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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 19th Century Russian Classic
'Fathers and Sons' is arguably Turgenev's greatest work. It is very accessible to the reader, and excellently written. Turgenev is renowned for his masterful ability to construct realistic dialogues and this novel does not disappoint in this respect. But 'Fathers and Sons' is also a novel of ideas and Turgenev analyses some of the ideas and sentiments which were later...
Published on 17 July 2006 by M. S. Bowden

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, quick to read Russian classic, strange translation
I am a huge fan of Russian nineteenth-century literature but have only come to Turgenev fairly late. His Sportsman's Sketches absolutely charmed me and though this is not quite such an appealing book, it's still enjoyable enough, though in length and structure it is really more of a novella - reminiscent of some of Chekhov's longer works - than a fully-fledged novel...
Published on 10 Feb. 2013 by Michael Collier


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 19th Century Russian Classic, 17 July 2006
By 
M. S. Bowden (Xiamen, China) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Paperback)
'Fathers and Sons' is arguably Turgenev's greatest work. It is very accessible to the reader, and excellently written. Turgenev is renowned for his masterful ability to construct realistic dialogues and this novel does not disappoint in this respect. But 'Fathers and Sons' is also a novel of ideas and Turgenev analyses some of the ideas and sentiments which were later to have such an important influence on Russian society.

This novel follows Bazarov, a self-proclaimed nihilist, and his friend and pupil Arkady Nikolayevich Kirsanov as they return from their studies in Petersburg to the province in which their fathers reside. The tale is tangled with arguments and discussions about politics and philosophy, and of course it is also complicated by a heavy dose of love. As another reviewer has mentioned, the author's treatment of nihilism as a philosophy is particularly interesting and enlightening.

Turgenev is adept, as other reviewers have noted, at accurately describing different emotions and even at evoking those emotions in his readers; something of which precious few writers are capable. The subject of love, both romantic and mat/paternal, is dealt with extremely skilfully by the author and betrays the understanding of someone who has undoubtedly been exposed to those feelings himself.

'Fathers and Sons' then, leaves the reader with the sense that he/she has participated as a quiet observer in Bazarov and Arkady's journeys, and that Turgenev has enabled one to better appreciate love and the relationship between father and son, amongst other things. This is a book that deserves to be read, appreciated, and pondered over long after it has been closed. It's core relevance has not been diminished by the century-and-a-half since it was written.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generational transitions..., 5 May 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
If one visits George Sand's home at Nohant, in the Berry region of France, one will find a dining room table set, with place names of the famous people who visited her house, including Flaubert and Chopin. Another place name reads: Ivan Turgenev. "Father and Sons" is Turgenev's most famous novel, an authentic and realistic account of upper class 19th Century Russian provincial life. Although he considered himself a progressive, his works were praised by the "old Believers," and criticized by his fellow liberals. He eventually abandoned the land he knew so well, and sought solace in Germany and France.

This novel is set in the early 1860's. The Napoleonic invasion is a receding collective memory; the serfs are about to be formally freed, at about the same time as the slaves would be freed in the United States. The dominant theme is reflected in the title: it is a transition from one generation to the next. Barzarov and Arcady are friends who have recently graduated from university, and are returning to their parent's estates in the countryside. Barzarov is the dominant one, assured in his world view as a "Nihilist," a fancy word for the inarticulate grunts of many a high school senior: the world is a rotten place, everything must be torn down, and then we can start over, but I don't have a clue as to what I would replace it with. Both sets of parents deeply love their children, and are accommodating to their views. It is Arcady's uncle, Peter, that objects, on a personal as well as on a philosophical basis, to the young "upstart," Barzarov.

An equally important theme is love. Turgenev provides a realistic portrait of what would be, to a modern reader, the rather amazing courtship rituals of upper-class Russian provincials. This would often involve visiting respective homes for extended periods of time, with concerns about dinner and entertainment, and long strolls in the garden. Madame Anna Odintzov, a young widow at 29, has her own estate. Barzarov, like many a man, wonders if she is "hot," a term that might reverberate even today. Anna also has a younger sister Katya, who plays the piano, and plays also into the free-floating testosterones. Love is both requited and unrequited.

