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Penguin Classics First Love [Paperback]

Ivan Turgenev , V Pritchett , Isaiah Berlin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 26 2004 0140443355 978-0140443356 Reprint
When the down-at-heel Princess Zasyekin moves next door to the country estate of Vladimir Petrovich's parents, he instantly and overwhelmingly falls in love with his new neighbour's daughter, Zinaida. But the capricious young woman already has many admirers and as she plays her suitors against each other, Vladimir's unrequited youthful passion soon turns to torment and despair - although he remains unaware of his true rival for Zinaida's affections. Set in the world of nineteenth-century Russia's fading aristocracy, Turgenev's story depicts a boy's growth of knowledge and mastery over his own heart as he awakens to the complex nature of adult love.

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"I wanted them all, even those I'd already read."
—Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

"Small wonders."
Time Out London

"[F]irst-rate…astutely selected and attractively packaged…indisputably great works."
—Adam Begley, The New York Observer

"I’ve always been haunted by Bartleby, the proto-slacker. But it’s the handsomely minimalist cover of the Melville House edition that gets me here, one of many in the small publisher’s fine 'Art of the Novella' series."
The New Yorker

"The Art of the Novella series is sort of an anti-Kindle. What these singular, distinctive titles celebrate is book-ness. They're slim enough to be portable but showy enough to be conspicuously consumed—tiny little objects that demand to be loved for the commodities they are."
—KQED (NPR San Francisco)

"Some like it short, and if you're one of them, Melville House, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, has a line of books for you... elegant-looking paperback editions ...a good read in a small package."
The Wall Street Journal --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Turgenev (1818-83) studied philosophy at Petersburg University, Russia. When he was nineteen he began to publish poems before moving to study in Berlin. In 1843 he fell in love with a young Spanish singer, whose influence remained throughout his life. He followed her round Europe, and was accepted by her and her husband as a friend. He had one daughter with a sempstress. After 1856 he lived mainly abroad and was well-known in Paris, where he was a friend of Flaubert. He wrotes six novels, all after 1855. Isaiah Berlin was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford and the first President of Wolfson College, Oxford. He received many honours and awards throughout his lifetime. On his death in 1997, he was described by The Times as 'one of the most influential figures in the intellectual life of the country.' V.S. Pritchett was Visiting Professor at several American universities and President of the Society of Authors. He wrote critical works, novels and short stories throughout his lifetime. When he died in 1991 he was described by The Guardian as 'one of the towering English literary figures of the century.'

