being ruined by her labours on War and Peace ,a tragic if fitting sacrifice; hers indeed was A Heroic Life.Language Notes:
Text: English, Russian (translation)
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Book Description Univ Press of the Pacific, USA, 2000. Soft cover. Book Condition: As New. Bookseller Inventory # 24154
Book Description University Press of the Pacific, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: Used: Good. Bookseller Inventory # SONG0898750296