“I don't see why it's impossible to express everything that's on one's mind.” - The Death of Ivan Turgenev
3 September 1883, the Russian novelist Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev died in Bougival near Paris at the age 65.
“He was the soul of politeness to everyone -- to some with a hint of aversion, to others with a hint of respect." (Ivan Turgenev)
|A sketch of Turgenev on his deathbed by his life companion, the French vocal artist Pauline Viardot*|
It was obviously a major distinctive feature of all the great ones of 19th century Russian literature to have at least one brush with the law. Turgenev was placed under house arrest at the age of 34 for a minor disagreement with the Tsar’s censorship about his choice of words in an obituary for Gogol. Since Turgenev was a confessed admirer of Western ideas and freed his serfs 10 years before the official abolition of serfdom in the Russian Empire in 1863 might not exactly endeared him to the conservative elements in government. As a well-off member of the gentry he had the means to turn his back on Russia, retire to Baden Baden and write novels about the inner and outer conflicts of characters representing the political and ideological trends in mid-19th century Russia.
| “The Hunter's Sketches” |
the literature of large landowners, as Dostoevsky once remarked.
Turgenev portrayed by Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgsky in 1879.
Turgenev certainly was one of the most eminent representatives of European literary realism, and, emanating from Pushkin’s language, wrote well-groomed and slightly uneventful novels, melancholically impressionistic pieces that impress with his delicate and multifarious portrayals of his dramatis personae. And even though he was one of the first Russian authors who thematised fears and sorrows of his native land’s society, he did it through the eyes of the gentry and influenced by French and German ideas. He and Tolstoy wrote the literature of large landowners, as Dostoevsky once remarked. But then, Turgenev didn’t lend him money when he tried to touch Turgenev for a loan in Baden Baden.
|A tableful of 19th century classics, from left to right: Alphonse Daudet, Gustave Flaubert, Emile Zola and Ivan Turgenev|
A close friend of Flaubert and other German and French authors, Turgenev had finished his studies in Berlin and spent most of his life in Germany and France. His closeness to the West as well as his influences, such as Goethe and Baudelaire, made him more accessible to other European and American authors, such as Conrad and James and Turgenev certainly does not impress with contentual force and the meticulous description of spiritual abysses, but as a master of form and pleasant portrayals.
* found on http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/houghtonmodern/2011/08/03/pauline-viardot/
and more about Turgenev on: