When Arkady Petrovich comes home from college, his father finds his eager, naïve son changed almost beyond recognition, for the impressionable Arkady has fallen under the powerful influence of the friend he has brought with him. A self-proclaimed nihilist, the ardent young Bazarov shocks Arkady's father by criticizing the landowning way of life and by his outspoken determination to sweep away traditional values of contemporary Russian society. Turgenev's depiction of the conflict between generations and their ideals stunned readers when Fathers and Sons was first published in 1862. But many could also sympathize with Arkady's fascination with its nihilist hero, whose story vividly captures the hopes and regrets of a changing Russia. Fathers and Sons is a brilliant work that captures the tension that existed among generations and class in the prerevolutionary era in Russia. This version of Fathers and Sons is the translation by Constance Garnett.
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Finished Fathers and Sons yesterday, another quickly devoured novel. Don't think I'll take the time to properly review it, but I will say that while I worried I wouldn't be thrilled by a novel in which one of the main characters is an unpleasant Nihilist with an attitude to match, I was on the contrary pleasantly surprised to find this novel touch on a variety of other subjects I ended up finding quite engrossing indeed, so that even Bazarov, the unpleasant proponent of Nihilism in question became, if not appealing exactly, essential to a masterful whole. Some of the topics broached are the major shift going on in Russia during the mid-19th century, with landowners 'freeing' their serfs and allowing them to become paid tenants and the attendant class conflicts; the concept or what makes up a true Russian identity; the generation gap and how the old guard is always relegated to obsolescence by the young. In other words, social conflicts seem to be at the heart of this novel, but these subjects became all the more interesting to me thanks to the deft hand of Turgeniev, who presents these from the unique standpoints of young student Arkady Nikolaevich Kirsanov, who brings his friend and Nihilistic hero Yevgeny Vasilyevich Bazarov on a visit to his family farm to meet his father and uncle. Arkady Nikolaevich's father Nikolai Petrovich is excited to get together with his grown son again, looking forward to a forging a close friendship with him based on intellectual equality, and thinks himself to be 'with the times' by embracing modern socioeconomic concerns (having among other things recently emancipated his serfs and removed himself to a smaller house with few paid servants) and keeping up with all the latest authors (but at heart a great lover of the Romantic Old Guard Pushkin). However, his hopes are fairly dashed when Bazarov is introduced into the household with his uncouth, brusque manners and disdain for art, tradition, and sentimentality. Arkady has become Bazarov's disciple and parrots his older friend's ideas, though all the while he is made uneasy by Bazarov's repeated critical sallies and generally disrespectful attitude toward his beloved father and his uncle Pavel Petrovich, a gallant aristocrat very much attached to tradition and keeping up appearances, which Arkady nevertheless sees as a tragic hero. Through this prism we see a whole nation shifting toward what laid the ground for the inevitable Russian Revolution and the Communist USSR, though again, Turgeniev, far from making his protagonists all black or all white, lets them evolve throughout the novel and experience conflicting emotions and motivations. Here, together with a large dose of philosophical doctrine, there is also love and romance and it's deceptions, there is even an unlikely duel which ends rather unexpectedly. In other words, it is a mix of intellectual ideas and romantic concerns and for this reason, still feels incredibly modern and shows us once again that human nature never really changes much.
So much for NOT writing a review. :-)
A note on the narration: I should say that I wasn't overly fond of Sean Runnette as a narrator for this specific title in the beginning. I've become used to listening to 19th century Russian novels delivered by British narrators, and Runnette's American pronunciation felt a bit strange at first to my Anglophile ears. I would initially have preferred David Horovitch, who also recorded a version of this book and who became one of my favourite narrators after listening to him in Anna Karenina and The Age of Innocence, but because I obtained this book at the bargain price of $2.99 (when purchased with the inexpensive Kindle edition), stuck to it. I discovered along the way that a "New World" accent worked very well here, since the main protagonist is far from being an aristocrat and rejects all traditional ideas. That being said, I'm sure most North American listeners won't have any issues of the sort to begin with and I'm sorry if I come across sounding like a snob.