Turgenev was the most liberal-spirited and unqualifiedly humane of all the great nineteenth-century Russian novelists, and in Virgin Soil, his biggest and most ambitious work, he sought to balance his deep affection for his country and his people with his growing apprehensions about what their future held in store. At the heart of the book is the story of a young man and a young woman, torn between love and politics, who struggle to make headway against the complacency of the powerful, the inarticulate misery of the powerless, and the stifling conventions of provincial life.
This rich and complex book, at once a love story, a devastating, and bitterly funny social satire, and, perhaps most movingly of all, a heartfelt celebration of the immense beauty of the Russian countryside, is a tragic masterpiece in which one of the world's finest novelists confronts the enduring question of the place of happiness in a political world.
About the Author
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (Russian: Ива́н Серге́евич Турге́нев; IPA: [ɪˈvan sʲɪrˈɡʲeɪvʲɪtɕ tʊrˈɡʲenʲɪf]; November 9 [O.S. October 28] 1818 – September 3, 1883) was a Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His first major publication, a short story collection entitled A Sportsman's Sketches (1852), was a milestone of Russian Realism, and his novel Fathers and Sons (1862) is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century fiction.
Turgenev's artistic purity made him a favorite of like-minded novelists of the next generation, such as Henry James and Joseph Conrad, both of whom greatly preferred Turgenev to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. James, who wrote no fewer than five critical essays on Turgenev's work, claimed that "his merit of form is of the first order" (1873) and praised his "exquisite delicacy", which "makes too many of his rivals appear to hold us, in comparison, by violent means, and introduce us, in comparison, to vulgar things" (1896).
Vladimir Nabokov, notorious for his casual dismissal of many great writers, praised Turgenev's "plastic musical flowing prose", but criticized his "labored epilogues" and "banal handling of plots". Nabokov stated that Turgenev "is not a great writer, though a pleasant one", and ranked him fourth among nineteenth-century Russian prose writers, behind Tolstoy, Gogol, and Anton Chekhov, but ahead of Dostoyevsky. His idealistic ideas about love, specifically the devotion a wife should show her husband, were cynically referred to by characters in Chekhov's "An Anonymous Story".
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