Home » 19th century » Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1862)


Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1862)


By Vladimir Nabokov

Fathers and Sons is not only the best of Turgenev’s novels, it is one of the most brilliant novels of the nineteenth century. Turgenev managed to do what he intended to do, to create a male character, a young Russian, who would affirm his—that  character’s—absence of introspection and at the same time would not be a journalist’s dummy of a socialistic type. Bazarov is a strong man, no doubt—and very possibly had he lived beyond his twenties (he is a graduate student when we meet him), he might have become, beyond the horizon of the novel, a great social thinker, a prominent physician, or an active revolutionary. But there was a common debility about Turgenev’s nature and art; he was incapable of making his masculine characters triumph within the existence he invents for them. Moreover, in Bazarov’s character there is behind the brashness and the will-power, and the violence of cold thought, a stream of natural youthful ardency which Bazarov finds difficult to blend with the harshness of a would-be nihilist. This nihilism sets out to denounce and deny everything, but it fails to dismiss passionate love—or to reconcile this love with his opinions regarding the simple animal character of love. Love turns out to be something more than man’s biological pastime. The romantic fire that suddenly envelops his soul shocks him; but it satisfies the requirements of true art, since it stresses in Bazarov the logic of universal youth which transcends the logic of a local system of thought—of, in the present case, nihilism.

Turgenev, as it were, takes his creature out of a self-imposed pattern and places him in the normal world of chance. He lets Bazarov die not from any peculiar inner development of Bazarov’s nature, but by the blind decree of fate. He dies with silent courage, as he would have died on the battlefield, but there is an element of resignation about his decay that goes well with the general trend of mild submission to fate which colors Turgenev’s whole art.

The reader will notice —I will direct his attention to those passages in a moment—that the two fathers and the uncle in the book are not only very different from Arkadi and Bazarov, but also different from each other. One will also note that Arkadi, the son, is of a much gentler and simpler and more routine and normal nature than Bazarov. I shall look through a number of passages that are especially vivid and significant. One will mark, for instance, the following situation. Old Kirsanov, Arkadi’s father, has that quiet, tender, altogether charming mistress, Fenichka, a girl of the people. She is one of the passive types of Turgenev’s young women, and around this passive center three men revolve: Nikolay Kirsanov, and also Pavel, his brother, who by some twist of memory and imagination sees in her a resemblance to a former flame of his, a flame that colored his entire life. And moreover there is Bazarov, who is shown flirting with Fenichka, a casual flirtation that brings on a duel. However, not Fenichka but typhus will be the cause of Bazarov’s death.

One will observe a queer feature of Turgenev’s structure. He takes tremendous trouble to introduce his characters properly, endowing them with pedigrees and recognizable Nabokov’s chart of the journeys in Fathers and Sons. traits, but when he has finally assembled them all, lo and behold the tale is finished and the curtain has gone down whilst a ponderous epilogue takes care of whatever is supposed to happen to his invented creatures beyond the horizon of his novel. I do not mean there are no events in this story. On the contrary, this novel is replete with action; there are quarrels and other clashes, there is even a duel—and a good deal of rich drama attends Bazarov’s death. But one will notice that all the time throughout the development of the action, and in the margin of the changing events, the past lives of the characters are being pruned and improved by the author, and all the time he is terribly concerned with bringing out their souls and minds and temperaments by means of functional illustrations, for instance the way simple folks are attached to Bazarov or the way Arkadi tries to live up to his friend’s new-found wisdom.

The art of translation from theme to theme is for an author the most difficult technique to master, and even a first-rate artist, as Turgenev is at his best, will be tempted (because of the kind of reader he imagines, a matter-of-fact reader accustomed to certain methods) to follow traditional devices in this passing from one scene to another. Turgenev’s transitions are very simple, and indeed even trite. As we go through the story, and stop at various points of style and structure, we shall gradually accumulate a small collection of these simple devices.

There is first of all the introductional intonation: “Well, anything in sight . . . was the question asked on May 20, 1859, by a gentleman of a little over forty”—et cetera, et cetera. Then Arkadi arrives; then Bazarov is introduced:

“Nikolay Petrovich turned around quickly and, going up to a tall man in a long, loose, rough coat with tassels, who had only just got out of the carriage, he warmly pressed the ungloved rough hand, which the latter did not at once hold out to him.

” I am heartily glad,’ he began, ‘and very grateful for your kind intention of visiting us. . . . May I ask your name, and your father’s?’

‘Eugene Vasilievich,’ answered Bazarov in a lazy but manly voice; and as he turned down the collar of his rough coat Nikolay Petrovich could see his whole face. Long and lean, with a broad forehead, a nose flat at the bridge but pointed at the tip, large greenish eyes, and sandy drooping side whiskers, it was lighted by a tranquil smile and showed self-confidence and intelligence.

” I hope, dear Eugene Vasilievich, you won’t be bored at our place,’ continued Nikolay Petrovich. “Bazarov’s thin lips moved just perceptibly, though he made no reply, merely taking off his cap. His long thick dark blond hair did not hide the prominent bumps on his head.”

Uncle Pavel is introduced in the beginning of chapter 4: “… at that instant a man of medium height, dressed in a dark English suit, a fashionable low cravat, and kid shoes, entered the drawing room. This was Pavel Petrovich Kirsanov. He looked about forty-five: his close-cropped gray hair shone with a dark luster, like new silver; his face, yellow but free from wrinkles, was exceptionally regular and pure in line, as though carved by a light and delicate chisel, and showed traces of remarkable good looks; especially fine were his clear, black, almond-shaped eyes. The whole mien of Arkadi’s uncle, exquisite and thoroughbred, had preserved the gracefulness of youth and that air of striving upward, of spurning the earth, which for the most part is lost after the twenties are past.

“Pavel Petrovich took out of his trousers pocket his exquisite hand with its long tapering pink nails, a hand which seemed still more beautiful because of the snowy whiteness of the cuff, buttoned with a single big opal, and gave it to his nephew. After a preliminary handshake in the European style, he kissed him thrice after the Russian fashion, that is to say, he touched his cheek three times with his fragrant mustache, and said, ‘Welcome.’ ”

He and Bazarov dislike each other at sight, and Turgenev’s device here is the comedy technique of each confiding his feelings separately and symmetrically to a friend. Thus Uncle Pavel, talking to his brother, criticizes the unkempt appearance of Bazarov, and a little later, after supper, Bazarov in talking to Arkadi criticizes Pavel’s beautifully groomed fingernails. A simple symmetrical device, which is especially obvious because the ornamentation of the conventional structure is artistically superior to the convention.

