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Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev

Turgenev preferred to live outside of Russia in Paris and Baden-Baden, Germany. It is said his views made him quarrel with two other famed Russian authors, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose work looked more closely at morality and religion. Turgenev was lifelong friends with Gustave Flaubert, a leading Realist novelist in France.

On September 3, 1883, in his home in Bougival, France, Turgenev died of a spinal abscess caused by a metastatic liposarcoma. He is buried in the Volkovo Cemetery in St. Petersburg.

A scientific study that researched the size of brains of famous Russians concluded that Turgenev had one of the heaviest brains at 2021 g. An average male human brain weighs 1336 g.

The Works of Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev

Rudin follows the story of Dmitry Rudin who is a powerful orator. He passionately speaks about his beliefs about progress causing many to believe him. Natalya, a young member of the salon Rudin orates in, falls in love with him. She challenges him to take action on his words, but Rudin fails her. The book was first published in Sovremennik, a Russian magazine, in serial form in 1856. Rudin follows themes such as the power of words, ineffectiveness, and truth.

The character of Rudin is said to be based on the revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876). Bakunin was a Russian anarchist and political writer.

Fathers and Sons (1862)

Fathers and Sons explores the differences between generations. These differences cause conflicts between the older more traditional generation and the younger more intellectual and progressive generation. Arkady Kirsanov has just returned to his father's estate in the provinces of Russia with his friend Bazarov. Arkady conflicts with his uncle Pavel who disagrees with Arkady's new philosophy of Nihilism. Further conflicts form when Arkady has Fenichka, the servant move in with him and their son. The book contains themes of filial love, generational conflict, and familial obligation.

Torrents of Spring (1872)

Torrents of Spring focuses on Dmitry Sanin, who is a young Russian landowner. He falls madly in love with a young Italian woman named Gemma while visiting the city of Frankfurt. Torrents of Spring explores the theme of loss of innocence in love and the dangers of obsessive passions. It is considered to be highly biographical and based on Turgenev's own experience with a woman in Frankfurt.

Short stories by Ivan Turgenev

As well as writing many great books, Turgenev was also known for his short stories.

A Sportsman's Sketches (1852)

A Sportsman's Sketches contains 25 short stories that are based on Turgenev's observations while at Spasskoya, a hunting lodge. The short stories explore the abuses and injustices many peasants faced under Russia's serfdom system. The stories first appeared separately in Sovremennik, but were then sold in book form after they received high appraise, especially the story "Khor and Kalinich". The book of short stories was not popular with the Tsar, and Turgenev was placed under house arrest for publishing them.

Mumu (1854)

"Mumu" is a short story that follows Gerasim, a hard-working deaf-mute peasant, and the love for his dog, Mumu, who he finds after Tatyana, a laundress he has fallen in love with, runs off with Kapiton, the drunk shoemaker. Tatyana comes back and wants Mumu for herself, and when Mumu takes a dislike for Tatyana she orders the dog to be drowned. The short story follows themes such as the hard life of Russian peasants, love and loyalty, and bravery.

Quotes by Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev

Below are some quotes from the books and short stories written by Ivan Turgenev.

Words indeed have been my ruin; they have consumed me, and to the end, I cannot be free of them. But what I have said was not mere words" (Rudin, Epilogue).

In this quote from Turgenev's Rudin, the theme of words and their power is seen. Rudin is a passionate orator but never truly puts those words into action. In this quote, he tries to defend that despite his words being ineffectual, they were not for nothing.

But it was not Gemma’s voice—it was herself Sanin was admiring. He was sitting a little behind and on one side of her, and kept thinking to himself that no palm-tree, even in the poems of Benediktov—the poet in fashion in those days—could rival the slender grace of her figure" (Torrents of Spring, Chapter 6).

In this quote from Turgenev's Torrents of Spring, we see the protagonist falling in love with the appearance of Gemma. It shows that obsessive love which can ruin a man can sometimes be based on the romanticized appearance of the woman rather than her thoughts or mind.

Realism is a literary movement from the 19th century that focuses on the everyday and mundane experiences of people. It rejected Romanticism, specifically Romanticism's focus on subjectivity, imagination, and the individual.

Turgenev's books and short stories focus on the real-life aspects of a person including labor, philosophical beliefs, and experiences. In A Sportsman's Sketches, the real, hard life of the peasantry class of Russia is fully analyzed and observed focusing objectively on their actions, feelings, and the injustices they faced under Russian Serfdom.

Turgenev's writing style is considered to be elegant and simple, as well as full of hope. He takes great care to carefully describe all of his characters and their actions in great detail. He also focuses on unique descriptions of settings and seasons, which paints a vivid and beautiful image in the reader's mind.

"Picture to yourself a tall gaunt man of forty-five, with a long thin nose, a narrow forehead, little grey eyes, a bristling head of hair, and thick sarcastic lips. This man wore, winter and summer alike, a yellow nankin coat of German cut, but with a sash round the waist; he wore blue pantaloons and a cap of astrakhan, presented to him in a merry hour by a spendthrift landowner" (A Sportsman's Sketches, "Yermolai and the Miller's Wife").