Missing from the novel, certainly in terms of characterization, are the serfs. They serve only as background, with their most notable feature seeming to be the question of if they doff their hats when their "betters," the landed gentry pass. Thus, although Turgenev's world view appears to be tolerant and liberal, even to the advocacy of marrying outside the gentry's class (!), his principal progressive concerns appear to be better estate management, importing German scientific ideas and interspersing French phrases in the dialogue.

Like most good novelists whose work reflects their personal experiences, it is interesting to note that the duel scene must have been inspired by the fact that Tolstoy once challenged him to a one. Yes, Tolstoy the pacifist. And although Turgenev never married, he did have a daughter by a woman "outside his class," a serf, Pauline Verdot. Turgenev also has some observations that still have much validity: "Just look at what I am doing: just because there's room in the valise here am I stuffing it with hay: it's the same with our life's valise: we pack it full of anything that comes to hand, just to avoid leaving an empty space."

In a one word association game, if you'd response "ponderous" to the phrase "Russian novel," then try "Father and Sons." Lively, direct, and it covers a lot of ground in some 200 pages. 5-stars.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on February 11, 2011)
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A neglected classic, 31 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I love a good Russian saga but haven't got the hours in my life to read `War and Peace' every week. Thankfully `Fathers and Sons' offers a great, if some what neglected, classic in a couple of hundred pages. My copy of Ivan Turgenev's classic is a new translation by Richard Freeborn and some of the slang has been translated into modern idiom. I found this a little grating at first, but soon got into the swing of the characters using words like `dad'. I understand the translator's choice as this really is a book about the youth culture of its time. The two main characters Arkady and Bazarov are young men returning from study to their parents. It is a clash of worlds. Bazarov the nihilist or `new man' stirs up trouble where ever he goes. A man who declares Romanticism to be dead and then promptly falls in love! I wish Nihilism would come back as a valid philosophy. Oh, to be able to say `what's the point' and not to feel bad about it. Arkady has been in his friend's shadow but gradually he frees himself, finding love and compassion along the way.

There is tragedy and love in this brilliant story of the conflict between generations. Both father and son find a happiness and acceptance in marriage, while Bazarov and his neglected family will never find such peace. There is even something about daughters in this book, in fact one of the strongest characters is a woman, Anna, only Turgenev never quite gets inside her mind as he does with Bazarov and Arkady. `Fathers and Sons' offers an insight into Russian society of the Nineteenth Century but it also reflects the timeless troubles and joys of fathers and sons everywhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, quick to read Russian classic, strange translation, 10 Feb. 2013
By 
Michael Collier (Riga, Latvia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I am a huge fan of Russian nineteenth-century literature but have only come to Turgenev fairly late. His Sportsman's Sketches absolutely charmed me and though this is not quite such an appealing book, it's still enjoyable enough, though in length and structure it is really more of a novella - reminiscent of some of Chekhov's longer works - than a fully-fledged novel.

I won't bother with a precis - and never understand why reviewers bother to give one - and just note that here Turgenev writes with a light touch, never lingering too long on any one character and managing to keep a pretty thin plot moving along rapidly.

There are a couple of beautiful set-pieces including a fantastically inept duel and some good arguments at the dinner table. The characterisation of the dandyish but likeable brother Pavel Petrovich and of Bazarov's father are wonderful, and Turgenev handles the sub-plot concerning Nikolai Petrovich's newborn child with a sensitivity that is genuinely touching.

The main problem I had was with Bazarov himself, the supposedly fascinating 'hero' of the piece who in fact comes across as something of a self-absorbed big-head. He lacks the pathos of a Lermotovian 'doomed' type, the sensuality of a Byronic hero and seems to consider no-one else worthy of his attention despite a lack of any particular distinction himself. Others keep saying what an interesting and dynamic man he is, but I don't see it. Plus he is even more of a snob than the faded aristos.

This inability to 'get' Bazarov is not helped by an unsuccessful attempt to render his speech in a more colloquial style, or as the translator says, "by including slang expressions and some American idiom."

I have nothing against that in principle, but in practice it doesn't work, not least because the translator himself seems to lack an ear for that idiom. At one minute Bazarov is drawling "Food's a real good idea" like John Wayne dismounting, the next he's leering "She's not like the other birds" in the style of Sid James. The overall effect is analogous to watching a film adaption in which British character actors fill most of the roles but in which Jeff Goldblum has been badly miscast as Bazarov in order to secure the financing.

