Book Notes: "Fathers and Sons" by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and SonsFathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For once I read the book before reading the introduction; an approach which has its merits. The analysis in the introduction seemed to be a little over the top at first but then after learning of the letters Turgenev exchanged with Dostoevsky, particularly concerning the former's construction of the character Bazarov, really drives home how truly great novels are so much more than the product of a vivid imagination. The beauty of reading such works is to open my eyes to a place and period that was simply neglected in my early education due to the Cold War. Yet Turgenev highlights many issues which remain relevant in modern society: nationalism East or West, revolutionary or evolutionary development, the perpetual quest for newness in youth, to the pointlessness of life when humanity's frailty is illuminated. It also reunited me with the importance of the simple things in life which are often overlooked in our individual quests for glory which probably never arrives: the scene involving Bazarov's grieving parents still haunts me, as does the thought that Arkady is now under-the-thumb in an ever-so-happy way. The great writers were great because of their ability to intellectualise so many issues without a hint of discontinuity - a trait Turgenev displays with relative ease despite his own personal agonising over his critics (both revolutionaries and aristocrats). Indeed, had we never known about Turgenev's agonising from his letters, the work does not belie any such lack of confidence. Yet had I read the introduction first I may well have formed an entirely different view.

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