Fathers and Sons, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


Turgenev's masterpiece about the conflict between generations is as fresh, outspoken, and exciting today as it was in when it was first published in 1862.

The controversial portrait of Bazarov, the energetic, cynical, and self-assured 'nihilist' who repudiates the romanticism of his elders, shook Russian society.

Indeed the image of humanity liberated by science from age-old conformities and prejudices is one that can threaten establishments of any political or religious persuasion, and is especially potent in the modern era.

This new translation, specially commissioned for the World's Classics, is the first to draw on Turgenev's working manuscript, which only came to light in 1988.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe.

Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780199536047

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

"Of course, you cannot understand me: we belong to two different generations"It is expected that each new generation will challenge the ideas and the ideals of the generation they succeed - it is, in theory, how society evolves. Ivan Turgenev used Fathers and Sons as a means of exploring generational differences, which proved to be a great source of controversy when the novel was first published in 1862 - it read as an attack on the traditional values of contemporary Russian society. Which it almost certainly was, but its importance has persevered because the theme never grows old - Turgenev offers a timeless message, suggesting that it is the natural function of society to aspire towards progression, and that such a thing requires change inspired by new ways of thinking.The character who dominates the novel, Yevgeny Vassilyich Bazarov, certainly fits into that template. Proclaiming himself a nihilist, he casts his shadow over proceedings, offering his anti-philosophies at regular intervals, and by his very nature represents challenge, announcing this fact when stating that "in these days the most useful thing we can do is repudiate - and so we repudiate." This 'question everything' mentality is the central theme of the narrative, and whilst his brusque exterior can be extremely trying at times, there is an undoubted intelligence behind each of his proclamations. Bazarov is of the opinion that "all men are similar, in soul as well as in body," an overwhelmingly negative mindset that cuts to the heart of his nihilism - if you can't believe in human beings and their individuality, why believe in anything?Arkady Petrovich is his friend and disciple, a man so taken with Bazarov that he mimics him as best as he is able, whilst not quite able to take the principles of nihilism fully to heart, leading to various faux pas on his part that make him appear to be something of a simpleton. Trust Bazarov to best summarise Arkady when telling him "you're a soft-hearted mawkish individual...you're timid, you've no confidence in yourself." The pair spend the duration of Fathers and Sons together, and their relationship could almost be described as familial, were there anything of the paternal about Bazarov. Arkady looks up to Bazarov, who responds to such devotion in the dismissive manner with which he treats everything he encounters.Bazarov's opinionated nature extends to Arkady's father, Nikolai Petrovich, whom he describes as "a good man, but he's old-fashioned, he's had his day." Which is typically blunt, but not particularly unfair. After all, Nikolai is something of a nostalgist, which is indicative of the backwards-looking nature that younger generations typically rally against. At the same time, though, he is desperate to cling on to some semblance of his youth, in order that he might remain close to Arkady - and that he wants to be a friend as much of a father is somewhat troubling in itself - and to this end, he has taken up with a young girl named Fenichka, as though her youth and her innocence might rub off on him. Yet we care about him all the same, because his affection towards his son is genuinely touching, as is his exasperation upon realising how much his son has changed."Why should we talk of love?"The novel takes an interesting diversion from these issues during the middle section, presenting a Midsummer Night's Dream-esque sequence of romantic attachments badly in need of correction by a Puck figure: Madame Anna Odinstov manages to capture the heart of both Bazarov and Arkady; Arkady would be better served investing his feelings in Katya, Anna's younger sister, who clearly carries a torch for him; and Anna feels nothing for Arkady but is clearly drawn to Bazarov. Away from the realms of Shakespearean fantasy, it is unsurprising that this passage doesn't provide an entirely happy ending, but it does have some fantastic exchanges between Anna and Bazarov who, despite his best efforts, cannot help but fall for her, declaring with a passion bordering on obsession "that I love you idiotically, madly." We soften to him a little at this point, because we see the humanity that lies beneath the exterior self he projects - he is clearly not immune to the power of love, and becomes more relatable for exactly those reasons. Later, he reveals to Fenichka the weight of his loneliness: "if only I could find someone to take pity on me." At this point, it becomes obvious that the self-confidence he seems to exude is at least partially a facade. But then when we see his interactions with his family, our attitude shifts again - he comes across very badly, meeting their delight at seeing him for the first time in three years with his trademark condescension, in the process appearing to be a man without sentiment, especially when dismissing them on the grounds that he has nothing much to say to them. "Aristocratism, liberalism, progress, principles - think of it, what a lot of foreign and useless words! To a Russian they're not worth a straw"Turgenev had an axe to grind with the Russian ruling classes - and indeed anyone in a position of authority - and uses parts of the novel to do so, finding humour in the ridiculous contradictions and hypocrisy inherent within the system. Consequently, a governor is described as "a man who, as is often the case in Russia, was at once progressive and despotic;" a superintendent of the Provincial Treasury, meanwhile, coins the phrase "every wee busy bee takes a wee bribe from every wee flower" as a quaint way of justifying his corruption. It's moments like these that give credence to Bazarov's declaration that "we should not accept any species of authority."Despite the message contained within the text, it never really feels like you're being lectured at, which is always a danger. Turgenev puts his point across by crafting characters who are both complex and believable, and creating an engaging narrative, meaning that the point of the novel is taken on board without any risk of the reader resenting its insistence. The ending stays true to that which preceded it, and is touched with a sense of melancholy even though the plots resolve themselves in the expected manner. For Arkady, there is contentment to be found in his acceptance that he isn't a nihilist after all; he is much more cut in the mould of his father. For Bazarov, there is the only fate a man of his nature could possibly expect. The character stands out as one of the greatest literary creations of the nineteenth century, a man whose presence illuminates every page he appears on.