The ending too is unsatisfactory, feeling like a way of ramming home a point about the random nature of human life and potential that borders on melodrama. Still, at least it does finally make Bazarov seem human and almost likeable.

I would be fascinated to re-read this work in another translation, ideally by the peerless David Magarshack if such a thing exists.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hero for his time, 5 Oct. 2010
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Turgenev's novels express a continual desire to find a new model for the Russian male, a hero for the time - idealistic and progressive, but also practical, his nature and strength still rooted in the very land itself. While some of these characteristics are evident in the heroes of Nest of the Gentry, On The Eve and Rudin, there's still something lacking, the Russian men still ruled by their hearts more than their minds, unable to break from the shackles of old society, old tradition and old ways of thinking.

In Fathers and Sons (1862), Turgenev creates a character, a Nihilist, to overthrow these old values. Into Bazarov, Turgenev pours all the qualities that he believes the Russian man should have - stout-hearted, educated, intelligent, decent and self-sacrificing, yet ruthlessly contemptuous of old ways. He is no respecter of the "sacred tradition", the aristocracy, or indeed the lower classes, who still cling to the securities they knew under the old feudal system. Ironically, the nihilistic, revolutionary character of Bazarov would find favour with neither the old establishment nor the new regime, making life in Russia difficult for Turgenev (who had already been imprisoned for his support of Gogol), and later see him going into exile.

Fathers and Sons however goes beyond the historical importance of the work, touching on sentiments in the father/son relationship that are still relevant today - the need to break with the past and overturn old ideals, and the sadness of the wedge that this places between parent and child, but the necessity of doing so in order to find a new and better expression in the evolving modern world. In many ways however, the world in Fathers and Sons still resembles that of Rudin, with the same kind of characters, landowners and aristocrats on country estates, with the same social divisions, having the same fruitless discussions about art, family and society - even if it is to condemn them here - while forming romantic attachments.

Fathers and Sons however is certainly a much better constructed and balanced novel than Rudin, the characters actively pursuing revolution rather than merely talking about it, although perhaps because of their very nature, they still fail to make a significant impression on society. Turgenev's model of Bazarov as a character for the future of the new Russia therefore doesn't entirely succeed and there is still some romanticism both in the character and Turgenev's depiction of him. It would take better writers like Tolstoy and Chekhov to delve deeper into the Russian character - and human nature - and bring it out in all its complexities and contradictions. Bazarov then is very much a hero for his time, and Fathers and Sons, although perhaps Turgenev's best novel with much to admire in it, is also very much of its time, while Tolstoy and Chekhov are eternal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Russian literature that isn't too epic, 13 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Don't be put off by the fact that this book is a 'Russian classic', it is truly worth a read. Plus, it isn't a thousand pages of depression like some others I could mention.

The book, not surprisingly given the title, is concerned with the generation gap. But it is also concerned with Russian society at that time, embracing the modern world, disillusionment, the power of emotion, family dynamics, and change both individual and national. The book was written just after the emancipation of the serfs and is set just before this major event.

The story follows two recently graduated students called Yevgeny Bazarov and his friend Arkady Kirsanov as they travel around meeting various characters. Bazarov and Kirsanov are both 'nihilists' and while their beliefs are pretty tame by todays standards, their desire for change, dislike of the 'system', and rejection of emotion and embrace of science was revolutionary and shocking in its day.

The characters they visit are almost archetypes of the various strata and political viewpoints of society at the time. It is through the interaction and contrasts with these various characters on their journey that the story is told. The society at the time was undergoing a massive upheaval and the fathers are struggling to adapt to these changes that are represented by their children. The younger generation transform too, as their nihilistic rejection of emotion is broken down by experience and love.

The novel is a true classic and is a strong contender for the first true Russian novel. It has influenced so many writers that you really should give it a try.

