The Borzoi

The Borzoi

The Borzoi

The Borzoi

Excerpt

In his student years Turgenev, who was slow in discovering his true medium, broke into print with some verse. Then he tried his hand at writing for the stage. Although he made at least one permanent contribution to the Russian repertory with A Month in the Country, his interest in drama did not persist. He grew to dislike his plays and he kept his poems out of his collected works: a poem, like an oyster, was worthless, he said, if it was less than perfect. The allegories, fantasies, and lyrical pieces that make up the work of his old age, Poems in Prose, are examples of a hybrid genre lacking both the form and the substance of poetry.

In his late twenties he published several romantic stories, which passed unnoticed. His work began to attract attention only when he started publishing serially, under the general title A Hunter's Notes, better known as A Sportsman's Sketches, short pieces ranging from sketches with a factual slant to more formal stories. They are held together by the device of presenting them as accounts of the narrator's experiences during his excursions in pursuit of game. Turgenev wrote many of them abroad, where he had gone to be close to Pauline Viardot, the prima donna with whom, on her first visit to Russia, he had fallen desperately and permanently in love. His great reputation dates from the publication of the Sketches in book form in 1852, when he was a man of thirty-four.

The work owed its great initial success in part to the fact that it was taken as an attack on serfdom, the abolition of which was then a burning issue. It is hardly an abolitionist tract, however. Turgenev abominated serfdom, but he was not a crusader by temperament and could no more engage in propaganda than he could walk on his head. In half the pieces the dangerous subject is not touched upon at all. It may be noted that when the book was in the writing the author inherited from that domineering dowager, his mother, fifteen thousand acres and two thousand male "souls," and that un-

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