Book Review, “Fathers and Sons” by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A classic of Russian literature, “Fathers and Sons” describes the conflict between generations in a way that may be quite recognizable in our modern era. Bazurov is a talented force of nature who studies medicine and proclaims loudly that he believes in nothing at all, “I look up to heaven only when I want to sneeze.” Arkady is his admiring friend, who probably doesn’t believe nearly as strongly as Bazurov does. Turgenev uses Bazurov as a foil against his believing and eager parents’ generation, some of whom look upon the idea of rejecting all truth and reality rather skeptically, “The fact is that previously they were simply dunces and now they’ve suddenly become nihilists.”

“Fathers and Sons” is written beautifully and economically and provides great depths of knowledge about families, love, heartache, religion, and even the institution and elimination of serfdom in 19th-century Russia. The beauty of Turgenev’s mind is his compassionate treatment of all the generations present and his unwillingness to take a side. This should be exemplary to all writers, but in fact, it infuriated the sophisticated reviewers of his day, much in the same way it would irritate the elite of our day. Because of this even-handedness, however, Turgenev has created a thoughtful and timeless novel that reveals the power of an author who truly loves his characters and their stories, no matter how absurd they may seem.

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