Rudin (The Russians) ★★★★☆

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Title: Rudin
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 183
Words: 49K


From Wikipedia

Rudin’s Arrival

The novel begins with the introduction of three of the characters – Aleksandra, Lezhnev, and Pandalevskii. Pandalevskii relates to Aleksandra Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s invitation to come and meet a Baron Muffel’. Instead of the Baron, Rudin arrives and captivates everyone immediately with his intelligent and witty speeches during the argument with Pigasov. Rudin’s arrival is delayed until Chapter Three. After his success at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, he stays the night and the next morning meets Lezhnev who arrives to discuss some business affairs with Dar’ya Mikhailovna. This is the first time the reader finds out that Rudin and Lezhnev are acquainted, and studied together at university. During the day that follows Rudin has his first conversation with Natasha; as she speaks of him highly and says he “ought to work”, he replies with a lengthy speech. What follows is a description quite typical of Turgenev, where the character of Rudin is shown not through his own words, but through the text which underlines Rudin’s contradictory statements:

“Yes, I must act. I must not bury my talent, if I have any; I must not squander my powers on talk alone — empty, profitless talk — on mere words,’ and his words flowed in a stream. He spoke nobly, ardently, convincingly, of the sin of cowardice and indolence, of the necessity of action.”[5]

On the same day, Sergei leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s early and arrives to see that Lezhnev is visiting. Lezhnev then gives his first description of Rudin.

Rudin and Natasha

In two months, we are told, Rudin is still staying at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, living off borrowed money. He spends a lot of time with Natasha; in a conversation with her he speaks of how an old love can only be replaced by a new one. At the same time, Lezhnev gives the account of his youth and his friendship with Rudin, making for the first time the point that Rudin is “too cold” and inactive. On the next day, Natasha quizzes Rudin over his words about old and new love. Neither she, nor he confess their love for each other but in the evening, Rudin and Natasha meet again, and this time Rudin confesses his love for her; Natasha replies that she, too, loves him. Unfortunately, their conversation is overheard by Pandalevskii, who reports it to Dar’ya Mikhailovna, and she strongly disapproves of this romance, making her feelings known to Natasha. The next time Natasha and Rudin meet, she tells him that Dar’ya Mikhailovna knows of their love and disapproves of it. Natasha wants to know what plan of action is Rudin going to propose, but he does not fulfil her expectations when he says that one must “submit to destiny”. She leaves him, disappointed and sad:

“I am sad because I have been deceived in you… What! I come to you for counsel, and at such a moment! — and your first word is, submit! submit! So this is how you translate your talk of independence, of sacrifice, which …”

Rudin then leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Before his departure he writes two letters: one to Natasha and one to Sergei. The letter to Natasha is particularly notable in its confession of the vices of inactivity, inability to act and to take responsibility for one’s actions – all the traits of a Hamlet which Turgenev later detailed in his 1860 speech. Lezhnev, meanwhile, asks Aleksandra to marry him and is accepted in a particularly fine scene.

The Aftermath

Chapter Twelve and the Epilogue detail events of over two years past Rudin’s arrival at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Lezhnev is happily married to Aleksandra. He arrives to give her news of Sergei’s engagement to Natasha, who is said to “seem contented”. Pigasov lives with Lezhnevs, and amuses Aleksandra as he used to amuse Dar’ya Mikhailovna. A conversation which follows happens to touch on Rudin, and as Pigasov begins to make fun of him, Lezhnev stops him. He then defends Rudin’s “genius” while saying that his problem is that he had no “character” in him. This, again, refers to the superfluous man’s inability to act. He then toasts Rudin. The chapter ends with the description of Rudin travelling aimlessly around Russia. In the Epilogue, Lezhnev happens by chance to meet Rudin at a hotel in a provincial town. Lezhnev invites Rudin to dine with him, and over the dinner Rudin relates to Lezhnev his attempts to “act” – to improve an estate belonging to his friend, to make a river navigable, to become a teacher. In all three of this attempts Rudin demonstrated inability to adapt to the circumstances of Nicholas I’s Russia, and subsequently failed, and was in the end banished to his estate. Lezhnev then appears to change his opinion of Rudin as inherently inactive, and says that Rudin failed exactly because he could never stop striving for truth. The Epilogue ends with Rudin’s death at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848; even at death he is mistaken by two fleeing revolutionaries for a Pole.

My Thoughts:

After Anna Karenina and it’s almost 1300 pages, every other Russian novel that’s under 500 pages suddenly makes me feel like somehow I’m cheating and having an easy time of it. Russian literature is bleak and grim and depressing and your very soul is supposed to suffer while reading it. And here I am, breezing along like I’m on a circus ride or something.

It’s just not right. Or maybe I’m just not right. OR (prepare for Conspiracy Theory Numero Uno)…..

….. The WP4 have brainwashed me into somehow liking Russian Literature. I can totally see Dix trying to brainwash me, so I’m going with the Conspiracy Theory option.

