Book Review | Fathers and Sons by Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev

Updated: Jun 27

Birth: November 9, 1818, Oryol, Russia

Death: September 3, 1883, Bougival, France


Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev - 1862

Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev was born on October 28, 1818, in the city of Orel. He received her first literary education at home from her mother who was fond of literature, and thanks to this he entered Moscow University at the age of 15.


Turgenev, who is clear that he will be a great name in the future from his success in childhood, wrote books that had made his name known throughout the world, such as "The Hunting Sketches", "Fathers and Sons", "Asia", "A Nest of Gentlefolk", "On the Eve"...



I attempted "Fathers and Sons" by Ivan Turgenev as I wanted to try out another 19th century Russian author. I didn't know what I missing! Each of the characters, including the minor ones, are brightly and vividly painted so that you feel intimately familiar with them. Every line of dialogue, every small gesture they make that seems unimportant, every detail, contributes to your understanding of them.


Ivan Turgenev is not judgemental; he draws his characters as "objectively" as possible, and doesn't try to convince the reader of what to think or feel about them. Even Bazarov, who is clearly disgusting, is sympathetic; we can identify with him, so we can't criticize him too harshly. It's hard to do.


Ivan Turgenev is even less judgemental than Checkhov, who famously declined to interject his own opinions into his books. Nonetheless, Chekhov's compassion shines through. He abstains even from mercy.


The ethic of the story seems to be that idealism ultimately succumbs to love, and although we may want to change the world, the world may not want to change. Ivan Turgenev manages to stuff an enormous amount of subject matter, plot, and family portraits into this short novel. As for the Fathers and Sons as mentioned in the title, the fathers come across as affectionate and defenseless, beaten down by time and circumstance; the sons are idealistic and cold-blooded until love whacks them on the head, for better or worse.


This was also the first novel to introduce the more modern definition of a nihilist, a skeptic who believes in nothing until science proves it. The character type clearly had a powerful influence on other Russian writers, including Dostoevsky, who included nihilists in a number of his novels. In the future, especially aspiring writers can learn a lot from this novel.



“Every man hangs by a thread, any minute the abyss may open under his feet, and yet he must go and invent for himself all kinds of troubles and spoil his life.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“What a magnificent body, how I should like to see it on the dissecting table.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“Whereas I think: I’m lying here in a haystack... The tiny space I occupy is so infinitesimal in comparison with the rest of space, which I don’t occupy and which has no relation to me. And the period of time in which I’m fated to live is so insignificant beside the eternity in which I haven’t existed and won’t exist... And yet in this atom, this mathematical point, blood is circulating, a brain is working, desiring something... What chaos! What a farce!” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“As we all know, time sometimes flies like a bird, and sometimes crawls like a worm, but people may be unusually happy when they do not even notice whether time has passed quickly or slowly” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“I don't see why it's impossible to express everything that's on one's mind.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

“We sit in the mud, my friend, and reach for the stars.”

“Behind me there are already so many memories... Lots of memories, but no point in remembering them, and ahead of me a long, long road with nothing to aim for... I just don't want to go along it.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“I look up to heaven only when I want to sneeze.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“So many memories and so little worth remembering, and in front of me — a long, long road without a goal...” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“…Many things interested her, and nothing satisfied her entirely.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“It's all romanticism, nonsense, rottenness, art.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

“Death's an old story, but new for each person.”

“A withered maple leaf has left its branch and is falling to the ground; its movements resemble those of a butterfly in flight. Isn't it strange? The saddest and deadest of things is yet so like the gayest and most vital of creatures?” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“It was only the vulgarly mediocre that repelled her.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“The fact is that previously they were simply dunces and now they've suddenly become nihilists.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“What's important is that twice two is four and all the rest's nonsense.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
“You are an old pig!'one of them said to the other. And that is worse than being a young one.” /Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

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