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A Soft Pear

Tom Crewe: Totally Tourgenueff, 21 April 2022

A Nest of Gentlefolk and Other Stories 
by Ivan Turgenev, translated by Jessie Coulson.
Riverrun, 568 pp., £9.99, April 2020, 978 1 5294 0405 0
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Love and Youth: Essential Stories 
by Ivan Turgenev, translated by Nicolas Pasternak Slater and Maya Slater.
Pushkin, 222 pp., £12, October 2020, 978 1 78227 601 2
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... six in the morning​  on 19 January 1870, at the Roquette Prison in the eleventh arrondissement, Ivan Turgenev watched as a man was prepared for the guillotine. Four months earlier, Jean-Baptiste Troppmann had murdered, for money, the entire Kinck family – the owner of an engineering works, his heavily pregnant wife and their six children – and ...

Out of Sorts

Jessica Olin: Jhumpa Lahiri, 4 March 2004

The Namesake 
by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Flamingo, 291 pp., £15.99, January 2004, 9780002259019
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... of his namesake: Gogol’s life, in a nutshell, was a steady decline into madness. The writer Ivan Turgenev described him as an intelligent, queer and sickly creature. He was reputed to be a hypochondriac and a deeply paranoid, frustrated man. He was, in addition, by all accounts morbidly melancholic, given to fits of severe depression. He had ...

Dear Mole

Julian Barnes, 23 January 1986

Flaubert and TurgenevA Friendship in Letters 
translated by Barbara Beaumont.
Athlone, 197 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 485 11277 9
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... the writer’s niece, it seems), thus effectively disenfranchising her. The correspondence with Turgenev, largely complete, is probably the third most important exchange after those with Louise Colet and George Sand; and it comes from the mellower end of Flaubert’s tonal spectrum. The letters to Louise are almost wholly combative: he fights against being ...

The Rustling of Cockroaches

Gary Saul Morson, 22 June 1995

Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871 
by Joseph Frank.
Robson, 512 pp., £27.95, March 1995, 0 86051 953 8
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... conversations about ultimate questions typically take place in the most sordid settings, as when Ivan Karamazov has to talk more loudly with Smerdyakov because in the corner ‘cockroaches were swarming in such amazing numbers that there was a continual rustling from them.’ Similarly, Dostoevsky composed his major novels while suffering from a legion of ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

David Jackson: Russia and the Arts , 19 May 2016

... artists, actors, composers and patrons, most of whom will be familiar – Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov. It also takes in significant but less well-known figures, such as the formidable critic Vladimir Stasov, whose efforts did a great deal to shape the cultural scene. The portraits are drawn from the ...

Nation of Mutes

Tony Wood: Marquis de Custine, 24 August 2000

A Taste for Freedom: The Life of Astolphe de Custine 
by Anka Muhlstein, translated by Teresa Waugh.
Helen Marx, 393 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 1 885983 41 7
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... with Chadayev’s ideas long before he got to Russia, thanks to Chateaubriand’s friendship with Turgenev. Custine adopts Chadayev’s belief that Russian enthusiasm for suffering is motivated by thoughts of future reward, but La Russie en 1839 also includes the more sinister notion of Russia’s ‘immense’ ambition: ‘to cleanse itself of the shameful ...

Waiting for the next move

John Bayley, 23 July 1987

Dostoevsky. The Stir of Liberation: 1860-1865 
by Joseph Frank.
Robson, 395 pp., £17.95, April 1987, 0 86051 242 8
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Selected Letters of Dostoevsky 
edited by Joseph Frank and David Goldstein.
Rutgers, 543 pp., $29.95, May 1987, 0 8135 1185 2
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... commentary in art seems to be indirect and spontaneous, born of some local controversy, like Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, or even War and Peace, which was a kind of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in reverse, Tolstoy’s paean for the good old aristocracy and good old serfdom. No Russian writer was so sensitive to current feeling and opinion as Dostoevsky – as ...


Michael Wood: Oblomov, 6 August 2009

by Ivan Goncharov, translated by Marian Schwartz.
Seven Stories, 553 pp., £15.99, January 2009, 978 1 58322 840 1
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... had given him no distinctive, notable features whatsoever, either for ill or good. Many called him Ivan Ivanich; others, Ivan Vasilievich; still others, Ivan Mikhailich. His last name was also cited variously. Some said he was Ivanov; others called him Vasiliev or Andreyev; still others ...

