Book Review : Fathers and Sons - Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev 6*
Turgenev's novel in Russian is titled Fathers and Children, and details the growing divide between the older, land owning generation of Russians and their city university educated offspring at a time when Russia was on the cusp of a vital social social change. The novel is set in 1859, two years before the Emancipation of the Serfs and the rumblings of political revolution are everywhere, the serfs complain about their lords, the landowners contemplate and in some cases take part in emancipation, and Yevgeny Vasil'evich Bazarov talks his own brand of rhetoric.
Bazarov contends that he is a nihilist, but in the rural setting of the estate of his best friend's (Arkady Nikolaevich Kirsanov) father there seems to be no-one with whom he can match his city sharpened wits that he so obviously believes to be better than those around him, he is rude and dismissive in his discourse. This earns him the fearful awe of Nikolai Petrovich Kirsanov but gains him the enmity of Nokolai's brother Pavel, this enmity turns to hatred and and a duel.
Turgenev also weaves a love story through the novel and uses it to show that true love for the sake of love will make things alright in the end. Nikolai has fallen in love with, and has fathered a child by, the daughter of his housekeeper, but they live under the same roof at a strange and stilted distance, Nikolai and Fenichka both unable to express their true emotions for each due to their perceived differences in social class and age.
Everything turns out well for the lovers when they give in to their emotions, and the same happens for Arkady. Bazarov though is rebuffed when he professes his love for Anna Sergeevna Odintsova, and he returns to his father's home dispirited and without direction, his nihilist beliefs not able to support the weight of his battered emotions.
Bazarov seems a revolutionary without a cause, he is quite prepared to throw his intellectual arguments against the beliefs and views of all those around him, but in his own core he supports nothing and when he is left without friendship and love he finds he has truly nothing.
I enjoyed the stories within the novel, but in parts Turgenev's writing is a bit dry, I'm glad it wasn't anything near War and Peace in length.