Rudin; On the Eve

Rudin; On the Eve

Rudin; On the Eve

Rudin; On the Eve

Synopsis

In Rudin (1855) and On The Eve (1859), Turgenev portrays through tales of passionate, problematic love the conflicts of cultural loyalty and national identity at the heart of nineteenth century Russia. Both novels reflect Turgenev's concern with the failings of Russia's educated class, the only class he believed was capable of building a civilized and humane Russia based on the principles of European enlightenment. The only joint edition available, this fluent translation does full justice to Turgenev's delicate and emotional style.

Excerpt

In May 1850, having reached his early thirties, Turgenev faced the necessity of returning from France to Russia--for financial reasons. Having sent his Diary of a Superfluous Man to the journal Notes of the Fatherland and his play The Student (which was later to become A Month in the Country) to the eminent poet and critic Nekrasov at the Contemporary journal, he had received payments that were insufficient to cover his considerable debts. An appeal to the editor of the journal Notes of the Fatherland, Krayevsky, yielded only 200 roubles. At first, the idea of returning to Russia to seek help from his wealthy mother filled Turgenev with reluctance and foreboding. To his friend and mistress Pauline Viardot he wrote, in French, from Courtavenel, where he was staying during the singer's absence in London: 'Russia will wait; that immense, dark face, immobile and veiled, like the sphinx of Oedipus. She will swallow me later, I seem to see her heavy, inert gaze fix itself on me with gloomy attention, as befits eyes of stone. Rest easy, sphinx; I shall return to you, and you will be able to devour me at your leisure if I do not guess the riddle! Leave me in peace a little longer! I will return to your steppes!'

Given the biographical context of these words, the characterization of Russia as an enigmatic sphinx, a dark and brooding 'face' that was about to swallow the writer up, seems partly inspired by Turgenev's complex and tormented relationship with his mother, who made herself the source of his deep emotional ambiguity in matters of dependence, allegiance, and 'belonging'. Indeed, the writer's lifelong ambivalence towards Russia, his 'love-hate' relationship with it, can in many respects be traced in parallel with the divided nature of his own personal sense of himself as a son, stranded between the near-indifference of an emotionally cold and absent father, and the attentions of a possessive, sadistic mother.

Now, however, news suddenly came that the writer's mother, Varvara Petrovna, was seriously ill. She had sent him 6,000 roubles, and asked that he come to Russia at once. From Turgenev's point of view, and from that of his brother, Nikolai, the situation now appeared substantially altered. Finding Varvara Petrovna to some extent recovered, and delighted to have both her sons close at hand, they seized the . . .

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