Fathers and Sons - Ivan Turgenev, Richard Freeborn

When I'm drawing a blank about what I want to say in my space about a book, I go take a stroll through my highlights for inspiration.

 

No inspiration was found this time around! Funnily enough, what I did notice was that when taken in quotes, this book feels quite heavy - when, on the whole, it was very readable.

 

I had trouble connecting with any one character though I probably most enjoyed Nikolai. His inappropriate love for the servant girl, adoration of his son, and desire to do good by his freed farmers sort of grounds him among the rest of the cast who were quite focused on their own sphere.

 

Of speaking of the young 'nihilists' or 'the sons', Nikolai says:

 

'Do you know what I was reminded of, brother? I once had a dispute with our poor mother; she stormed, and wouldn't listen to me. At last I said to her, "Of course, you can't understand me; we belong," I said, "to two different generations." She was dreadfully offended, while I thought, "There's no help for it. It's a bitter pill, but she has to swallow it." You see, now, our turn has come, and our successors can say to us, "You are not of our generation; swallow your pill."

And shortly later, regarding the 'fathers':

 

'My brother says we are right,' he thought, 'and apart from all vanity, I do think myself that they are further from the truth than we are, though at the same time I feel there is something behind them we have not got, some superiority over us.... Is it youth? No; not only youth. Doesn't their superiority consist in there being fewer traces of the slaveowner in them than in us?'

 

Which, I think is my takeaway thought. Every generation has to come to grips with the mistakes they make while juggling the solutions to the previous lots mistakes.  Wisdom is gained, not gifted. Taking stock in what we believe to be the truth should be done with an open mind - sometimes tradition wins and should win. But not always. In a book that is in essence about generational gaps, Nikolai was who I felt I'd personally relate to.

 

Overall, it was very fine to watch Arkady part from the discipleship of Bazarov, our principle nihilist,  and forge his own path, one that leads to love and happiness. 

 

The irony of Anna not being able to feel, while Bazarov who feels a great deal though he doesn't believe in feeling, was not lost on me. This experience of heartbreak did a big fat load of nothing to help Bazarov become a something other than an ass.

 

Which is unfortunate, because his own father speaks so lovingly of him:

 

"He is averse to every kind of demonstration of feeling; many people even find fault with him for such firmness of character, and regard it as a proof of pride or lack of feeling, but men like him ought not to be judged by the common standard, ought they? And here, for example, many another fellow in his place would have been a constant drag on his parents; but he, would you believe it? has never from the day he was born taken a farthing more than he could help, that's God's truth!' And I don't only idolise him, Arkady Nikolaitch, I am proud of him, and the height of my ambition is that some day there will be the following lines in his biography: "The son of a simple army-doctor, who was, however, capable of divining his greatness betimes, and spared nothing for his education ..."' The old man's voice broke"

 

Which is why, in the end, I didn't feel a whole lot of gushing love for this book. Bazarov was not redeemed. And while I can understand the reality that few men of his caliber of egocentricity are redeemed, I still don't have to like it.

 

Still, that aside, I think there is a satisfactory outcome for all other characters and I'm glad I read it.