Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev
Ivan Turgenev (1818 -1883) was the first Russian author to achieve international fame, and is ranked with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as the three great Russian novelists of the nineteenth century. 'Fathers and Sons' is his most enduring work.
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born into a wealthy family of the Russian aristocracy in Oryol, Russia, on 28 October 1818. His father, Sergei Nikolaevich Turgenev, a colonel in the Imperial Russian Cavalry, was a chronic philanderer. Ivan’s mother, Varvara Petrovna Lutovinova, was a wealthy heiress, who had endured an unhappy childhood and suffered in her marriage – possibly the cause of her being tyrannical and abusive.
After the standard schooling for a son of a gentleman, Turgenev studied for one year at the University of Moscow and then moved to the University of Saint Petersburg, focusing on Classics, Russian literature, and philology. In 1838 he went to Germany to attend the University of Berlin where he studied philosophy and history. During his studies in Berlin, Turgenev had became convinced of the need for the Westernization of Russia. Lacking the interest in religious issues like his two great compatriots, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, he represented the social side of the reform movement.
In 1841 Turgenev started his career in the Russian civil service. For a short time, he worked for the Ministry of the Interior. However, after the success of two of his story-poems, Turgenev devoted himself to literature, country pursuits, and travel. For the rest of his life, he had a relationship with the opera singer Pauline Garcia Viardot, living near her, or at times with, her and her husband.
In 1852 he made his reputation with the short-story cycle A Sportsman’s Sketches. It is said that the work contributed to Tsar Alexander II’s decision to liberate the serfs. The short pieces were written from the point of view of a young nobleman, who learns to appreciate the wisdom of the peasants living on his family’s estates. Fathers and Sons , Turgenev’s most famous and enduring novel, appeared in 1862. Its leading character, Bazarov, was in turn heralded and reviled as either a glorification or a parody of the ‘new men’ of the 1860s. However, the issues treated in the novel transcend the merely contemporary. Many radical critics at the time did not take Fathers and Sons seriously, and, after the relative critical failure of his masterpiece, Turgenev was disillusioned and started to write less. Turgenev moved to London, where Fathers and Sons had been a greater success. He settled finally in Paris, where he lived from 1871 until his death on 04 September 1883.