Strikes me that the novelists of bygone days could say so much without saying very much. We often speak of ‘reading between the lines’ in a modern context – but far too often there is no subtlety in much of what is written.
The account of the two friends, Arkady and Bazarov, of their relationships with their own fathers and of their individual romances (one successful, one failed) makes for a great book. Arkady seems to be in awe of his friend Bazarov (the nihilist) and yet, when Bazarov oversteps the mark, we see Arkady’s great respect for his father. We even have the subplot of Arkady’s father (a widower), his new love (Fenichka) and the interference by his father’s brother (Pavel). The ‘pistols at dawn’ is almost comical.
The backdrop to the novel is mid 19th Century Russia and ‘peasants’ beginning to asset their rights – posing lots of challenges for the landed gentry. Bazarov, the nihilist, seems equally critical of all social forms. Nikolai Petrovich, Arkady’s father, is wrestling with the changes on a day to day basis.
Fate in unkind to Bazarov. His mother worships the ground upon which he walks, his father not much less. His friendship with Anna Sergeevna Odintsova reamins just that – although he would have it differently. He removes homself from the company of Arkady’s family – as a logical consequence of his falling out with Pavel. And finally he succumbs to illness – really not through his own fault.
All in all well worth a read (or a listen). Turgenev’s characters come alive – through their interactions and their struggles with their emotions.