Fathers and Sons can be read in a day. In my opinion, it would be a day well spent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for the Generations, 27 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
This is one of the best novels ever written by anyone, anywhere, and knocked me for six when I first read it many years ago as an undergraduate. The specific historical, political and cultural context of the book is worth some background research but if you don't have the time or inclination for this then don't worry because it is first and foremost an account of friendship, particularly between young men of differing views and temperaments, and those young men and their fathers. The final sequence is one of the most affecting I have ever read in literature, far removed from the cod histrionics of The Old Curiosity Shop, for example, and captures the essence of filial love in a person who, if challenged, would be the first to ridicule such a notion. Don't imagine from this account that it's po-faced or gloomy, as Dostoyevsky can sometimes be, because Turgenev had a great sense of humour and the lightest touch to capture and convey our deepest feelings. Absolute pure gold. Buy now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More accessible than Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, 7 Sept. 2012
By 
This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
If you've struggled with 'War & Peace', 'Anna Karenin' or 'Crime & Punishment' - and I'll admit I did - then don't give up on classic Russian literature just yet. There's still Turgenev, the grand-daddy of them all. 'Fathers and Sons', probably his most famous and enduring work, is a delightful, highly accessible and ultimately hopeful book. It concerns two brothers in their twenties returning to the family home in the country after a period of study in the big city - a classic literary set-up (only Turgenev must have been one of the first to get there). What follows is an inter-generational battle that has genuine love at its heart. There's a good plot, not too much in the way of political/ philosophical exposition, and characters that are richly drawn and appealing. It is also positively concise next to the works listed above.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Russian Hero, 22 Nov. 2014
By 
Mr. D. James "nonsuch" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Turgenev, Ivan S. Fathers and Sons

Bazarov, the hero of this exposure of the pre-Revolution Russian aristocracy, is an intriguing character. He calls himself a Nihilist and his presence is felt even when the action moves to the estates of his young friend Arkady. For Bazarov is honest and direct, not to say rude to those who offer him accommodation, friendship and sympathy. Whilst Arkady is shy and reserved in expressing his feelings for Katia, his friend declares his passion outright for her elder sister Anna Sergievna. He accepts her cool response and prepares to leave. While others sport, chatter and socialise Bazarov studies frogs and is haunted by the fact of his insignificance compared with the eternity that surrounds him. He loves his parents but delays his visits to these ‘insignificant’ people.

The tension in the novel reaches its climax when Paul Petrovitch - Arkady’s uncle and an admirer of his brother Nikolai’s mistress Thenichka - witnesses Bazarov giving the lady a passionate kiss. Insensed by the effrontery he challenges the young man to a duel. Bazarov is obliged to accept what he sees as a ridiculous act and in a somewhat farcical encounter succeeds in inflicting a minor wound on his military antagonist. Thus the conflict between the generations is pilloried by the author.

To a large extent this is a novel of ideas. There are many political discussions regarding the status of workers on the estates and the position of women in society. Bazarov merely observes, rarely venturing an opinion. This disengagement is part of his charm, which is not lost on either of his female admirers, the high-born Anna Sergievna and the humble Thenichka. The plain fact is that Bazarov does not belong in the world of sqiredom, but to ‘the hard, bitter, reckless life of Nihilism.’
Fathers and Sons is by Russian standards a short novel, but it is packed with ideas, often far too eloquently expressed for modern tastes. Moreover there are other difficulties - the wretched names, the diminutives, the alternative forms of address, the formality of the language and the reader-addressing, none of which are likely to appeal to the Twenty-first Century reader. If you are prepared for this then you may still find this to be a riveting read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful dissection of a political idea, 3 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
FATHERS AND SONS treats Nihilism succinctly, far more than any other book I can think of. It makes the idea easy to understand through true to life characters that we can relate to. It is important because the ideas and methods of the most notorious Nihilists-Nechayev is taken very seriously by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Bazarov who is the hero of the novel, is skeptical of people, institutions, ideas, and all the other trappings of civilization and does not hide his willingness to go about bringing down what he rejects.

Friedrich Nietzsche put forward an argument that the corrosive effects of Nihilism would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history. Nihilistic themes such as epistemological failure, value destruction, and cosmic purposelessness--have preoccupied artists, social critics, and philosophers in the 20th century.

The fact that patterns of nihilism were indeed a conspicuous feature of collapsing civilizations, means it should be taken seriously. Its resurgence had an effect in the collapse of states, especially in Eastern Europe. Overall, this poetically written and entertaining classical novel deserves the highest of respects. In addition, The Union Moujik, classic Russian Stories like Crime and Punishment, A Hero of Our Times, are some of the recommended books to read that not only expose the depths of ideas, but also the effects of ideas on minds that are political.
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Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics)
Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) by Ivan Turgenev (Paperback - 8 May 2008)
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