Book blog

1000 before 30 #34: Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev

Arkady Kisanov has just graduated from university and decides to go back home, with his friend Bazarov in tow. What happens later changes both of their lives.

turgenevThe story, which follows the young men through philosophizing, falling in (and out of) love, partying and reconnecting with the generation that preceded them.

It seems that few things have changed to cross the void between generations. No matter the time that has passed since the publication of ‘Fathers and Sons’, I’m sure that many teenagers and university-goers believe that their parents just don’t understand what they are thinking and going through.

The theme of the book is nihilism. Both men are fighting internally (and externally) to find their way in the world, blighted by shame (over their diverse origin) and promise – Bazarov of a brilliant career as a doctor and Arkady as some sort of landowner. Both men are convinced at one point that they are in love with the brilliant Madame Odintsova (who frankly is too good for either of them anyway). Both understand the pointlessness and futility of everything.

On the other side of the coin, Arkady’s father offers him nothing but devotion, avoiding marriage with his live-in mistress Fenichka seemingly because of his pride.

Bazarov’s parents, who I cannot think about without a dull pang, are also devoted to their son, who seems not to care about them one iota. The only time he goes to visit them after university (and bearing in mind they hadn’t seen him in years) is when they send a servant to physically bring him to them. Even then, he stays for a total of about three days. Shameful.

This is the first Turgenev I have ever read, and I have to say out of all of the Russians (here’s looking at you Dostoievski!) he’s the easiest to digest.

The vocabulary is beautiful, the plot is simple. The tale flows and one gets the sense that the characters each get what they deserve. What more can a person want?

Favourite quote: “So many memories and so little worth remembering, and in front of me — a long, long road without a goal…”

This review is part of my 1000 before 30 challenge, in which I attempt to read a thousand books before my 30th birthday. So far, so good. Read why I would attempt something so clearly insane here.

Creative commons image courtesy of Dennis Jarvis

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