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Title: On the Eve
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
The story revolves around Elena Stakhova, a girl with a hypochondriac mother and an idle father, a retired guards lieutenant with a mistress. On the eve of the Crimean War, Elena is pursued by a free-spirited sculptor (Pavel Shubin) and a serious-minded student (Andrei Berzyenev). But when Berzyenev’s revolutionary Bulgarian friend, Dmitri Insarov, meets Elena, they fall in love. In secretly marrying Insarov Elena disappoints her mother and enrages her father, who had hoped to marry her to a dull, self-satisfied functionary, Kurnatovski. Insarov nearly dies from pneumonia and only partly recovers. On the outbreak of war Insarov tries to return with Elena to Bulgaria, but dies in Venice. Elena takes Insarov’s body to the Balkans for burial and then vanishes.
This was translated by Constance Garnett and a Edward Garnett wrote the introduction. I am assuming he is her husband, because otherwise I have no idea how so much brown nosing could be packed into a simple introduction. It was embarrassing (Edward is sucking up to Turgenev, not his wife) and ol’ Ed put a WHOLE LOT of meaning into the story that I’m not convinced was actually there.
Overall, this was all about the author being angsty about the russian psyche and why they were a bunch of big babies who were selfish and irresponsible instead of being like European and American men, who did their duty come hell or high water. It was a character study more than a story and while I enjoyed my time reading this, I really couldn’t call it a story.
The book ends with someone saying that yes, the mature russian man WAS coming and then the world would be complete. Or something like that. It was bologna. Sadly, if you follow Russia in the news for the last 100 years they haven’t grown up one bit. From Lenin to Stalin to Khrushchev to Putin, you see no change in the national character.
I probably wouldn’t have even thought in this vein if stupid ol’ Ed hadn’t shoved it directly into my face. What a stupid arrogant jerk. I bet he would have changed his tune if he’d been in the camps set up by Stalin!