In this excerpt from the short story "Yermolai and the Miller's Wife", the reader can see Turgenev's skill as a Realist writer. He describes the man with great detail focusing on every aspect of him—from his facial features to his clothes. He doesn't add any of his own opinions on the man, he simply describes him.

Turgenev was also known for his frame story narrative style.

A frame story is a literary technique that is a story within a story, often in the form of a companion, secondary tale.

Turgenev often used frame stories, such as when a narrator looks to the past to inform a current event. This creates a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality in his work.

Turgenev's book First Love (1860) has a great example of a frame story construction. The book begins with three men relaying stories of their first loves. Two of the men have nothing amusing to offer, but Vladimir Petrovich has a full tale about his first love at the age of sixteen to a girl a few years older than him. The rest of the book is the story of his first love. This is an example of a frame story as it is a story (The three men telling tales) within a story (Vladimir's story about his first love).

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev - Key takeaways

  • Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev was born to a Russian noble family in 1818.
  • Turgenev favored Western European ideals and philosophies and spent the majority of his life writing in Western Europe, particularly Paris and Baden-Baden.
  • Turgenev is known for writing many books and short stories that explored many themes such as the difficult life of peasants under Russia's serfdom system, generation differences in philosophy, and the conflicts between Russian radicals and Western philosophies.
  • Turgenev wrote in the Realism genre and is known for his simple and elegant writing style.
  • Turgenev died in 1883 and is remembered today for being one of the greatest Russian authors of the 19th century. His most famous book is Fathers and Sons.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev

Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev is known as one of the greatest Russian authors of the 19th century. He is most well known for his book Fathers and Sons (1862).

Turgenev wished to spread ideas from the Enlightenment to Russia.

Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev was born in Oryol (Oblast), Russia on November 9, 1818.

Turgenev is known for writing many books and short stories that explored many themes such as the difficult life of peasants under Russia's serfdom system, generation differences in philosophy, and the conflicts between Russian radicals and Western philosophies.

Turgenev's most famous book is Fathers and Sons (1862).

Final Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev Quiz

Question

When was Ivan Turgenev born?

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November 9, 1818

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Where was Ivan Turgenev born?

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Oryol (Oblast), Russia

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Whose philosophy did Turgenev study while t the University of Berlin?

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Answer

Hegel

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What was Turgenev's first piece of literature?

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A Sportsman's Sketches (1852) 

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What did Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches (1852) help to achieve?

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The abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861.

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Where did Turgenev prefer to live?

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Western Europe, Paris and Baden-Baden

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Why did Turgenev prefer to live in Western Europe?

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He prefered Western European philosophies and ideas more than Russian ones. 

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What was Turgenev's first book?

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Rudin (1856) 

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​​​​​Which book is Ivan Turgenev most well known for?


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Fathers and Sons (1862) 

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What genre of literature did Turgenev write in?

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Realism

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What is Turgenev's writing style?

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Elegant and simple; detailed realistic descriptions of characters, their actions, and settings

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What is a frame story?

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A frame story is a literary technique that is a story within a story often in the form of a companion, secondary tale.  

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What book of Turgenev's is a good example of a frame story?

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First Love (1860)

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Why does Turgenev use frame story constructions?

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To create a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality. 

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When did Turgenev die?

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1883

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When was Fathers and Sons published?

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1862

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What is nihilism?

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Nihilism is the renunciation and rejection of religious and moral principles because everything in life is meaningless 

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Which generation of Russians in the 19th century adhered to nihilism?

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The younger generation

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Which generation mostly adhered to liberalism in 19th century Russia?

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The older generation

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What did the liberals in 19th century Russia believe?

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Expansion of political and civil freedoms as well as individualism and equal rights. 

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What key event that occured in 1861 is important in order to understand Fathers and Sons?

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The 1861 Emancipation Manifesto that freed all state-owned serfs by 1866 

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Does Nikolai own serfs?

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No

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What philosophical belief do Arkady and Bazarov believe in?

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Nihilism

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Who is Fenichka?

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Nikolai's former house servant and lover with whom he has a son, Mitya. 

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Why does Pavel challenge Bazarov to a dual?

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Pavel witness Bazarov kissing Fenichka

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Why do Anna and Bazarov reject their romantic feelings for one another?

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They both believe love is meaningless

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What genre does Fathers and Sons belong to?

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Realism

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What is Turgenev's writing style?

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precise, careful, and moving 

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What is the novel's point of view?

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Third-person point of view

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What is the setting of the novel?

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The majority of the novel takes place in the countryside of Russia in the late 1850s 

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What literary devices does Turgenev use?

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Imagery and parallelism

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What are the two main themes of Fathers and Sons?

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Generational differences and love versus nihilism

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