Review by

It is easy to see why this novel is considered a masterpiece of Russian literature. Written in the mid-19th century, it deals with intergenerational conflict (i read somewhere that originally, the title was something like "Parents and Children"), with each major character personifying types found in Russian society - the older generation who come from the fading world of the nobility but at the same time attempting to be liberal in their views, and those of the younger generation who advocate nihilism and free thought. The protagonist, an intelligent young doctor, Barazov, represents youth, strength, new ways and ideas, but with very little awareness of his own naïveté and hypocrisy. He is arrogant of any manifestation of "weakness" such as the finer emotions, and when he falls deeply in love with a woman, who was his equal in strength of will and ideas, he goes through an intense struggle with himself. The other characters in the novel provide a brilliant counterpoint to the personality of Barazov, and the exchange between and among them in a subtly woven plot underlies the the slowly changing political and social landscape of the country, signaling a restlessness that characterize periods of transition or upheaval. This book has all the elements I look for in a work of fiction, which means I liked it immensely. It is intense but not tedious, written with economy without being terse, lyrical without romanticizing, and revolve around themes that appeal to both intellect and heart.

Review by

Easy and pleasant to read, but hardly a "masterpiece". There is a structure and a kind of plot, but no sense of purpose. Characters just drift without a convincing explanation as to their motives, if they have any. You get the impression that Turgenev first thought up Bazarov the "nihilist" - actually a depressed cynic who can't stand his own emotions - then sketched some feeble storyline to justify his existence in the novel. The book is not without qualities, however. The other characters, particularly the elderly, are finely sketched and there are some scenes which are very moving. There is tension here and there, but no development into something grand. "Torrents of Spring", by the same author, has a clear direction and is more fun.

Review by

I'm surprised this book was so controversial when it was published, as it's largely a standard Russian novel- the focus on the lower nobility, attending balls, falling in love, fighting duels, unreturned affection, marriages, and a glimpse of the stunted lives and intellect of the peasants. Lermontov satirizes this type of novel long before Turgenev put pen to paper. The only notable divergence from the paint-by-numbers plot is the addition of Bazarov, a medical student who is a self-proclaimed nihilist, who denies all rules and traditions. According to his notes for the novel Turgenev wanted Bazarov to be "like a comet" (as Freeborn translates it), knocking everyone out of there rut. At this Turgenev fails; Bazarov comes off as less a comet than a contrarian, disagreeing with his elders and society more for the sake of disagreement itself than because of any true belief in the pointlessness of life. <br/><br/>The writing is largely functional, but there are a few places where the writing is noticeably bad. The arguments Turgenev writes out between Bazarov and Pavel are confusing, with characters giving responses that make little sense given the previous comment, and in general the segments where this occurs have no flow and feel stilted. Perhaps at the time this novel was written the characters conformed to easily defined types, allowing readers to fill in the leaps in dialogue in a satisfactory way, but that is no longer the case. There is also a line in the book that leads readers to believe a character has died when in fact that is not the case. I checked both the Garnett and the Freeborn translation and this is clearly a flaw in the original text, not in the translation. <br/><br/>There's a reason Turgenev exists today in the shadow of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Read Fathers and Sons if you want to experience more Russian literature, but don't expect it to reach the heights of the masterpieces in the genre.

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