The first meal together, the supper, passes quietly. Uncle Pavel has been confronted by Bazarov but we have to wait for their first clash. Another person is introduced into Uncle Pavel’s orbit at the very end of this chapter 4: Pavel Petrovich “sat in his study until long past midnight, in a beautifully made, roomy armchair before the fireplace, on which the coals were smoldering into faintly glowing embers. . . . His expression was concentrated and grim, which is not the case when a man is absorbed solely in recollections. And in a small back room [of the house], a young woman in a blue, warm, sleeveless jacket, with a white kerchief thrown over her dark hair, was sitting on a large trunk. This was Fenichka. She was now listening, now dozing, now glancing at the open door through which one could see a child’s crib and hear the regular breathing of a sleeping baby.”

It is important for Turgenev’s purpose to tie up in the reader’s mind Uncle Pavel with the mistress of Nikolay. Arkadi finds he has a baby brother, Mitya, a little later than the reader does.

The next meal, breakfast, begins without Bazarov. The ground has not yet been prepared, and Turgenev sends Bazarov away to collect frogs while he has Arkadi explain to Uncle Pavel about Bazarov’s ideas:

” ‘What is Bazarov?’ Arkadi smiled. ‘Would you like me, Uncle, to tell you precisely what he is?’

“If you will be so obliging, Nephew.’ ‘He’s a nihilist. . . .’

” ‘A nihilist,’ Nikolay Petrovich managed to say. ‘That’s from the Latin, nihil, nothing, as far as I can judge; the word must mean a man who—who recognizes nothing.’

” ‘Say, “who respects nothing,” ‘ put in his brother, and he set to work on the butter again.

‘Who regards everything from the critical point of view,’ observed Arkadi.

” ‘Isn’t that the same thing?’ inquired the uncle. ‘No, it isn’t. A nihilist is a man who does not bow down before any authority, who does not accept any principle on faith no matter what an aura of reverence may surround that principle.’. . .

” ‘So that’s it. Well, I see it’s not in our line. . . . There used to be Hegelists, but now you have nihilists. We shall see how you will exist in a void, in a vacuum. And now please ring, brother Nikolay Petrovich—it’s time I had my cocoa.’

Immediately after this Fenichka appears. Note her admirable description: “She was a young woman of about three-andtwenty, all dainty whiteness and softness, with dark hair and eyes, red, childishly plump small lips, and delicate little hands.

She wore a neat print dress; a new blue kerchief lay lightly on her soft shoulders. She was carrying a large cup of cocoa and, having set it down before Pavel Petrovich, she was overwhelmed with confusion; the hot blood rushed in a wave of crimson over the delicate skin of her endearing face. She dropped her eyes and stood at the table, leaning a little on the very tips of her fingers. Apparently ashamed of having come in, she at the same time felt she had a right to come.”

Bazarov, the frog hunter, returns at the end of the chapter, and in the next one the breakfast table is the arena of the first round between Uncle Pavel and the young nihilist, both men scoring heavily:

” ‘Arkadi was telling us just now that you do not acknowledge any authorities whatsoever—that you do not believe in them?’

” ‘But why should I acknowledge them? And what should I believe in? When anyone talks sense, I agree, and that’s all.’

” ‘And all the Germans [scientists] talk sense?’ asked Pavel Petrovich, and his face assumed an expression as impassive, as remote, as if he had withdrawn to some empyrean height.

” ‘Not all,’ replied Bazarov with a short yawn. He obviously did not care to continue the debate. . .

“‘For my own part,’ Pavel Petrovich began again, not without some effort, ‘I am so unregenerate as not to like Germans. . . .

My brother, for instance, is very favorably inclined toward them. . . . But now they’ve all turned chemists and materialists—’

” ‘A chemist who knows his business is twenty times as useful as any poet,’ broke in Bazarov.”

On a collecting expedition Bazarov has found what he and Turgenev call a rare specimen of beetle. The term of course, is not specimen, but species, and that particular water-beetle is not a rare species. Only people who know nothing about natural history confuse specimen with species. In general Turgenev’s descriptions of Bazarov’s collecting are rather lame.

One will notice that despite Turgenev having prepared the first clash rather carefully, Uncle Pavel’s rudeness strikes the reader as not very realistic. By “realism,” of course, I merely indicate what an average reader in an average state of civilization feels as conforming to an average reality of life. Now in the reader’s mind Uncle Pavel has already been imprinted as an image of a very fashionable, very experienced, very well groomed gentleman who would hardly take the trouble to heckle so viciously a chance boy, his nephew’s friend and his brother’s guest.

I have mentioned that a curious feature of Turgenev’s structure is the spreading of antecedents over the action part of the story. An illustration comes at the end of chapter 6, “And Arkadi told Bazarov the story of Uncle Pavel.” The story is passed on to the reader in chapter 7 and conspicuously interrupts the flow of the story which has already started. We read here about Uncel Pavel’s love affair with the fascinating and fateful Princess R. back in the 1830s. This romantic lady, a sphinx with a riddle who finally found its solution in organized mysticism, around 1838 leaves Pavel Kirsanov and in 1848 she dies. Since then, till now, 1859, Pavel Kirsanov has retired to his brother’s country seat.

