Ivan Turgenev is, perhaps the most significant representative of the world literature of the 19th century; a writer who blurred the line between the reader and the characters of his works; a writer, of whom Fyodor Dostoevsky was openly jealous.

Many Russian remember their school years: the subject of “literature” with mandatory study of the body of work of the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev. The novel “Smoke”, the short story “Bezhin meadow”, the novel “Noble Nest” and, of course, the novel “Fathers and Sons” …

Ivan Turgenev S. Bondar

Ivan Turgenev / S. Bondar

What Turgenev Talks about

Turgenev is the writer of the 19thcentury. And today it is the 21stcentury. Yet the issues are the same. And maybe Turgenev can even see them in his 19thcentury, for he is not distracted by technological toys: smartphones and tablets, and infinite internet.

A mature person will never get tired of observing nature and people. Favorite topics of Turgenev’s works were nature and people. For the writer a human being meant the most important milestones of life: birth, maturation, love, birth again, death … And the way people behave during these moments. And what people are like, that the characters are. Love for Turgenev is not the greatest tragedy, but the greatest joy of life.

Reading Turgenev, you get more and more convinced that the problems of the people in the 19th century were no different from today’s problems. Entourage has changed, but the people remained the same. People still have the same characters, the same aspirations, the same views, even the conflicts of generations are the same; although it would seem that so much has happened since those time.

Why You should Read Ivan Turgenev

In Turgenev works it feels like one event is followed by another. But where is a clear indication, where is a solid plan? It’s very simple. The events are not the main points of his works. He focuses on developing the characters. Moreover, these descriptions of the characters are not imposed on the reader, but rather are given away very slowly, very gently. Gradually, the reader sees the characters as realpeople. The reader sees in them something that can hardly be noticed in people at the first glance (and from the second, and third).

What happens in a person’s life? Not in terms of the importance of many events, but in terms of the events as phenomena, as part of the nature of human beings, their viewpoint. Turgenev gives the answer as its own viewpoint. You can accept or reject the writer’s opinion, but who needs impersonal cold portraits of characters without the author’s assessment.

Turgenev as just an observer? No! Through the characters so skillfully described by the writer, you can feel the very identity of the writer. Describing liveliness of the characters would have been impossible without deep feelings, without tapping into the life of the writer himself. Other well-known writers can objectively depict the reality. But why readers keep going back to Turgenev? Because of the warmth with which the writer in describing his characters. This is like comparing the cold light of a fluorescent lamp with a conventional incandescent light bulb. In both cases you can see pretty well. But somehow, we feel nicer in the traditional warm light, reminiscent of live fire that used to warm and protect our ancestors.

These are the kind words of Turgenev that do not repel readers even when reading about the characters that readers do not sympathize with, about the characters with whom in real life we would not even speak. Turgenev makes it so that for the whole period of reading his works we are willing to put up with such characters that we do not feel close to. 

A master of warm realism, a master of literary language, a master of creating characters – this is all Ivan Turgenev.


The article contains some materials by Andreevsky and Pisarev

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