Thankfully the titular character is not the main character. He’s an arrogant jackass who won’t stick to anything unless it is done exactly his way. Since he pretty much sponges off of other people, well, you can see the friction there. What got to me was near the end of the novel, Lezhnev (I’d call him a main character) meets Rudin (who is now practically homeless and barely surviving) and is very charitable to him. That was fine and showed what a good man Lezhnez was. What I really disliked was how Lezhnev starts praising Rudin for everything that I abominated in him. His inability to get along with others. His laziness. His excuses for not finishing things. His playing with people’s lives as if they exist for his use alone. I was actually waiting for him to starve to death all alone but I think how Turgenev portrayed him dying, getting shot at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848 (I had to go look on wikipedia, but this Revolution was just another one by the Frenchies, not the one portrayed in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities). It was very fitting for Rudin to die while sticking his nose into a completely different country’s business.

I have to admit, I am not skilled enough to be able to tell the differences in writing style of Turgenev from either Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. Part of that might be that a good bit of Russian literature was translated by Constance Garnett and if she wasn’t careful, her own style would overpower theirs. While no translator is listed for this book, the public domain version is translated by Garnett so I’m going to assume this is her translation.

And yet, with everything, I still enjoyed this quite a bit. Turgenev sees people and does an excellent job of putting that down in words. I get all the benefit of a varied circle of acquaintences without actually having to deal with people. That is a Win-Win situation as far as I’m concerned!

The only other Turgenev that I’ve read is Fathers and Sons. I definitely preferred that to Rudin. However, I do look forward to more Turgenev as I continue this Russian journey.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

33 thoughts on “Rudin (The Russians) ★★★★☆

  1. Yeah, it’s probably Garnett’s translation as I think it’s in the public domain. Haven’t read this. You’re quite ambitious taking on the Russian Team. Some day I want to go back and read all of Dostoyevsky (I read a lot of him when I was young) but that’s all that I think I’ll be able to handle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always wanted to read more Russian lit. After my Dickens read through the other year, I realized that was the way to go. and I’m used to long range book planning, so it is all good 😀

      Have you thought about getting one of those “Complete works of ……” for Dostoyevsky and just slowly making your way through it?


  2. It is very hard to keep track of all the French revolutions.

    I need to read more Russian literature. And to reread War and Peace, which I loved, but with a different translator. I read the unabridged Maude translation; maybe I will read my abridged Kropotkin translation. I have a physical copy of Anna Karenina too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. War and Peace is definitely one of those books that it helps to have a paper copy. Especially one with a list of all the names in the front. I think that is what I’m going to miss the most about using an ecopy.
      I am also hoping that I don’t get to it until 2023 or later.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad you’re going on a Russian journey!! I do find Turgenev less dreary than Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy (whom I both love!) and I’m not quite sure why. I’m glad you reminded me of these Russian greats with your excellent review. I need to slot in a Russian read soon as I’m missing their morose yet insightful commentaries on human nature.

    In spite of taking some liberties, I like Garnett. She makes the read in English lively and interesting. I’d take her translations over the (popular due to marketing) Pevear/Volokhonsky translations any day, as they make the prose so wooden and stale.

    I probably asked you this before but did you ever manage to read the two other Russian novels that Fathers and Sons is connected to: What Is To Be Done? by Nikolay Chernyshevsky and Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky? It’s a fascinating “conversation”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be nice if Turgenev stays that way for me. It will help differentiate him in my mind. Right now, they’re all jumbled together in one big “russian” pile 😀

      If I ever re-read any of these in the future I’m going to be paying attention to the narrator and choose a different one than the ones I currently am reading. Just for variety’s sake.

      I did not. I’ll be reading Notes, but will probably not read Done? as I don’t want to throw another russian into the mix. 4 is enough right now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I adore Tolstoy and Dostoevesky. Turgenvev I found to be sooooooo bleak without hope. T an D always showed light at the end of the tunnel.

    Well, I tried to copy and paste, so I’ll have to write out a funny meme I found.

    English Literature I will die for honor.

    French lit I will die for love

    American Lit I will die for freedom

    Russian Literature I will die.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to keep an eye out to see if that is my take on them. I agree with you about T & D, just haven’t read enough T to figure him out yet. Something to look forward too 🙂

      I LOVE that meme, it made me laugh so hard! 😀


  5. I hadn’t heard of this novel before. I did read another book by Turgenev – Smoke – which I’d heartily recommend and for similar reasons. It’s neither too short nor too long and it’s structurally pretty tight, maybe even a masterpiece (although this could be a matter of taste).

    I did wonder if the revolution you mentioned was the same one that featured in the Les Miserables , but apparently not. That was in 1832. I had no idea 19th century France was so volatile.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sure, I was checking out an old article on A Pilgrim in Narnia this morning and came across your name. I noticed it specifically because I’d come across it on Weighing A Pig Doesn’t Fatten It , but this seemed so unlikely that I went and checked. That in turn made me curious enough to check out your blog. Sometimes the internet seems like a very small place. Unless maybe there are two Bookstooges?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that. I always like finding out the connection. probably a leftover from my private security days.
      There is only one of me. The only other bookstooge name belongs to some defunct software for college books that never made it past the planning stages.

      Small indeed! How is Brenton doing these days, ok I trust?


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