The latter half of the nineteenth century was a time of turmoil in Russian politics and society. As modernization and industrialization took place, the new generation challenged traditional society. Against this backdrop Turgenev presents a generational conflict through a cast of richly crafted characters and delicate prose. The narrator does not give his characters assertive voices, but portrays them thoughtfully, especially the extraordinary protagonist, Bazarov. Little is needed to convey the chilling intellect and compassionate heart of this complex character. This novel about life and relationships will evoke a thoughtful mood in the listener.
When Ivan Turgenev first published this novel in 1862, the populace of his native Russia was so enraged by the character of Bazarov that Turgenev was forced to flee the country for France. However, critics have praised the novel for its subtle irony and richly crafted characters.
(P)1994 by Recorded Books, Inc.; Cover art by Tinam Valk; ©1994 Recorded Books, Inc.
"The deep purpose pervading Fathers and Sons is to show us life itself." (Henry James)
Fathers and Sons has been hailed as a masterpiece of Russian literature, but I knew nothing about it before picking it up. I was certainly impressed.
The book centers around Yevgeny Bazarov, a young radical who embraces the idea of nihilism. Bazarov rejects the old conventions of the past (religion, aristocracism, liberalism, essentially all “-isms”) and believes that life is meaningless. During his travels with his friend, Arkady Kirsanov, he discusses and argues his beliefs with both parents and other characters. Despite his insistence that nothing in life has any meaning, Bazarov is a caring, loving man.
What happens in the plot is of little importance compared to the progression of Bazarov and his beliefs over the course of the novel. The novel’s ending comes suddenly, but is not surprising.
What is more crucial to the novel’s success is the way it captures the essence of people’s relationships and feelings through Turganev’s recounting of events. One always can tell where people stand in their opinions of each other simply by their basic actions.
I was fascinated that in Bazarov,I could see feelings about tzars and social class in general which was reminiscent of the impending Soviet Communist Revolution. I also saw overtones of modern existentialism in a 19th century novel.
George Guidall does a wonderful job, and is easy to follow. Like many Russian novels, however, Fathers and Sons can be somewhat wordy and complex. I am not sure if the English translations are to blame or if the style of Russian writing is simply not what Americans are used to. Nonetheless, Fathers and Sons is a classic and should not be missed.
The plot revolves like a mobile around balances of characters, events, settings, and relationships. No matter how many times you go back to this book you always discover some new balance point, or counterpoint.
Turgenev's masterpiece is particularly good for audio since it develops through scenes of dialogue between characters, like the good dramatist he was, and often lyrical descriptions of the setting.
Guidall's narration is admirable. He captures the characters' attitudes and the narrator's tones without overacting, or oversimplifying for the reader. This is the best audio version of the book I've found.
Learned something new.
Keep a list of the character name summaries by your side. Russian names are definitely more difficult to keep track. It becomes easier as you go.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.” (George R. R. Martin)
Probably. It was a good listen and an important novel but I would probably wait at least ten years to revisit it.
I think it could be comparable to works his contemporaries.
I'm not sure. He did a good job overall but I'm not sure what I would say about the performance that I liked best.
No, not really.
I had always heard the name Ivan Turgenev as being mentioned amongst the top Russian novelists of the 19th century but I never got around to reading or listening to any of his works till now. ‘Fathers and Sons’ is generally considered his best novel and having George Guidall narrate only makes the experience that much better. Believing that this would be a complex novel I was happily surprised to find out how clearly Turgenev was able to show the divide between the new and old order of Russia.
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