On Reading Turgenev: Turgenev’s Smoke and V. S. Pritchett’s The Gentle Barbarian

Since New Year’s Day, I’ve been been absorbed in Turgenev’s books: Diary of a Superfluous Man, Rudin, Home of the Gentry, On the Eve, Smoke, and some of the longer stories. I recently finished Mumu, the very sad story of a deaf-mute peasant and his loyal dog, and then depressed everyone by retelling it. Why […]

Russian Lit Night: Turgenev’s Home of the Gentry & Dostoevsky’s The Gambler

I am entranced by nineteenth-century Russian literature.  It is not just for entertainment:  it is the pleasure of tracing the development of  Russian fiction from Pushkin to Chekhov. Pushkin, the “father of Russian literature,” developed literary Russian when French was the preferred language and aristocrats seldom wrote in Russian. He is best known for Eugene […]

A Turgenev Roundup: Rudin, On the Eve, & Robert Dessaix’s Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev

I spent the first week of January rereading Turgenev.  It has been freezing cold here, down to zero at night.   Except for a  jaunt to the stunning musical, La La Land, choreographed by Mandy Moore of Dancing with the Stars, I have toughed out the cold under blankets with tea and books. I finished […]

Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons

“My God!  What a magnificent thing Fathers and Sons is! It simply makes you desperate.”–Chekhov  in a letter to A. S. Suvorin in 1893. I have just read Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons for the fifth time. It is a masterpiece in any translation. I especially admire the graceful translation of Constance Garnett, who introduced the […]

A Russian Literature Binge: Turgenev’s On the Eve & Chekhov’s The Collected Stories, Vol. 1

Folio Society books are expensive, but they can help one recommit to the classics.  After acquiring lovely editions of Turgenev’s On the Eve and a four-volume set of Chekhov’s short stories, I spent a happy summer indulging my enthusiasm for 19th-century Russian literature. Turgenev is not spoken of with the same breathlessness as Tolstoy and […]

Turgenev’s Rudin

Turgenev is one of my favorite writers. Thanks to the late Harry Weber, a professor of Russian at the University of Iowa, for introducing me to Turgenev in his Russian literature in translation class. Nowadays, with language departments and liberal arts  under attack by proponents of the bottom line, I realize how lucky I was […]

The Rise of the Bibliomemoir: Readers Love to Read About Reading

In the 1990s, we saw the rise of the memoir.  “Couldn’t you add a couple of paragraphs about how memoirs glut the market?” an editor asked. “But what’s the evidence?” There may have been evidence, but I hadn’t found it. Nobody had any numbers. They just had feelings that memoirists were whiners.  If I had […]