Thursday , July 7 2022

Genius mass – Ivan Turgenev is wrong in the shadow of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky


If we are talking about the classics of Russian literature, the names of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov are always falling. Ivan Turgenev, whose birthday celebrates the 200th anniversary of November 9th, passes as well forgotten. His work is among the best produced by Russian literature.

Ulrich M. Schmid

Илья Репин:

Ilya Repin: "Portrait of the writer Ivan Turgenev", 1874, painting. (Photo: Tretakov Gallery)

In addition to melodramatic Dostoyevsky and epic Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) is today known as an elegant boredom – wrong. His work marks the culmination of Russian literature. His narrative style shone far beyond Russia, his psychological research became a model, the modernity of his late windows predicted symbolism.

In fact, Turgenev is in the shadow of his literary rivals for almost a hundred years. Especially in Western Europe, where his work was distributed in early translations, he encountered enthusiasm in literary criticism. The reviewer Dostoevsky was initially the author of the nerve sensation, Tolstoy was considered a moral zealot. Dmitry Mereskovsky briefly put the literary taste in praise of Turgenev as a "mass genius".

On the trail of the world spirit

Turgenev came from one of the richest noble families in Russia. First, he pursued his career as a professor of philosophy. With his roommate, anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, he heard from 1838 to 1841 lectures at the University of Berlin. Friends were particularly interested in Hegel's philosophy, discussed in Russia: Was everything consistent? Or has someone had to follow the world spirit of freedom and rebel against the existing conditions?

Both attitudes can be justified by Hegel. Such ambivalence was shared by the political paths of the two Russians: Bakunin entered a revolutionary crisis, Turgenev was a witness to the February Revolution in Paris in 1848, and soon retreated from bloodshed and general chaos. During that period, Turgenev wrote his name for himself as the "Hunter Record" author, in which he also raised heads of character from simple peasantry to literary heroes.

However, Turgenev was soon dissatisfied with this writing model, which followed the then dominant style of physiological sketch. His search for a new style of writing initially led to the sludge. His first novel "Two Generations" was burned down in 1853, after his literary critics criticized critically. However, Turgenev preserved successful fragments, published individually or included in later novels.

The literary success comes with the novel "Rudin" (1856), followed by a short story artistic crew, an ethnographic study of millions of "The Nobilites" (1859) and a time critical masterpiece "Fathers and Sons" (1861). At the time, Turgenev was the undisputed star of the Russian literary scene. Dostoyevsky was still in exile in Siberia, Tolstoy just got a literary debut. The only serious rival was Ivan Goncharov, who in his novel Oblomov (1859) tried to explain the Russian misery.

However, Goncharov could not continue with the high pace of Turgenev and he soon lagged behind. Although Turgenev was very much needed harmony and had a balancing character, he did not enter into lasting friendship with one of his fellow writers. With Dostoevsky he disbanded for a debt of fifty talents, which he lent him for gambling in Baden-Baden. Tolstoy challenged him to a duel after a dispute over the education of Turgen's biological daughter. Gonchar finally went so far as to accuse Turgenev of plagiarism, even even called the honor of the court, which undoubtedly freed the accused.

Politically hesitant

The deeper reason for these stupid disputes lies in Turgenev's inviolability to take the final position in the hot political talks. On the one hand, he sought the applause of revolutionary intellectuals, on the other hand, he defended the slow pace of scientific and cultural progress as a liberal. Through this intermediary position he came between all the fronts. He often accused him of being in Germany and France for many years.

The legendary proximity of the married opera singer Pauline Viardot. In Baden-Baden and Bougival Turgenev lives near the Viardot couple in Paris, an unusual trio took up two apartments in the same house, which even connected Horschacht. Louis Viardot was kind to Turgenev and edited French interlinear translations of his works. However, one should not imagine alien passion too idyllic. He admitted in a letter that he was happy only when Polina Viardot put a fifth on the back of the door and pressed his nose on the road.

Turgenev's new edition

U.S. SM. · On the 200th birthday of Turgenev, some of his most important works were reissued in new translations. Ganna-Maria Braungardt even adds a letter of translator to the author in a very modern version of "Fathers and Sons," seeking leniency for some freedoms. During his lifetime, Turgenev paid great attention to correct the translation of his works. Already in 1869, in Germany, the author's authorial translation of Angela Pankov, entitled "Otts and Sons", which is often used today, appeared. Strictly speaking, the title should be "fathers and children", but then the wrong impression emerges that the novel deals with educational problems, not with a generation conflict.