Now further on we discover that Fenichka has not only replaced his [dead] wife Mary in the affections of Nikolay Kirsanov but has also replaced Princess R. in the affections of Uncle Pavel, another case of simple structural symmetry. We are shown Fenichka’s room through Uncle Pavel’s eyes:

“The small low-ceiled room in which he found himself was very clean and cozy. It smelt of the freshly painted floor, of camomile and melissa. Along the walls were ranged chairs with lyre-shaped backs, bought by the late general [as far back as the campaign of 1812]; in one corner was a high, small bedstead under a muslin canopy, near an ironbound chest with a rounded lid. In the opposite corner a little image-lamp was burning before a big dark icon of St. Nikolay the Wonder-Worker, a tiny porcelain egg hung by a red ribbon from the protruding gold halo down the saint’s breast; on the window sills stood greenish glass jars of last year’s jam, carefully tied and with the light green showing through them; on their paper tops Fenichka herself had written in big letters Gooseberry —Nikolay Petrovich was particularly fond of this jam. Near the ceiling, on a long cord, hung a cage with a bobtailed siskin; it was constantly chirping and hopping about, and the cage was constantly shaking and swinging, while hempseeds fell with a light tap on the floor. On the wall, just above a small chest of drawers, hung some rather poor photographs of Nikolay Petrovich in various poses, taken by some itinerant photographer; there, too, hung a photograph of Fenichka herself, which was an absolute failure: an eyeless face wearing a forced smile, in a dingy frame—one could make out nothing more. And above Fenichka, General Yermolov, in a Circassian felt cloak, scowled menacingly upon the Caucasian mountains in the distance, from beneath a little pincushion in the form of a shoe, which came down right over his eyebrows.”

Now look at the way the story pauses again to allow the author to describe Fenichka’s past:

“Nikolay Petrovich had made Fenichka’s acquaintance three years before when he happened to stay overnight at an inn in a remote district town. He was agreeably struck by the cleanness of the room assigned to him, by the freshness of the bed linen. . . . Nikolay Kirsanov had at that time just moved into his new home and not wishing to keep serfs in the house, was on the lookout for hired servants; the landlady for her part complained of the small number of transients in the town, and the hard times; he proposed to her to come into his house in the capacity of housekeeper; she consented. Her husband had long been dead, leaving her an only daughter—Fenichka . . . who was at that time seventeen . . . she lived ever so quietly, ever so unassumingly, and only on Sundays did Nikolay Petrovich notice in the parish church, somewhere off on the side, the delicate profile of her small white face. More than a year passed thus.”

Nikolay treats her for an inflamed eye, which was soon well again, “but the impression she had made on Nikolay did not pass away so soon. He was forever haunted by that pure, delicate, timorously lifted face; he felt on his palms that soft hair, and saw those innocent, slightly parted lips, through which pearly teeth gleamed moistly in the sun. He began to watch her with great attention in church, he tried to get into conversation with her. . . .

“By degrees she began to get used to him, but was still shy in his presence, when suddenly Arina, her mother, died of cholera. Which way was Fenichka to turn? She inherited from her mother a love for order, common sense, and sedateness; but she was so young, so lonely. Nikolay Petrovich was himself so good and modest. There is no need to relate the rest.”

The details are admirable, that inflamed eye is a work of art, but the structure is lame and the paragraph concluding the account is lame and coy. “There is no need to relate the rest.” A strange and silly remark implying that some things are so well known to readers that they are not worth describing. Actually the gentle reader should not find it very difficult to imagine precisely the event which Turgenev so prudently and prudishly masks.

Bazarov meets Fenichka—and no wonder her baby falls for him. We know already about that way Bazarov has with simple little souls—bearded peasants, urchins, maid-servants. We also hear, with Bazarov, old Kirsanov playing Schubert.

The beginning of chapter 10 well illustrates another typical Turgenev device — an intonation that we hear in the epilogues of his short novels, or, as here, when the author finds it necessary to pause and survey the arrangement and distribution of his characters. Here is how it goes—it is really a pause for station identification. Bazarov is classified through the reactions of other people toward him:

“Everyone in the house had grown used to him, to his careless manners and his monosyllabic and abrupt speech. Fenichka in particular had become so used to him that one night she sent to wake him up. Mitya had had convulsions. And Bazarov had come and, half joking, half yawning after his wont, had stayed two hours with her and relieved the child. On the other hand Pavel Kirsanov had grown to detest Bazarov with all the strength of his soul; he regarded him as proud, impudent, cynical, and plebian. He suspected that Bazarov had no respect for him—him, Pavel Kirsanov. Nikolay Petrovich was rather afraid of the young “nihilist,” and entertained doubts whether his influence over Arkadi was for the good, but he willingly listened to him and was willingly present at his scientific and chemical experiments. Bazarov had brought his microscope with him and busied himself with it for hours on end. The servants, too, took to him, though he poked fun at them; they felt that, after all, he was one with them under the skin, that he was not a master. . . . The boys on the farm simply ran after the ‘doctor’ like puppies. The old man Prokofyich was the only one who did not like him; he handed him the dishes at table with a surly face. . . . Prokofyich in his own way was quite as much of an aristocrat as Pavel Kirsanov.”

Now for the first time in the novel we have the tedious Eavesdropping Device, which has been so well described in regard to Lermontov:

“One day they had lingered rather late before returning home; Nikolay Petrovich went to meet them in the garden, and as he reached the arbor he suddenly heard the quick steps and the voices of the two young men. They were walking on the other side of the arbor and could not see him.

” ‘You don’t know my father well enough,’ Arkadi was saying. ‘Your father’s a good fellow,’ Bazarov pronounced, ‘but he’s a back number; his act is finished.’

“Nikolay Petrovich strained his ears. Arkadi made no answer.

“The ‘back number’ remained standing motionless for a couple of minutes and then slowly shuffled off home.

‘The day before yesterday I saw him reading Pushkin,’ Bazarov went on in the meantime. ‘Explain to him, please, that it’s of no earthly use. For he isn’t a little boy, after all; it’s time to drop all such rubbish. The very idea of being romantic at this time of day! Give him something useful to read.’

‘ ‘Such as what?’ asked Arkadi.

” ‘Oh, I think Buchner’s Stoff und Kraft for a start.’

” ‘That’s what I think,’ Arkadi observed approvingly, ‘Stoff und Kraft is written in popular language.’

It would seem that Turgenev is casting around for some artificial structures to enliven his story: “Stoff und Kraft” (Matter and Force) provides a little comic relief. Then a new puppet is produced in Matthew Kolyazin, the cousin of the Kirsanovs, who had been brought up by Uncle Kolyazin. This Matthew Kolyazin, who happens to be a governmental inspector, checking on the activities of the local town mayor, will be instrumental in permitting Turgenev to arrange matters in such a way that Arkadi and Bazarov will take a trip to town, which trip in its turn will provide Bazarov with his meeting with a fascinating lady, not unrelated to Uncle Pavel’s Princess R.

