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Ivan Turgenev in 1879
November 9, 1818|
Oryol, Russian Empire
September 3, 1883 (aged 64)|
|Occupation||Novelist and Playwright|
|Notable work(s)||Fathers and Sons|
Turgenev was born into a rich land-owning family in Oryol, Russia, on 9 November 1818. His father died when Turgenev was sixteen. He and his brother Nicholas were brought up by their mother. She did not treat them well.
Turgenev went to the University of Moscow for one year and then moved to the University of Saint Petersburg, where he studied Classics and Russian Literature. In 1838 he went to the University of Berlin to study Philosophy and History. Turgenev liked Germany and thought Russia should change their social system to be more like Germany’s.
The 1840s and 1850s were hard times for writers and artists in Russia. The political system did not allow them to express themselves as they wanted to. Many intelligent Russians left the country and went to England, France and Germany. In 1852 Turgenev himself was put in prison for a month for praising Nikolai Gogol – a famous Russian writer who had been criticised by the ruling powers in the country. In 1854, Turgenev moved to Western Europe and started writing his novel Rudin, which complained about the Russia of the 1840s and 1850s.
The political system in Russia changed in 1855 when Alexander II took over power from his father Nicholas I. Writers and artists had more freedom from this time. In 1860 one of Turgenev’s most famous novels, First Love, was published.
In 1862, Fathers and Sons, Turgenev’s most famous novel, appeared. Many people did not like the novel which upset Turgenev and he began to write less.
Smoke was published in 1867, but again was not popular in Russia.
In 1879, he received an honorary degree from the University of Oxford in England.
In later life, Turgenev did not live in Russia much. He lived either at Baden-Baden or Paris, often near the singer Pauline Viardot, who he was having an affair with. He never married, but he did have a daughter with one of his family’s servants.
Turgenev died near Paris on 3 September 1883. On his deathbed he told Leo Tolstoy to start writing again.
Turgenev had an awkward relationship with two other famous Russian writers – Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky criticised Turgenev for liking Western Europe and its literature more than Russian literature. Turgenev was also close to the French writer Gustave Flaubert.
- 1857 - Rudin (Рудин), English translation: Rudin
- 1859 - Dvoryanskoye Gnezdo (Дворянское гнездо), English translation: A Nest of Gentlefolk
- 1860 - Nakanune (Накануне), English translation: On the Eve
- 1862 - Otzy i Deti (Отцы и дети); English translation: Fathers and Sons
- 1867 - Dym (Дым); English translation: Smoke
- 1877 - Nov (Новь); English translation: Virgin Soil