Thursday, April 23, 2009


now finished: Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

This was a quick read (unlike many a Russian). While it may seem simple, it definitely has a lot of statements about humanity, families, politics, generations, interpersonal relationships, and the like. Those are never as simple as they seem, of course.

It's funny (now, to me) that this novel caused such controversy at the time. Older conservatives thought Turgenev was mocking the older generation whose time had come and gone, and putting the young radical on a pedestal. Younger radicals thought he made a caricature of the young whippersnapper who thought he knew better than everyone and hated everything around him. Turgenev himself said he wasn't quite doing either and had mixed feelings about the times that were a-changin'. For these reasons, we could all obviously get introspective and analytical while reading the novel.

Bazarov and Arkadii (mostly Bazarov) get bored visiting the parents' countryside peasant-laden farms. It sounds like a nice idea, Bazarov muses, to live that idyllic life with solitude and all, "but no--you're consumed by boredom. One wants to come into contact with people, if only to criticize them, but at least to come into contact with them."

See, how can I fully dislike Bazarov, when I am so much like him? Not that I wouldn't rather be more like Arkadii, whose reply is:

"One ought to organize one's life so that every moment in it is significant." -- p. 134

The only thing I didn't like about reading this was that occasionally the language got that forced feel it gets when you just know the original is not quite translatable. One of my goals is to learn Russian so that I can read all the fantastic Russian literature in the original language. I kind of want that to be my first post-law school project. Wouldn't mind taking a job in Moscow, either, come to think of it.

Young Bazarov realizes himself toward the end that the jig is up. Basically, he may have some right ideas, and some of his skills may even save people, but being a jerk who's incapable of some soul-searching never helped anyone. He learns that lesson a bit too late.

Thank you for the invitation, Hofstra Anna Sergeevna, and for your flattering estimation of my conversational talents. But I think I've already been moving in a sphere that isn't my own for too long. Flying fish can stay aloft for a while, but sonner or later they have to splash back into the water. Allow me to swim in my own element, too. -- p. 191

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