In the second round of the fight between Uncle Pavel and Bazarov they come to grips at evening tea two weeks after their first fight. (The intervening meals, of which there have been perhaps as many as fifty—three per day multiplied by fourteen —are only vaguely imagined by this reader.) But the ground must be cleared first:

The conversation turned to one of the neighboring landowners. ‘Trash; just a miserable little aristocrat,’ indifferently remarked Bazarov, who had met the fellow in Petersburg.

” ‘Allow me to ask you,’ began Pavel Petrovich, and his lips began to tremble, ‘according to your conceptions the words “trash” and “aristocrat” signify one and the same thing.’

“‘I said “just a miserable little aristocrat,” ‘ replied Bazarov, lazily swallowing a sip of tea. . . .

“Pavel Petrovich turned white.

‘That’s an entirely different matter. I’m under no compulsion whatever to explain to you now why I sit twiddling my thumbs, as you are pleased to put it. I wish to tell you merely that aristocracy is a principle, and in our time none but immoral or frivolous people can live without principles.’ . . .

“Pavel Petrovich puckered up his eyes a little. ‘So that’s it!’ he observed in a strangely composed voice. ‘Nihilism is to cure all our woes, and you, you are our heroes and saviors. So. But why do you berate others—even those same denunciators, say?

Don’t you do as much chattering as all the others?’ . . . ‘Our argument has gone too far; it’s better to cut it short, I think. But I’ll be quite ready to agree with you,’ Bazarov added, getting up, ‘when you bring forward a single institution in our present mode of life, either domestic or social, which does not call forth complete and merciless repudiation. . . .

‘Take my advice, Pavel Petrovich, give yourself a couple of days to think about it; you’re not likely to find anything right off.

Go through all our classes and think rather carefully over each one, and in the meantime Arkadi and I will-’

‘Go on scoffing over everything,’ Pavel Petrovich broke in. ‘No, we will go on dissecting frogs. Come Arkadi. Good-by for the present, gentlemen.’ ”

Curiously enough, Turgenev is still engaged in describing the minds of his characters, in setting up his scenes rather than in having the protagonists act. This is especially clear in chapter 11 where the two brothers Pavel and Nikolay are compared, and where occurs incidentally that charming little landscape (“Evening had come, the sun had hid behind a small aspen grove which lay a quarter of a mile from the garden; its shadow spread endlessly across the still fields. . . .”)

The next chapters are devoted to Arkadi’s and Bazarov’s visit to town. The town appears now as a middle point and a structural link between the Kirsanov country seat and the Bazarov country place, which is twenty-five miles from the town in another direction.

Some rather obvious grotesque personages are shown. Mme. Odintsov is first mentioned in a conversation at the house of a feminist progressive lady: ‘Are there any pretty women here?’ inquired Bazarov, as he drank up a third glass of wine.

‘Yes, there are,’ answered Eudoxia, ‘but then they’re all such empty-headed creatures. Mon amie Odintsov, for instance, isn’t at all bad-looking. It’s a pity that her reputation is sort of . . .’ ” Bazarov sees Mme. Odintsov for the first time at the Governor’s ball.

“Arkadi turned and saw a tall woman in a black dress standing at the door of the room. He was struck by the dignity of her carriage. Her bare arms lay gracefully along her slender waist; gracefully some light sprays of fuchsia drooped from her gleaming hair on to her sloping shoulders; her clear eyes looked out from under a somewhat overhanging white brow, with a tranquil and intelligent expression—tranquil, precisely, and not pensive—and a scarcely perceptible smile hovered on her lips. Her face radiated a gracious and gentle force. . . .

“Bazarov’s attention, too, was directed to Mme. Odintsov.

” ‘Who in the world is she?’ he remarked. ‘She’s different from the rest of the females here.’ ” Arkadi is presented to her and asks her for the next mazurka.

“Arkadi made up his mind that he had never before met such an attractive woman. He could not get the sound of her voice out of his ears; the very folds of her dress seemed to hang upon her differently from all other women—more gracefully and amply—and her movements were peculiarly smooth and natural.”

Instead of dancing (he was a bad dancer) Arkadi chats with her during the mazurka, “permeated by the happiness of being near her, talking to her, looking at her eyes, her lovely brow, all her endearing dignified, clever face. She said little, but from some of her observations Arkadi concluded that this young woman had already contrived to feel and think a great many things.

‘Who was that you were standing with,’ she asked him, ‘when M’sieu’ Sitnikov brought you to me?’

” ‘Oh, so you noticed him?’ Arkadi asked in his turn. ‘He has a splendid face, hasn’t he? He’s a certain Bazarov, a friend of mine.’

Arkadi fell to talking about this “friend” of his. He spoke of him in such detail, and with such enthusiasm, that Mme.

Odintsov turned toward him and gave him an attentive look. . . .

“The Governor came up to Mme. Odintsov, announced that supper was ready, and, with a careworn face, offered her his arm. As she went away, she turned to give a last smile and nod to Arkadi. He bowed low, followed her with his eyes (how graceful her waist seemed to him, the grayish luster of black silk apparently poured over it!). . . .

‘Well?’ Bazarov questioned him as soon as Arkadi had rejoined him in the corner. ‘Have a good time? A gentleman has been telling me just now that this lady is—my, my, my! But then the gentleman himself strikes me as very much of a fool. Well, now, according to you, is she really—my, my, my?’

I don’t quite understand that definition,’ answered Arkadi.

‘Oh, now! What innocence!’

‘In that case, I don’t understand the gentleman you quote. Mme. Odintsov is indisputably most endearing, but she behaves so coldly and austerely, that — ‘

“‘Still waters—you know!’ Bazarov put in quickly. ‘She’s cold, you say. That’s just where the taste comes in. For you like ice cream, don’t you?’

“‘Perhaps,’ Arkadi muttered. T can’t judge about that. She wishes to make your acquaintance and asked me to bring you to see her.’

