Полное собраніе сочиненій: Романы, повѣсти и разсказы

Тип. Глазунова

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Тип. Глазунова
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Dec 31, 1883
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The novel “First Love” was Turgénieff’s favourite work, as he more than once confessed. What the author prized in this purely intimate but beautifully finished story was its fidelity to actuality; that is to say, he prized the personal recollections of early youth. In that respect this story has a prominent interest for readers, since it narrates—according to the testimony of the author—an actual fact in his life, and that without the slightest artificial colouring. To what degree Turgénieff’s testimony is credible, remarks one critic, is a question which can be rightly decided only by biographical documents. Famous writers are particularly inclined by nature to romantic coquetry with their own personalities—a characteristic which was, apparently, to some extent, inherent in Turgénieff, despite his renowned modesty. Famous writers are fond of leading their contemporaries—and still more posterity—astray with regard to the reflection of intimate details of their lives in their artistic works.... At any rate, Russian artistic productions, in which the authors have endeavoured to set forth biographical details, must be scrutinised with extreme cautiousness. The author, while imagining that he is thoroughly sincere, may involuntarily indulge in inventions concerning himself. But in its literary aspect this story indubitably is one of Turgénieff’s masterpieces, and in it the original character of its chief heroine, Princess Zinaída Zasyékin, is depicted with remarkable clearness and charm.... The artist threw off this light and elegant little intimate study by way of relaxation after “On the Eve,” a romance dealing with a broad social problem, and by way of preparation for a new work, still more serious in intention, “Fathers and Children.”

“First Love” does not contain any social types, does not deal with any social problems. It consists wholly, so to speak, of poetry. The young Princess is one of the author’s most poetical creations. Her character is depicted with marvellous grace and elegance in the little scenes which exert so great an influence over her sixteen-year-old admirer. In this young man’s father Turgénieff sketched his own father, who did not love his wife, and whose domestic relations were identical with those here described. His wife was considerably younger than he, and he had married her for her money, One curious detail concerns the Pole, Malévsky. This “dubious Count, swindler, and, in general, dirty little gentleman,” as one critic expresses it, “drawn with great artistic vivacity, and with unconcealed scorn, is a very typical figure; and such repulsive Poles were formerly encountered in great numbers in Holy Russia,—and are still to be met with. In this character are concentrated the unpleasant characteristics of the Polish national character: spiritual deceitfulness, double-facedness, insignificance, courtliness, and a tendency to revolting intrigue.”

In “A Correspondence” we again encounter one of Turgénieff’s favourite types, the superfluous man. But the author has taken a stride in advance with Alexyéi Petróvitch. In this case the superfluous man does not blame either the insipidity of life, or society, or people alone,—he blames himself. In Márya Alexándrovna’s friend and correspondent we behold a good and worthy man, cultured in both mind and heart,—but, like many others among Turgénieff’s heroes, suffering, so to speak, from a malady of the will. One critic declares that this story is almost identical, on its exterior, with “Rúdin.” One of the Russian representatives of “the loftiest aspirations” enters into correspondence with a young girl who, as people were fond of expressing it at that period, belonged among the “choice natures.” Disillusioned with life, she is ready to submit to the conditions which encompass her. Under the influence of an ill-defined impulse of affection and sympathy toward this young girl, the hero begins to inflate her sense of being an elect person, and to stir up her energy to contend with the humdrum circle in which she dwells. Just at the moment when he has awakened her courage and her hope that he will join her in this conflict, he stumbles and falls himself, in the most pusillanimous manner. His will is ailing.

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