28 January 2008

Fathers and Sons

Today, after working on it for most of the month, i finished up Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. I didn't think I was going to like it but the ending really saved it for me. I haven't read any Russian lit since college and even then i only read plays by Chekov. There are seventy pages of introduction in my volume that i skipped and i may actually go back and read it now.

The story centers on two young men in 1860's Russia, both of whom are part of the upper class. There is Bazarov, the older of the two and a doctor by training, and Arkady, who is younger. We follow them as the visit their family homes and those of various friends. Bazarov is the philosopher; while the blurb on the back of the book lists him as "one of the first angry young men" he seems far more nihilistic to me than angry. He seems to care about little, not himself or his family or his friends. Both the men seem almost like teenagers, for most of the book they have the whole attitude of "we are always right about everything, everyone else is just dumb and can't understand us because the others are too old, or are just peasants, or are women. But towards the end both young men fall in love, for good and for ill, and we see, if not exactly a happily ever after, a very satisfying ending.

So i give it a 5, after fully expecting to give it a 3. Books like this are why i so rarely abandon the ones i am not liking. i do recommend it; you just have to give it a chance and overlook everyone calling everyone else by their full names.

Random note: i am of Russian descent (my great grandfather was brought over as a little child by his parents before the revolution) and have a Russian last name. I found half a dozen names which, if i ever have kids and they get my last name, I so want to use.

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