I can imagine how you’ve painted me! However, you did the right thing. Take me along. Whatever she may be—whether she’s simply a provincial lioness, or an “emancipated woman,” a la Kukshina [Eudoxia], the fact remains that she’s got a pair of shoulders whose like I’ve not set eyes on for a long while.’ ”

This is Turgenev at his best, the delicate and vivid paintbrush (that gray gloss is great), a marvelous sense of color and light, and shade. The my-my-my is the famous Russian exclamation oy-oy-oy —still preserved in New York City among Armenian,

Jewish, and Greek groups stemming from Russia. Note the first revelation when the following day he is presented to her that Bazarov, the strong man, may lose his confidence. ” Arkadi presented Bazarov, and noticed with secret wonder that he seemed embarrassed, while Mme. Odintsov remained perfectly tranquil, as she had been the night before. Bazarov himself was conscious of his embarrassment and was irritated by it. ‘Of all things! Frightened of a petticoat!’ he thought, and, sprawled out in an armchair just like Sitnikov, began talking with an exaggerated unrestraint, while Mme. Odintsov kept her clear eyes fixed on him.” Bazarov, the confirmed plebian, is going to fall madly in love with the aristocratic Anna.

Turgenev now uses the device which is beginning to pall—the pause for a biographical sketch where the past of the young widow Anna Odintsov is described. (Her marriage to Odintsov had lasted six years until his death.) She sees the charm of Bazarov through the rough exterior. An important observation on Turgenev’s part is: Vulgarity alone repelled her, and no one could have accused Bazarov of vulgarity.

With Bazarov and Arkadi we now visit Anna’s charming country seat. They will spend a fortnight there. The estate, Nikolskoe, is situated a few miles from the city, and from there Bazarov intends to travel on to his father’s country place. It will be noted that he has left his microscope and other belongings at the Kirsanov place, Maryino, a little trick carefully prepared by Turgenev in order to get Bazarov back to the Kirsanovs so as to complete the Uncle Pavel-Fenichka-Bazarov theme.

There are some splendid little scenes in these Nikolskoe chapters, such as the appearance of Katya, and the greyhound:

“A beautiful greyhound bitch with a blue collar on ran into the drawing room, tapping on the floor with her nails, immediately followed by a girl of eighteen, black-haired and swarthy, with a somewhat round but pleasing face and small dark eyes. She was carrying a basket filled with flowers.

‘ ‘And here’s my Katya,’ said Anna, indicating her with a motion of her head. Katya made a slight curtsy, settled down beside her sister, and began sorting the flowers. . . .

“When Katya spoke, she had a very endearing smile, timid and candid, and looked up from under her eyebrows with a sort of humorous severity. Everything about her still had the greenness of youth : her voice and the bloom on her whole face, and her rosy hands with the whitish circles on the palms, and her shoulders just the least bit narrow. She was constantly blushing and breathing rapidly.”

We now expect from Bazarov and Anna a few good conversations, and indeed we get them: conversation number one in chapter 16 (“Yes. That seems to surprise you—why?”—that kind of thing), conversation number two in the next chapter, and number three in chapter 18. In conversation number one Bazarov expresses the stock ideas of progressive young men of the time, and Anna is calm and elegant and languid. Notice the charming description of her aunt:

“Princess Kh., a wizened little woman with a pinched-up face that looked like a small clenched fist, and staring malicious eyes under a gray scratch wig, came in, and scarcely bowing to the guests, she sank into a roomy velvet-covered armchair upon which none but she had the right to sit. Katya put a footstool under her feet; the old woman did not thank her, did not even glance at her, her hands merely stirred under the yellow shawl, which practically covered her whole wizened body. The Princess was fond of yellow; her cap, too, had bright yellow ribbons.”

A page from Nabokov’s lecture on Fathers and Sons with his map of Bazarov’s travels.

We had Schubert played by Arkadi’s father. Now Katya plays Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor: Turgenev’s detailed references to music were one of the things that irritated so dreadfully his enemy Dostoevski. Later they go botanizing and then we pause again for some additional characterization of Anna. That doctor is a strange man, she reflects.

Shortly Bazarov is horribly in love: “His blood was on fire directly if he merely thought of her; he could easily have mastered his blood, but something else had gotten into him, something he had never admitted, at which he had always jeered, at which all his pride revolted. . . . Suddenly he would imagine that those chaste arms would one day twine about his neck, that those proud lips would respond to his kisses, those clever eyes would dwell with tenderness—yes, with tenderness— on his, and his head would start spinning, and for an instant he would forget himself, until indignation flared up in him again. He caught himself in all sorts of ‘shameful’ thoughts, as though some fiend were mocking him. Sometimes it seemed to him that a change was taking place in Anna as well; that a certain something was emerging in the expression of her face; that perhaps—But at that very point he would stamp his foot or gnash his teeth and shake his fist in his own face.” (I have never cared much for that gnashing and fist-shaking.) He decides to leave, and “she paled.”

A pathetic note is introduced with the appearance of the Bazarovs’ old steward whom they have sent to see if Eugene is coming at last. This is the beginning of the Bazarov family theme, which is the most successful one in the whole novel.

We are now ready for conversation number two. The summer night scene is indoors, with a window playing a well-known romanticist role:

” ‘Why leave?’ asked Anna, dropping her voice.

“He glanced at her. She had thrown back her head on the back of her easy chair, and had crossed her arms, bare to the elbows, on her breast. She seemed paler in the light of the single lamp covered with a perforated paper shade. An ample white gown hid her completely in its soft folds; the tips of her feet, also crossed, were hardly visible.

” ‘And why stay?’ Bazarov countered.

“Anna turned her head slightly.

” ‘You ask why? Haven’t you enjoyed yourself here? Or do you think you won’t be missed?’

” ‘I’m sure of it.’

“Anna was silent a while. ‘You’re wrong in thinking so. However, I don’t believe you. You couldn’t have said that seriously.’

Bazarov still sat immovable. ‘Eugene Vasilyich, why don’t you say something?’

‘Why, what am I to say to you? It isn’t worth while missing people, as a general thing—and surely not me.’

…” ‘Open that window—I feel half stifled somehow.’

“Bazarov got up and gave the window a push. It flew open noisily and suddenly. He had not expected it to open so easily; besides, his hands were shaking. The dark soft night peered into the room with its almost black sky, its faintly rustling leaves, and the fresh fragrance of the pure open air. . . .

” ‘We’ve become such friends—’ Bazarov uttered in a stifled voice. ‘Yes! For I’d forgotten that you wish to leave.’

“Bazarov got up. The lamp burnt dimly in the middle of the dark, fragrant, isolated room; from time to time the blind shook, and the insidious freshness of the night flowed in; one could hear the mysterious whisperings of that night. Anna did not stir a single limb; a secret emotion was overcoming her little by little. It was communicated to Bazarov. He suddenly became aware that he was alone with a young and lovely woman.

