First Love Paperback – Dec 14 1978
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About the Author
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born in 1818 in the Province of Orel, and suffered during his childhood from a tyrannical mother. After the family had moved to Moscow in 1827 he entered Petersburg University where he studied philosophy. When he was nineteen he published his first poems and, convinced that Europe contained the source of real knowledge, went to the University of Berlin. After two years he returned to Russia and took his degree at the University of Moscow. In 1843 he fell in love with Pauline Garcia-Viardot, a young Spanish singer, who influenced the rest of his life; he followed her on her singing tours in Europe and spent long periods in the French house of herself and her husband, both of whom accepted him as a family friend. He sent his daughter by a sempstress to be brought up among the Viardot children. After 1856 he lived mostly abroad, and he became the first Russian writer to gain a wide reputation in Europe; he was a well-known figure in Parisian literary circles, where his friends included Flaubert and the Goncourt brothers, and an honorary degree was conferred on him at Oxford. His series of six novels reflect a period of Russian life from 1830s to the 1870s: they are Rudin (1855), A House of Gentlefolk (1858), On the Eve (1859; a Penguin Classic), Fathers and Sons (1861), Smoke (1867) and Virgin Soil (1876). He also wrote plays, which include the comedy A Month in the Country; short stories and Sketches from a Hunter’s Album (a Penguin Classic); and literary essays and memoirs. He died in Paris in 1883 after being ill for a year, and was buried in Russia.
Isaiah Berlin, O.M., C.B.E., first President of Wolfson College, Oxford, from 1966 to 1975, is a Fellow of All Souls. He was a Fellow of New College from 1938 to 1950 and Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford from 1957 to 1967. He served as President of the British Academy of Arts and Letters. He holds honorary degrees from the universities of Brandies, Cambridge, Columbia, East Anglia, Glasgow, Harvard, Hull, Jerusalem, Liverpool, London and Tel Aviv. Sir Isaiah's work covers a wide variety of subjects, but most of his work has appeared in periodicals and symposia. Russian Thinkers is the first of four volumes edited by Henry Hardy which bring together for the first time all of Isaiah Berlin's major essays (excluding those already published in Four Essays on Liberty and Vico and Herder). Isaiah Berlin's other contributions to Russian studies include his translation of Ivan Turgenev's First Love (available from Penguin) and his Introduction to Alexander Herzen's memoirs, My Past and Thoughts. Sir Isaiah was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 1979 for the expression in his writings of the idea of the freedom of the individual in society.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
"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.Read more ›
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".
Most recent customer reviews
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
Turgenev, a friend of Flaubert, makes a good effort at this slow moving eternity in the ephemeral type novel. Read morePublished on March 31 2004 by Neri
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
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 morePublished on June 10 2002 by Moises I. Orozco
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 morePublished on Dec 18 2001
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