Red Souls

Neal Ascherson, 22 May 1980

Russian Hide and Seek 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 240 pp., £5.95, May 1980, 0 09 142050 4
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... life. Instead, they have reverted to the 19th century, to the society described by Gogol or Turgenev. All is boorish posturing. Young officers loaf through dreams of becoming heroes of their own times. Fine feelings are aped, then put aside when the vodka comes round. Grand evenings begin with tinkling ‘English’ Lieder on out-of-tune pianos, and end ...

Howling Soviet Monsters

Tony Wood: Vladimir Sorokin, 30 June 2011

The Ice Trilogy 
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell.
NYRB, 694 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 1 59017 386 2
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Day of the Oprichnik 
by Vladimir Sorokin.
Farrar, Straus, 191 pp., $23, March 2011, 978 0 374 13475 4
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... but eventually ranging across the entire canon. In Roman, written in the late 1980s, 300 pages of Turgenev pastiche are followed by a bloodbath in which the eponymous protagonist – whose name also means ‘novel’ – ends up killing and eating all the other characters. Subsequent works contain parodic imitations of Dostoevsky, Platonov, Tolstoy and ...

The event that doesn’t occur

Michael Wood, 4 April 1985

The Man from the USSR, and Other Plays 
by Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Dmitri Nabokov.
Weidenfeld, 342 pp., £20, February 1985, 0 297 78596 6
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... conduct a bit of his private life at the same time and said across the footlights: ‘By the way, Ivan Vasilich, I’m afraid I shall be unable to have luncheon with you tomorrow.’ It didn’t occur to Nabokov’s grandfather that his luncheon date was really being cancelled. The phenomenon recalls the letters painted on a van at the beginning of The ...
Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia 
by Orlando Figes.
Allen Lane, 729 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 7139 9517 3
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... hoping to inspire them to improve their lot. Russian literature had paved the way in 1852 with Turgenev’s sympathetic images of peasant types in Sketches from a Hunter’s Album (the proudest moment in his life, he said, had been when two peasants bowed to the ground Russian-style and thanked him for the book), and Nekrasov’s epic poem Who Is Happy in ...

A Cine-Fist to the Solar Plexus

David Trotter: Eisenstein, 2 August 2018

Beyond the Stars, Vol.1: The Boy from Riga 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by William Powell.
Seagull, 558 pp., £16.99, June 2018, 978 0 85742 488 4
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On the Detective Story 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 229 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 490 7
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On Disney 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 208 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 491 4
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The Short-Fiction Scenario 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 115 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 489 1
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Movement, Action, Image, Montage: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema in Crisis 
by Luka Arsenjuk.
Minnesota, 249 pp., £19.99, February 2018, 978 1 5179 0320 6
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... high. But his Mexican film never got made. Bezhin Meadow, his next commission, from a story by Turgenev, had very nearly reached completion before someone found a reason to ban it. By the mid-1930s, Socialist Realism, hostile to montage, was in the ascendancy. Rather amazingly, Eisenstein survived the Purges with little damage done apart from the ...
By the Banks of the Neva: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in 18th-Century Russia 
by Anthony Cross.
Cambridge, 496 pp., £60, November 1996, 0 521 55293 1
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... estate of Ismailovo. This may indeed have been English, perhaps even a gift from Elizabeth I to Ivan IV, but Peter first sought tuition in the shipyards of Amsterdam. It was only when the Dutch failed to instruct him ‘in the Mathematical Way’ he required that he repaired to England, ‘and there, in four Months Time, finish’d his Learning, and at his ...

Train Loads of Ammunition

Philip Horne, 1 August 1985

Immoral Memories 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Herbert Marshall.
Peter Owen, 292 pp., £20, June 1985, 0 7206 0650 0
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A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema: 1930-1980 
by Robert Ray.
Princeton, 409 pp., £48.50, June 1985, 0 691 04727 8
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by David Thomson.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 436 52014 1
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Cahiers du Cinéma. Vol. I: The 1950s. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge with the British Film Institute, 312 pp., £16.95, March 1985, 0 7100 9620 8
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... Stalinist proscription of Bezhin Meadow (1937) and prescriptions of Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1940-1945), the last unfinished, its second part suppressed for an unorthodox emphasis – after all this, Eisenstein had a heart attack in February 1946, and Immoral Memories is the work of his convalescence. In 1934 he had lamented the ...

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