"Das Adelsgut" was also written by Christiane Pohlmann again. Mikhail Shishkin contributed to a clear epilogue on this subject. Emphasizes Turgenev's latest narrative, a piece written in French about fire on board. Turgenev admits in this autobiographical text, because he moved a little heroic by the women and children to the rescue boat. This is the leitmotif of his novels called: A chronic hero takes a flight when he becomes serious. The threat may be different: marriage against the will of the parents, commitment to the political order, the rebellion against social injustice – the protagonists of Turgenev are always avoiding the imposition of life by giving up.

In the end, Turgenev's footage of the hunter is finally committed to due respect and is reflected in Vera Bischitzki's dictatorial dictation as the precursor of extraordinary late poetry in prose.

From 1862 to 1871, Turgenev lived in Baden-Baden. The city spa library now devotes itself to a large exhibition to its well-known citizens, and a comprehensive catalog with the original contribution of Turgenev's work appeared.

Ursula Keller and Natalya Sarandak investigate a fictional book "an extraordinary arrangement" between Turgenev and Viardot's family – his loving focus on the magnificent gypsy Pauline Viardot did not make him a supporter, but a husband of a husband. After all, the admiration of two men for an extraordinary woman was a constant source of inspiration.

The best guide to reading Turgenev comes from Heidelberg Slavist Horst-Jurgen Gerigk, who not only represents a valid interpretation of the main works, but also searches for the most important reception lines in French, German and English literature.

Ivan Turgenev: Fathers and sons. Roman. Published and translated from the Russian side by Ganna-Maria Braungardt. DTV, Munich 2017. 336 pages., Fr. 36.90.

Ivan Turgenev: nobility. Roman. Translated from Russian bi Christiane Pohlmann. After the words of Mikhail Shishkin. Manesse-Verlag, Munich, 2018. 384 p., Fr. 27.90.

Ivan Turgenev: Record hunter. Edited and translated by Vera Bischitzki. Hanser-Verlag, Munich 2018. 640 p., Fr. 45.90.

Elisabeth Cheaure, Regina Noheyl, Olga Gorfinkel (ed.): Russia in Europe. Europe in Russia. 200 years old Ivan Turgenev. Stadtbibliothek Baden-Baden 2018. 244 p., € 25.-.

Ursula Keller, Natalya Sarandak: Ivan Turgenev and Pauline Viardot. Excellent love. Insel-Verlag, Berlin 2018. 278 p., Fr. 39.90.

Horst-Jurgen Gerigk: Turgenev. Introduction to the readers today. C. Winter, Heidelberg 2015 288 pp., Fr. 35.90.

Turgenev is perfectly connected with the intellectual glow of his time. He regularly met in Paris with Gustave Flaubert, Alphonse Daudet, Edmons Gonkort and Emile Zola. With Bettina von Arnhem, Paul Heise and Theodor Storm led a correspondence in German. Because of this cultural flexibility, he blamed Russia for the obvious accusation that he did not know what he was writing when he commented on the political situation in Russia. Dostoyevsky persistently advised him to buy a telescope. Maybe it was just a pure envy in the game. Turgenev became a fellow in Western European literature. His judgment decided which Russian works were translated.

The art of finding herself

Turgenev is one of the rare authors of the world class who have repeatedly managed to find again in his literary career. His extraordinary late work does not show the traces of the epigone, but holds radical artistic innovations ready. Turgenev described the shocking decapitation of a criminal with guillotine in his prose work "Performing the Tropman" (1870) with a photographic look. In doing so, he refrains from any moral or emotional sympathy and thus achieves a maximally enhanced literary effect.

In late novels, which often create supernatural phenomena, the figure of consciousness and caricature overlap. In this way, Turgenev blurs the boundaries between social reality and individual fantasy. In doing so, he paves the way for the radical subjectivization of narrative prose in Russian modernism. After 1877, Turgenev wrote a series of poems from prose. He introduced a new genre in the Russian literary system, which Charles Baudelaire recently became famous in France. One of Turgenev's latest prose poems in "great, powerful, truthful and free Russian language" even became a homelike word: "I can not believe that such a language was given to a great character." Of course, there is a bitter irony of Destiny in the fact that this quotation is often misused by nationalists who are far from the liberal attitudes of Turgenev.

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