A Desperate Character and Other Stories

Ivan Turgenev
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ISBN 9780571245536 Format Paperback
Published 18/09/2008 Length 334 pages

About Book

Misha Poltyev, a 'desperate character,' squanders his inheritance, senselessly turns to drink, and lives among the beggars of the highway. Eventually, he returns to his family estate and the graveyard where his parents lie:

'I want to dig myself a grave ... and to lie here for time everlasting. There's only this spot left for me in the world. Get a spade! Oh God! Everywhere nothing but injustice, and oppression, and evil-doing ... Everything must go to ruin then, and me too!'

These stories demonstrate Turgenev's matchless skill for portraying elemental aspects of Russian life: the melancholic, the nostalgic, and the darkly comic.

Six tales written by Turgenev between 1847 and 1881, in Constance Garnett's classic 1899 translation: A Desperate Character, A Strange Story, Punin and Baburin, Old Portraits, The Brigadier and Pyetushkov. With an introduction by Edward Garnett.

  • 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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