‘Where are you going?’ she asked slowly.

“He made no answer and sank into a chair. . . . ‘Wait a little,’ whispered Anna. Her eyes rested on Bazarov; it seemed as though she were examining him intently.

“He strode across the room, then suddenly went up to her, hurriedly said ‘Good-by !,’ squeezed her hand so that she almost cried out, and left the room. She raised her crushed fingers to her lips, breathed on them, and suddenly, impulsively getting up from her low chair, she went with rapid steps toward the door, as though she wished to bring Bazarov back. . . . Her braid came loose and like a dark snake slithered down on her shoulder. The lamp burned long in Anna’s room, and for long did she sit without moving, only running her hands from time to time over her arms, nipped at by the chill of the night.

“Bazarov went back to his bedroom two hours later, his boots wet with dew; he was all muffled up and glum.”

In chapter 18 we have the third conversation, with a passionate outburst at the end, and again the window:

“Anna held both her hands out before her, but Bazarov was leaning with his forehead pressed against the window pane. He was gasping; his whole body was visibly trembling. But it was not the tremor of youthful timidity, it was not the delectable dread of a first declaration of love that possessed him; it was passion struggling in him, strong and painful—passion not unlike rancor, and perhaps akin to it. Anna became both afraid of him and sorry for him.

‘Eugene Vasilyich!’ she said, and involuntarily there was the ring of tenderness in her voice.

“He turned quickly, devoured her with his eyes, and snatching both her hands, he drew her suddenly to his breast.

“She did not free herself from his embrace at once, but within an instant she was standing in a distant corner and watching

Bazarov from there. He rushed toward her.

‘You have misunderstood me,’ she whispered hurriedly, in alarm. It seemed that were he to make another step she would scream. Bazarov bit his lips and left the room.”

In chapter 19 Bazarov and Kirsanov leave Nikolskoe. (The arrival of Sit-nikov is for comic relief, and artistically is too pat and not satisfying.) We will spend now three days—three days after three years of separation—with Bazarov’s old people:

“Bazarov leaned out of the coach, while Arkadi craned his head over his companion’s shoulder and caught sight on the steps of the little manor house of a tall, gaunt man with rumpled hair and a thin aquiline nose; his military coat was unbuttoned. He was standing, his legs wide apart, smoking a long pipe, and his eyes were puckered up from the sun.

“The horses stopped.

“‘So you’ve favored us at last,’ said Bazarov’s father, still going on smoking, though his student pipe was fairly dancing up and down in his fingers. ‘Come, get out, get out; let me kiss you.’

“He put his arms around his son. “‘Gene, Gene,’ they heard a woman’s trembling voice. The door was flung open, and a rolypoly, short little old woman in a white cap and a short striped jacket appeared on the threshold. She ‘oh’d,’ swayed, and would certainly have fallen if Bazarov had not held her up. Her plump little arms were instantly twined round his neck, her head was pressed to his breast, and there was a complete hush. The only sound to be heard was her broken sobs.”

It is a small estate; the Bazarovs have only twenty-two serfs. Old Bazarov, who had served in General Kirsanov’s regiment, is an old-fashioned provincial doctor, hopelessly behind the times. In their first conversation he indulges in a pathetic monologue which bores his emancipated, nonchalant son. The mother wonders how long Eugene will stay—after three years. Turgenev closes the chapter with a description of Madame Bazarov’s origins and mentality, a device we now know well: the biographical pause.

A second conversation takes place, this time between old Bazarov and Arkadi (Eugene having got up early and gone for a ramble—one wonders if he collected anything). The conversation is permeated on old Bazarov’s part by Arkadi’s being Eugene’s friend and admirer: it is this admiration of his son that the old man touchingly basks in. A third conversation takes place between Eugene and Arkadi in the shade of a haystack, in which we learn a few biographical details concerning Eugene. He had lived there two years on end and from time to time elsewhere; his father being an army doctor, he had led a roving life. The conversation turns philosophical but ends in a slight quarrel.

The real drama begins when Eugene suddenly decides to leave, even though he promises to return in a month’s time.

Old Bazarov, “after a few more moments of bravely waving his handkerchief on the steps, sank into a chair and let his head drop on his breast.

” ‘He’s forsaken us, he’s forsaken us!’ he babbled. ‘He’s forsaken us; he became bored here. I’m all alone now, all alone like this!’ And each time he said this he thrust out his hand, with the index finger sticking up. Whereupon Arina Vlasievna drew near him and, putting her gray head close to his gray head, said :

” ‘There’s no help for it Vasya! A son is a slice off the loaf. He’s like the falcon—he felt like it, and he winged back to the nest; he felt like it, and he winged away. But you and I are like bumps on a hollow tree, sitting side by side and never budging.

Only I shall remain the same to you forever, even as you to me.’

“Vasili Ivanovich took his hands away from his face and embraced his wife, his friend, his mate, harder than he had ever clasped her even in youth: she had consoled him in his grief.”

On Bazarov’s whim the two friends make a detour to Nikolskoe where they are not expected. Having spent four unsatisfactory hours there (Katya remaining in her room), they go on to Maryino. Ten days later Arkadi returns to Nikolskoe. The main reason is, Turgenev has to have him out of the way when the expected quarrel between Bazarov and Uncle Pavel takes place. There is no explanation why Bazarov remains: he could have conducted his simple experiments quite as successfully in the home of his parents. The theme of Bazarov and Fenichka now starts, and we have the famous scene in the lilac arbor, complete with the Eavesdropping Device:

“‘I like it when you talk. It’s just like a little brook murmuring.’ Fenichka turned her head away.

” ‘How you talk!’ she said, running her fingers over the flowers. ‘And why should you listen to me? You’ve conversed with such clever ladies.’

” ‘Ah, Theodosia Nikolaievna! Believe me, all the clever ladies in the world aren’t worth the dimple on your little elbow.’

” ‘Why, what won’t you think of!’ murmured Fenichka, and put her hands under her. . . .

” ‘Then I’ll tell you; I want—one of those roses.’

“Fenichka broke into laughter again and even clapped her hands, so amusing did Bazarov’s request seem to her. She laughed, and at the same time felt flattered. Bazarov was looking at her intently.