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Tragic Love Story...Plus April 21 2002
Turgenev creates prose so spare, yet so elegant you find yourself rereading entire paragraphs just to try to net some hidden agenda behind the simplicity. Turgenev's influence on Hemingway was probably never more brilliantly expressed than in these understated words from A Moveable Feast: "I had read all of Turgenev...(of Dostoevsky) frailty and madnesss...were there to know as you knew the landscapes and roads in Turgenev..."
This book is more than a simple love story between a young man and an older woman, though the idea of the shortness and depthlessness of young love is an important theme. There are also such themes as the dissolution and fall into poverty of the Russian nobility as seen in Zinaida and her mother, a former princess; the idea of 19th century Russia shrugging off the chains of serfdom and royal dominance is also explored in the vastly superior Fathers and Sons. Another noteworthy theme is alienation from parents and society in general; Vladimir Petrovich is dominated utterly by his menacing father and carking, gossipy mother. He grows to become a bachelor, rehashing his tragic story before a fireplace in an inn. Towards the end of the book, when Vladimir's father, who shares with Vladimir a strong affection for Zinaida, flogs the young girls arm with a riding crop, as well as the threat the father gives to one of Zinaida's numerous suitors, we are made to wonder exactly what part romantic relationships have in the alleviation or exacerbation of violent mental illness, or at least a violent and cold mindset.
This book, however deep and lovingly crafted, is a cipher next to Fathers and Sons. It's also a lot shorter; first time Turgenev readers might want to start here.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing piece of literature Sept. 24 2001
At the risk of not sounding manly, I must admit I love Russian literature! And, Turgenev is one of my favorites. I've also felt that he has never been fully appreciated to the degree he should be. When most people think of Russian literature obvisously authors like Dostoevsky (my favorite author), Tolstoy, and Chekhov come to mind but one rarely hears someone speak highly of Turgenev, or maybe it's merely the people whom I hang around with. "First Love" is so wonderfully written, it's so full of charm, wit, humor, and basic human emotions that as one goes on reading we almost relive our own first love experience. We think back to when we were young and how we felt when we had that crush on someone. How the whole world seemed different and exciting. Well, Turgenev managed to recapture those feelings we may have put aside. The story is about Vladimir Petrovichand he tells how he has fallen for Zinaida, the daughter of a Princess. He takes us along with him as he recalls his memories of what it was like when he first met her. And how he also was able to grow up and learn from this experience. I can't praise this book highly enough. A wonderful read!
Very good translation by Isaiah Berlin. If after reading this you want to read more by Turgenev try "A Month In The Country" and "Spring Torrents".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Short, Reaslistic, Powerful Feb. 27 2001
By mp
Turgenev's novella, "First Love" is a compact, but intense, fiction whose realism blends with its literary allusions, dream-like qualities, and point of view to create a work of undeniable power. This is a novella which questions the boundaries between life and art, asking us all the while where love resides in self, family, and society.
"First Love" begins in a style reminiscent of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Following a long dinner party, three men are in the middle of a calm conversation, when the unnamed host proposes that they all share the stories of their first loves. Two men's stories are quickly dismissed, leaving Vladimir Petrovich, a pensive middle aged man, who offers to give his story after having a chance to write it out. Vladimir's story concerns a summer when he was 16. Living in the country with a dissatisfied mother and an agonizingly Byronic father, Vladimir happens upon a dispossessed 21-year-old princess, Zinaida. From her shabby home, the beautiful and mysterious Zinaida commands a court of six men of varying ages and backgrounds - a poet, a doctor, a minor nobleman, a soldier, and Vladimir - each of whom is desperate to win her affection at any cost. For his own part, Vladimir attempts throughout the story to discover the roots of his own fascination with Zinaida.
Part of the appeal of "First Love" is its point of view. It is a true first person narrative - we only ever know Vladimir's experience - the effect is a realistic account of the infatuation, love, doubt, and inner turmoil of a young man told through the hindsight of age and experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chitaite kogda pianii! July 22 2000
I read this book one very, very cold winter's night in St.Petersburg, sitting at a sleazy 24-hour bar by the Gulf of Finland, where I was the only guest. I sat there drinking numerous beers, reading this novella - and was practically in tears by the time I had finished it. By then I'd gotten unreasonably buzzed, so I stumbled over to the barlady (who, needless to say, was called Natasha), and congratulated her on being Russian, for that meant that she'd been born in the same country where Turgenev wrote this lovely, tragic, wonderfully sentimental story. I felt stupid the next morning, but was still overwhelmed with the beauty of what I'd read. I am uncertain how much the setting I read this book in had to do with how much I liked it, and I wonder what it'd be like to read it now, sober, at home, but I suspect it of being pretty damn brilliant no matter where you read it. Well, maybe except if you're from California or something. At any rate - "First Love" rocks.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Russian Classic
This novel is a typical piece of Russian of literature. It is a classic, some see as grand as Anna Karenina.
Published on April 2 2010 by A. Bouchard
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tight Effort
Turgenev, a friend of Flaubert, makes a good effort at this slow moving eternity in the ephemeral type novel. Read more
Published on March 31 2004 by Neri
5.0 out of 5 stars Adolescent innocence.
An old man reflects on his most dearest love in his life: his first love at 16 for a girl of 21.
His love is not requited for a truly astounding reason. Read more
Published on May 17 2003 by Luc REYNAERT
5.0 out of 5 stars "During the past month, I had grown much older..."
Turgenev's brief novel, "First Love" is about growing older and lossing innocence. Vladimir, the central character who tells the story, makes a large memory excersice to remember,... Read more
Published on June 10 2002 by Moises I. Orozco
3.0 out of 5 stars too melancholic..but beautiful
Before reading this novel, I have expected something really bittersweet and warm from its title...however, was kinda depressed by its dark mood and the melancholic air covering the... Read more
Published on Dec 18 2001 by "springnight"
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitively written romantic tale
First Love is enjoyable, romantic, emotional, touching, and just a little bit twisted. It did not move me in any great intellectual way, but it was a compelling read, it did tug... Read more
Published on July 27 2000 by Yaumo Gaucho
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