Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Vladimir Shatsev: Generation Gap and More

Рисунок И.С. Тургенева "Базаров" из романа "Отцы и дети". "Игра в портреты".
Ivan Turgenev's portrait of Bazarov from the novel "Fathers and Sons“.
"Великий человек - ни больше, ни меньше! Печальный, нелюдимый, глубокий, могучий, одинокий. Он мог бы стать народным вождем, не будь он слишком большим философом. Может быть неотразимо красноречивым-иногда вспыльчив до ярости, обычно молчалив и исполнен горечи. Большое сердце и в самой глубине души много скрытой нежности."

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev: Generation Gap and More

by Vladimir Shatsev

Fathers and Sons is a Russian novel. Russian novel... It means that leading characters are passionate, often full of radical ideas, and a bit crazy.

In the middle of WWII when North America paid special attention to Russian culture, Sinclair Lewis wrote a foreword to the new edition of Fathers and Sons and thereby reintroduced this novel to a new generation of readers. I would like to do something similar now.

The novel Fathers and Sons, published in 1862, shocked Russian society. Both conservatives or liberals as well as radicals read this book enthusiastically, but they did not want to recognize themselves there.

This aroused readers' interest is comparable with people's reaction nowadays to bestsellers like The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. It is an example how a great number of people who disagree with the author’s concept, however continue to read and discuss it.

My comparison is a result of reflection. Among the many themes of The DaVinci Code is the hidden sexuality of Christian civilization. Among the many themes of Angels and Demons is Science. These two: the dedication of himself to Science and his barely controlled passions are the features of the leading character Evgeny Bazarov, a graduate student with plans to be a doctor. He believes only in what he himself has scientifically experienced. "A chemist who knows his business is twenty times as useful as any poet."

Bazarov is a nihilist. This nihilism sets out to denounce and deny all social and ethical values. "But allow me," began Nikolai Petrovich, "You deny everything, or to put it more precisely, you destroy everything... But one must construct, too, you know.""That is not our business... we must first clear the ground."

Vladimir Nabokov, in his "Lectures on Russian Literature" wrote: "He might have become, beyond the horizon of the novel, a great social thinker, a prominent physician, or an active revolutionary". I would like to add something to that, i.e. an active revolutionary might be the same person as a terrorist.

The love story in the novel is the most thrilling story. The beginning of this story is: "Anyhow, she’s delightful," said Arkady. "What a magnificent body," went on Bazarov. "How I would like to see it on the dissecting table." The ending of this story is: "Well, what I am to say to you? That I loved you? There was no sense in that even before, and less than even now. Love is a form, and my own form is already decaying. I do better to say how fine you are. Even now you are standing there, so beautiful."

It is worth reading and rereading, because true human passions are never old fashioned and always new.

It is about every reader, because the love triangle (or "love square") depicted here is familiar to everybody.

It is about every reader, who has ever discussed something, forgetting the goal of discussion, and having only the subconscious goal of impressing his or her companion.

It is about us because even if we have not participated in duels, we have dreamt of something like that.

Fathers and Sons is about everything, Life and Death in the final analysis, about Turgenev’s special philosophy of "eternal reconciliation and life without end".

It is first and foremost about the generation gap. It is for everybody who has ever argued with their parents or everybody who has been irritated or abused by the younger generation.

It is about yesterday, today, and the future. It is not a book, but a magic mirror now in your hand.

Sinclair Lewis wrote that Bazarov deserves the same degree of fame as Don Quixote or Sherlock Holmes. Oh, yes, and therefore, Ivan Turgenev with his best book, deserves the same fame as Miguelle De Cervantes and Arthur Conan Doyle. The book as well...

1. Have you ever read any Russian novels of the XIX century?
2. "A chemist who knows his business is twenty times as useful as any poet". Are you in agreement with this statement?
3. Do you think that the generation gap is an eternal phenomenon?
4. What is the difference between nihilism in the Turgenev’s novel and in the modern world?
5. Have you ever read a book where the main character had been absolutely transformed by love?

Here is the list of the books that it would be better to read after Fathers and Sons.
Also by Ivan Turgenev:
  • Rudin
  • On the Eve
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (1866)
Anton Chekhov, The Duel (1891)

Copyright © 2006 Vladimir N. Shatsev

About Author:
Vladimir N. Shatsev, from St. Petersburg, is a prominent teacher of Literature with original ideas and attitudes. He has been invited for “Readings from Russia” at Chapters, to give Canadians an additional impulse to enter the enchanting and eccentric world of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Bulgakov, and others.

This is an essay from the series “Readings from Russia”.
Vladimir Shatsev: Magic in Your Soul
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: The Magnificent Book about Magic in Your Soul
Essay by Vladimir Shatsev


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