” ‘By all means, by all means,’ she said at last and, bending down to the seat, began picking over the roses. ‘Which will you have—a red or a white?’

” ‘Red—and not too large.’ . . .

“Fenichka stretched her little neck forward and put her face close to the flower. The kerchief rolled down from her head on to her shoulders; a soft mass of dark, shining, slightly ruffled hair became visible.

” ‘Wait, I want to sniff it with you,’ said Bazarov. He bent down and kissed her hard on her parted lips.

“She was startled and thrust him back with both her hands on his breast, but her thrust was weak, and he was able to renew and prolong the kiss.

“There was a dry cough behind the lilac bushes. Fenichka instantaneously moved away to the other end of the seat. Pavel Petrovich appeared, made a slight bow, and having dropped with a sort of malicious despond ‘You here?,’ he went out of the arbor. . . .

” ‘That was wrong of you Eugene Vasilyich,’ she whispered as she went. There was a note of unfeigned reproach in her whisper.

“Bazarov remembered another recent scene, and he felt both shame and contemptuous annoyance. But he immediately tossed back his head, ironically congratulated himself ‘on his formal induction into the ranks of the Lotharios,’ and went on to his own room.”

In the duel that follows Uncle Pavel aims directly at Bazarov and fires but misses. Bazarov “took one more step and, without taking aim, pressed the trigger.

“Kirsanov gave a slight start and clutched at his thigh. A thin stream of blood began to trickle down his white trousers.

“Bazarov flung aside his pistol and approached his antagonist. ‘Are you wounded?’ he asked.

‘You had the right to call me up to the barrier,’ said Pavel Petrovich, ‘but this wound is a trifle. According to our agreement, each of us has the right to one more shot.’

‘Really, you’ll excuse me, but that will wait till another time,’ answered Bazarov, and he put his arm around Kirsanov, who was beginning to turn pale. ‘Now I’m no longer a duelist but a doctor, and I must examine your wound before anything else. . . .

‘That’s all nonsense—I don’t need anyone’s aid,’ Kirsanov declared jerkily, ‘and—we must—again—’ He tried to pull at his mustache, but his hand failed him, his eyes rolled up, and he lost consciousness. . . . Kirsanov slowly opened his eyes.

“… ‘All I need is something to bind up this scratch and I can reach home on foot, or else you can send a droshky for me. The duel, if you are willing, won’t be renewed. You have behaved nobly—today, today, you will note.’

‘No use raking up the past,’ rejoined Bazarov. ‘And as for the future, it’s not worth racking one’s head about that, either, for I intend clearing out without any delay. ‘ ” Actually Bazarov would have behaved still more nobly if he had coolly discharged his pistol in the air after enduring Uncle Pavel’s fire.

Turgenev now starts his first mopping-up operation when a conversation takes place between Uncle Pavel and Fenichka, and another between Uncle Pavel and his brother —and Uncle Pavel solemnly asks Nikolay to marry Fenichka. A little moral is stressed, not very artistically. Uncle Pavel decides to go abroad: his soul is dead within him. We shall meet him for a last glimpse in the epilogue, but otherwise Turgenev has done with him.

Now for the mopping-up of the Nikolskoe theme. We move to Nikolskoe where Katya and Arkadi are sitting in the shade of an ash tree. The greyhound Fifi is there, too. The light and shade are beautifully rendered:

“A faint breeze stirring in the leaves of the ash kept pale-gold flecks of light wavering to and fro over the shady path and over Fifi’s tawny back; an even shade fell upon Arkadi and Katya, save that now and then a vivid streak would flare up in her hair. Both were silent, but the very way in which they were silent, in which they were sitting together, was expressive of a trustful rapprochement; each of them seemed to be not thinking of his companion, yet secretly rejoicing at the other’s proximity. Their faces, too, had changed since we saw them last; Arkadi seemed calmer, Katya more animated, more spirited.”

Arkadi is getting out and away from Bazarov’s influence. The conversation is a functional one —summing up matters, giving results, stating a final situation. It is also an attempt to draw differences between Katya’s character and Anna’s character. It is all very weak and belated. The moment Arkadi almost proposes marriage but walks away, Anna appears. A page later, Bazarov is announced. What activity!

We are now going to get rid of Anna, Katya, and Arkadi. The final scene is set in the arbor. During another conversation between Arkadi and Katya, the Bazarov-Anna couple is heard discoursing. We have sunk to the level of a comedy of manners. The overhearing device is with us, the pairing device is with us, the summing up device is with us. Arkadi resumes his courtship and is accepted. Anna and Bazarov reach an understanding:

” ‘You see,’ Anna Sergeievna continued, ‘you and I have made a mistake; we’re both past our first youth—especially I; we have seen life, we are tired; we’re both—why be falsely modest?—clever; at first we aroused each other’s interest, our curiosity was stirred, but then — ‘

” ‘But then I became flat,’ Bazarov put in. ‘You know that that was not the cause of our misunderstanding. But be that as it may, we had no need of each other, that’s the main thing; there was too much —how should I put it? —similarity in us. We did not realize this immediately. . . . Eugene Vasilyich, we have no power over—’ she began; but a gust of wind swooped down, set the leaves rustling, and bore her words away.

” ‘Of course, you are free—’ Bazarov declared a little later. Nothing more could be distinguished; their steps retreated; everything was stilled.” The next day Bazarov blesses his young friend Arkadi and departs.

We now come to the greatest chapter in our novel, chapter 27, which is the one before the last. Bazarov returns to his family and engages himself to medical activities. Turgenev is preparing his death. Then it comes. Eugene asks his father for some lunar caustic:

” ‘Yes, what do you want it for?’

” T need it—to cauterize a cut.’

” ‘For whom?’

” ‘For myself.’

” ‘What—yourself? How is that? What sort of a cut? Where is it?’

” ‘Right here, on my finger. I went to the village today—you know, where they brought that peasant with typhus from. They were about to perform an autopsy on him for some reason or other, and I’ve had no practice on that sort of thing for a long while.’

” ‘Well?’

” ‘Well, so I asked the district doctor to let me do it; and so I cut myself.’

“Vasili Ivanovich suddenly turned all white and, without uttering a word, rushed to his study, from which he returned at once carrying a bit of lunar caustic. Bazarov was about to take it and leave.

