Virgin Soil: Volume 1

Ivan Turgenev
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ISBN 9780571244485 Format Paperback
Published 17/07/2008 Length 266 pages

About Book

Virgin Soil, written in 1877 and translated into English in 1896, was Ivan Turgenev's last novel and an appropriate end to his career as a novelist. Its analysis of the future of Russia was prescient as it sketches out the historical justification of the Nihilist movement - why it was necessary - and then prophesises its failure. The book caused Turgenev's final disgrace with the Government and, like many other Russian writers before and after him, he was exiled, although this took place after his death rather than during his lifetime. Denied a public funeral and honours the Government suppressed any public comments on his works and his influence on Russian literature.

As Edward Garnett writes in his introduction to Virgin Soil in 1896 'to examine the characters of the novel is to see how perfectly representative they are of Russian political life'. Turgenev's genius was the ability to take a simple story line and create an intricate and in-depth look at life in Russia as seen through the eyes of ordinary Russians.

  • About Ivan Turgenev

    Born in Orel in central Russia in 1818 Ivan Turgenev studied at the universities in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Berlin and worked briefly for the civil service before turning to writing. He wrote several novels that examined the social, political and philosophical issues of the time as well as many plays and short stories.

    Living mainly in Baden-Baden and Paris Turgenev was acquainted with a variety of influential writers and met Dickens and Trollope among others on his travels to England. He was widely perceived to be the first major Russian writer to achieve great success in Europe.

    Turgenev died in Paris in 1883.

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  • Translated By: Constance Garnett

    The subtitle of Richard Garnett's biography (reissued in Faber Finds) of his grandmother, Constance Garnett (1861-1946) is A Heroic Life. It couldn't be more apt. She remains the most prolific English translator of Russian literature: twelve volumes of Dostoevsky, five of Gogol, six of Herzen (his complete My Past and Thoughts), seventeen of Tchehov (her spelling), five of Tolstoy, eleven of Turgenev and so on. Many of these will be appearing in Faber Finds. In all she translated over sixty works. It is not, however, the sheer quantity that is to be celebrated, though that in itself is remarkable, it is more the enduring quality of her work. Of course there have been critics - translation is a peculiarly controversial subject, but there have been many more admirers. Tolstoy himself praised her. Of her Turgenev translations, Joseph Conrad said 'Turgeniev (sic) for me is Constance Garnett and Constance Garnett is Turgeniev'. Katherine Mansfield declared the lives of her generation of writers were transformed by Constance Garnett's translations, and H. E. Bates went so far as to say that modern English Literature itself could not have been what it is without her translations.

    This extraordinary achievement was accomplished despite poor health and poor eyesight, the latter being ruined by her labours on War and Peace ,a tragic if fitting sacrifice; hers indeed was A Heroic Life.

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