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Ivan Turgenev

(1818-1883)

Turgenev, Ivan Sergeevich (1818-83), Russian novelist and playwright. He was born in Orel, in central Russia, and studied at Moscow and St. Petersburg Universities. He published some poetry in 1838 and studied in Berlin, 1838-41. On returning to Russia he served briefly in the Civil Service, but from 1845 he devoted himself to literature. He also fell in love with the singer Pauline Garcia Viardot, and partly for this reason was to live much of his life abroad, mainly in Baden-Baden and Paris, where he died. His first important prose work was A Hunter’s Notes (1847-51), the limpid prose of which, in such masterpieces as ‘Bezhin Meadow’ and ‘The Living Relic’, is one of his greatest achievements. This was followed by a series of novels in which individual lives are examined to illuminate the social, political, and philosophical issues of the day: Rudin (1856), A Nest of Gentlefolk (1859), On the Eve (1860), Fathers and Sons (1862), in which, in Bazarov, he created a Nihilist hero, Smoke (1867) and Virgin Soul (1877). His greatest short stories are ‘Asya’ (1858), ‘First Love’ (1860), and ‘Torrents of Spring’ (1870). His best play is A Month in the Country (1850). Turgenev was the first major Russian writer to find success in the rest of Europe. This resulted partly from his living largely in Western Europe, where he was personally acquainted with Flaubert, G. Sand, Merimée, and others, but also from the fact that he was closer in both sensibility and literary practice to Western Europe than his contemporaries Leo Tolstoy and Feodor Dostoevsky. Turgenev was particularly popular in Britain, which he first visited in 1847 and returned many times up to 1881. He received an honorary DCL at Oxford in 1879 for ‘advancing the liberation of the Russian serfs’.
See: Vasily Perov. Portrait of the Author Ivan Turgenev.
 

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