” ‘For dear God’s sake,’ said his father, ‘let me do this myself.’ Bazarov smiled.

” ‘What a devoted practitioner!’

” ‘Don’t laugh, please. Let me see your finger. The cut isn’t so great. Doesn’t that hurt?’

” ‘Press harder; don’t be afraid.’

“Vasili Ivanovich stopped. “‘What do you think, Eugene—wouldn’t it be better to cauterize it with a hot iron?’

‘That should have been done sooner; but now, if you get down to brass tacks, even the lunar caustic is useless. If I’ve been infected, it’s too late now.’

” ‘What —too late — ‘ Vasili Ivanovich could scarcely articulate the words.

” ‘Of course! It’s more than four hours ago.

“Vasili Ivanovich cauterized the cut a little more.

” ‘Why, didn’t the district doctor have any lunar caustic?

” ‘No.

‘My God, how is it possible? A doctor—and he hasn’t got such an indispensable thing as that!

” ‘You ought to have a look at his lancets,’ Bazarov observed, and walked out.

Bazarov has become infected, falls ill, has a partial recovery, and then a relapse that brings him to the crisis of the disease.

Anna is sent for, arrives with a German physician, who tells her there is no hope, and she goes to Bazarov’s bedside.

‘Well, thanks,’ Bazarov repeated. ‘This is a regal action. They say that monarchs visit the dying, too.’ ‘Eugene Vasilyich, I hope—’

‘Eh, Anna Sergeievna, let’s speak the truth. It’s all over with me. I’m caught under the wheel. And now it turns out it was useless to think of the future. Death is an old trick, yet it strikes everyone as something new. So far I have no craven fear of it—and later on a coma will come, and—’ he whistled and made a feeble nugatory gesture. ‘Well, what am I to say to you?

That I loved you? There was no sense in that even before, and less than ever now. Love is a form, and my own form is already decomposing. I’d do better to say how fine you are! Even now you’re standing there, so beautiful—’

“Anna gave an involuntary shudder.

” ‘Never mind, don’t be upset. Sit over there. Don’t come close to me — after all, my illness is contagious.’

“Anna swiftly crossed the room and sat down in the armchair near the divan on which Bazarov was lying.

” ‘Magnanimous one!’ he whispered. ‘Oh, how near and how young and fresh and pure … in this loathsome room! . . . Well, good-by! Live long, that’s the best thing of all, and make the most of it while there is time. Just see, what a hideous spectacle: a worm half crushed, but writhing still. And yet I, too, thought: I’d accomplish so many things, I wouldn’t die, not me! If there were any problem—well, I was a giant! And now all the problem the giant has is how to die decently, although that makes no difference to anyone either. Never mind; I’m not going to wag my tail.’. . .

“Bazarov put his hand to his brow.

“Anna bent down to him. ‘Eugene Vasiliyich, I’m here—’

“He at once took his hand away and raised himself. ‘Good-by,’ he said with sudden force, and his eyes gleamed with a last gleam. ‘Good-by. Listen—you know I didn’t kiss you that time. Breathe on the dying lamp and let it go out—’

“Anna put her lips to his forehead. ‘Enough!’ he murmured, and dropped back on the pillow. ‘Now . . . darkness—’

“Anna went softly out. ‘Well?’ Vasih Ivanovich asked her in a whisper. ‘He has fallen asleep,’ she answered, barely audible.

“Bazarov was not fated to awaken. Toward evening he sank into complete unconsciousness, and the following day he died. . . .

“And when finally he had breathed his last, and a universal lamentation arose throughout the house, Vasili Ivanovich was seized by a sudden frenzy.

” ‘I said I would rebel,’ he screamed hoarsely, with his face flaming and distorted, shaking his fist in the air, as though threatening someone, ‘and I will rebel.’

“But Arina Vlasievna, all in tears, hung upon his neck, and both prostrated themselves together.

” ‘Side by side,’ Anfisushka related afterward in the servants’ quarters, ‘they let their poor heads droop, like lambs at noonday — ‘

“But the sultriness of noonday passes, and evening comes, and night, and then follows the return to the calm refuge, where sleep is sweet for the tortured and the weary.”

In the epilogue, chapter 28, everyone is marrying, in the pairing-off device. Notice here the didactic and slightly humorous attitude. Fate takes over but still under Turgenev’s direction.

“Anna has recently married, not of love but out of conviction, one of the future leaders of Russia, a very intelligent man, a

lawyer, possessed of strong practical sense, firm will, and remarkable eloquence — still young, good-natured, and cold as ice. . . . The Kirsanovs, father and son, live at Maryino; their fortunes are on the mend. Arkadi has become zealous in the management of the estate, and the ‘farm’ is now yielding a rather good revenue. . . . Katya has a son, little Nikolay, while Mitya runs about ever so lively and talks beautifully. … In Dresden, on the Bruhl Terrace, between two and four o’clock—the most fashionable time for walking—you may meet a man about fifty, by now altogether gray, and apparently afflicted with gout, but still handsome, exquisitely dressed, and with that special stamp which is gained only by moving a long time in the higher strata of society. That is Pavel Petrovich. From Moscow he had gone abroad for the sake of his health, and has settled down in Dresden, where he associates for the most part with Englishmen and Russian visitors. . . . Kukshina, too, found herself abroad. . . . With two or three just such young chemists, who don’t know oxygen from nitrogen, but are filled with skepticism and self-respect, Sitnikov is knocking about Petersburg, also getting ready to be great, and, according to his own assertions, is carrying on Bazarov’s ‘work.’ . . .

“There is a small village graveyard in one of the remote nooks of Russia. Like almost all our graveyards, it presents a woebegone appearance. . . . But among these graves there is one untouched by man, untrampled by beast; the birds alone perch thereon and sing at dawn. An iron railing runs around it; two young firs are there, one planted at each end.

“Eugene Bazarov is buried in this grave. Often, from the little village not far off, an old couple, decrepit by now, comes to visit it—man and wife. Supporting each other, they move to it with heavy steps; they come close to the railing and get down on their knees. And long and bitterly do they weep, and long and intently do they gaze at the mute stone, under which their son is lying; they exchange some brief phrase, brush the dust from the stone, and set straight a branch on one of the firs, and then pray again, and they cannot forsake this place, where they seem to feel nearer to their son, to their memories of him.”