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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 1 November 2006
One of the many delights of reading fiction from any literary period is the sense of timeless authority fashioned by the rich imaginations of talented writers. Although the historical settings may seem distant the characters behave pretty much as they do today, for example, they feel pain, fall in love, philosophise, act benevolently, contradict themselves, are conceited and pretentious. And these traits of human nature are compassionately handled by Turgenev in a novel that skilfully captures the ageless dilemma of youthful idealism (the sons) versus contented maturity (the fathers) thrust against the socio-political conservatism and burgeoning radicalism of mid 19th century Russia. The principle protagonist, Bazarov, is the archetypal angry young man, an Epicurean nihilist with romantic tendencies! Such are the contradictory dimensions belonging to this strain of Russian reactionaries, who want to destroy society's institutions whilst not caring about what to put in their place. In dismissing the existing social order and its moral obligations Bazarov is forced to confront his own despair and loss. In a telling passage Bazarov details, to his friend Arkady, his sense of `spiritual' insignificance in an indifferent universe, "I feel nothing but depression and rancour." Bazarov, however, is only human, and when he encounters the independent, educated, beautiful widow, Madame Odintsov, his self-imposed emotional detachment is tested to breaking point with catastrophic consequences. The story is an extraordinary examination of the cost of moral principles even if you think, as Bazarov does, you don't have any. This edition contains an excellent lecture and introduction detailing Turgenev's literary life, contemporary reaction to Fathers and Sons and the political climate of the period.
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