Thursday, August 11, 2011

#12: First Love, Ivan Turgenev

First Love
by Ivan Turgenev
-born in Russia, 1818
-124 Pages
-more about Turgenev (via Goodreads)

Authorial Tidbits: (via Melville House)
- Ivan Turgenev was the son of a chronically philandering cavalry officer and an unhappy, abusive heiress.
- Tolstoy, at one point, challenged him to a duel.
- He made a name for himself, beginning in 1852, with the short-story collection A Sportsman’s Sketches, but his seeming pro-Western philosophy led to a tempestuous relationship with his countrymen.
- His masterpiece Fathers and Sons went largely unappreciated in his home country. Disillusioned, Turgenev wrote progressively less and less, and died abroad, near Paris, in 1883.

Synopsis: (via Melville House)

While known for beautifully observed works of social realism in the decades leading up to the Russian Revolution, Ivan Turgenev, in this acclaimed tale, depicts a revolution of another kind: the electrifying transformation of a young man's first love.

One of Russian literature's most renowned love stories—a vivid and sensitive account of adolescent love, wherein the sixteen year old protagonist falls in love with a beautiful but older woman living next door, thereby plunging into a whirlwind of changing emotions that are heightened by her capriciousness, and leading to a truly heart-rending revelation.

My Impressions:
The great thing is to lead a normal life, and not be the slave of your passions.  What do you get if not? [...] a man must stand on his own feet, if he can get nothing but a rock to stand on.
I'm finding it hard to form cohesive opinions about this novella.  I enjoyed the story--it seemed to be based on a real experience, and very deeply felt--and the writing, too, was well done and enjoyable.  But nothing really spoke to me, engaged me, you know?  The book flap indicated that this was the most autobiographical of Turgenev's work, which perhaps explains the cloudy filter the story is viewed through.  It's almost as if the author himself hadn't really processed his childhood completely.  I'm curious if Fathers and Sons is a little clearer in point of view, perhaps I'll read it someday to find out.  First Love did have a lot to say, and was written with depth; the story will stay with me...just not in any conclusive way.
Meidanov responded to the poetic fibres of her nature; a man of rather cold temperament, like almost all writers, he forced himself to convince her, and perhaps himself, that he adored her, sang her praises in endless verses, and read them to her with a peculiar enthusiasm, at once affected and sincere.  She sympathised with him, and at the same time jeered at him a little; she had no great faith in him, and dafter listening to his outpourings, she would make him read Pushkin, as she said, to clear the air.

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