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Intelligent & Well-Written Yet Flawed
on August 1, 2003
"Fathers and Sons" might be Turgenev's most referred to piece of work. And it is an intelligent and well-written piece of literature, but there were a few things about the book I didn't like. Now naturally who am I to criticize the work of Turgenev. To me one of the greatest Russian authors.
Before I read this book I thought it was about the generation gap between a father and son. Demonstrating the changes which evolve generation after generation. How the young challenge the social conventions of the times. And that is a theme that is played in the book. But, here's comes one of the faults I have with the book. While reading the beginning pages I began to notice who the book starts to revolve around. Mostly the characters Bazarov and Arkady. And the older characters namely Arkady's father Nikolai and his uncle Pavel are not used enough. And this creates a conflict. Throughout the book we read about the younger generations view of life. But we don't get to read about the older characters views enough. There can't be much of a conflict if we don't get to hear both sides. We mostly hear Bazarov's views but he is rarely "challenged" to defend them. One of the best chapters in the book has Bazarov and Arkady arguing with Nikolai and Pavel about where society is now and where it was.
Another problem I had with the book deals with the characters Anna Sergeyevna and her sister Katya. At first both Bazarov and Arkady are both taken by Anna. But we come to know very little about her. We only see her through the eyes of both men. And since they are both in love with her it seems a very lovely portrait is made of her. But, is she really the person they both think she is? We are not given a strong back ground story about her past. The only thing concerning her past that is mentioned is her first marriage. Some detail is given about her father but nothing about her childhood. The same thing happens with Katya. And never once does Turgenev try to put us in both of these women shoes to see what they think of the men. That would of been interesting to know.
And finally I didn't like the way the book ends. By telling us exactly what happens to each character. I thought it was too neat. He was trying too hard to carefully wrap everything up with a bow on top. I would of preferred some mystery. It gives the reader something to think about.
I suppose many might feel I'm nit-picking. But, if it does seem that way it's only because over-all I did enjoy the book and became involved so naturally I would of liked to know more about some of the characters. And naturally I would of liked to read more about other characters.
Turgenev does give the novel a certin poetic feel. Many chapters are touching and heartfelt. I enjoyed the chapter where Nikolai thinks about his first wife. It is so vividly described. It's full of emotion. Another chapter deals with Bazarov visiting his parents and then suddenly leaving. The parents are heartbroken and so are we.
Though for all the touching moments in the book there was one chapter I found quite funny. It deals with Pavel challenging Bazarov to a duel. Pavel informs Bazarov that he "detest" him. They then start to discuss the formalities. Pavel suggest that they fight at six in the morning with pistols at a distance of ten paces. Bazarov says "At ten paces? That will do; we can detest one another at that distance." Later Bazarov starts to get a bit nervous and declares "I risk having my brains blown out." I could almost picture Woody Allen saying these lines with his stammer. It reminded me of his movie "Love and Death".
"Fathers and Sons" is an enjoyable read. It has it's rewarding moments. And I do recommend it to all Turgenev fans and those who love Russian literature. Though I admit I do perfer his novel "First Love" and his play "A Month In The Country".
*** 1\2 out of *****
Bottom-line: Poetic well-written piece of work by Turgenev. Has many touching moments are does create a nice mood throughout. Flawed but interesting.