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Iván Serguéyevich Turguénev , also written Turguéniev (Russian: Иван Сергеевич Тургенев) (Oriol, Russian Empire; 28 OctoberJul./ November 9 de 1818greg. – Bougival, France; agostojul./ September 3 de 1883greg.) was a writer, novelist and playwright, considered the most pro-European of the nineteenth-century Russian narrators.
Turguénev was born into a rich landowning family in the Russian city of Oriol. His father, Sergey Nikolayevich Turgenev, colonel of the imperial cavalry, died when Ivan was sixteen years old, leaving him and his brother Nikolai in the care of his abusive mother, Varvara Petrovna Lutovínova:
“A taciturn child must have been Turguéniev, a boy perplexed by the contradiction between the role of the mother in the home and the maternal archetype proper to the society they lived in. His authoritarianism and almost manly behavior as an absolute mistress would clash with the passive indifference of the father “.
That childhood so marked by the dictatorial presence of the mother and the physical and emotional absence of the father – who had had a mistress shortly before his death – would explain, according to Juan Eduardo Zúñiga, the problems that Turguénev had in his adult life for have a stable relationship with a woman, and the pessimism that permeates most of his works. This thesis also includes the Spanish writer Javier Marías, who in his written lives begins the chapter dedicated to the Russian writer:
The pessimism of Ivan Turgueniev’s novels and stories, which some of his colleagues came to reproach him with, must have been the least and least harmful tribute of those he could afford to pay to an ominous family environment, if not resolutely evil. His wealthy and famous mother … was of a cruelty, pettiness and barbarism only surpassed by those of his own mother, Ivan’s grandmother … “
After completing elementary school, Turgenev studied for one year at the University of Moscow and then at the University of St. Petersburg, specializing in classics, Russian literature and philology.
In 1838 he was sent to the University of Berlin to study philosophy, particularly Hegel, and history. Turgenev was impressed with Germany’s Central European society and became Westernized, thinking that Russia could progress by imitating Europe, in opposition to the Slavonic tendency of the time in her country. Like many of his contemporaries with a good level of education, he was especially opposed to the system of servitude.
A vassal family read him the verses of Rossiáda by Mikhail Jeráskov, celebrated eighteenth-century poet. Turgenev’s first literary attempts, including poems and sketches, showed his genius and received favorable comments from Belinsky, then the leading Russian literary critic. At the end of his life, Turgenev resided little in Russia, preferring Baden-Baden or Paris, since he met at the Mariinsky theater in St. Petersburg the Spanish singer Paulina Garcia de Viardot or Pauline Garcia-Viardot, for whom he would leave Russia to settle in France and for whose love he was imprisoned until the end of his days.
Turgenev never married, although he had a daughter with one of the servants of his family. Tall and robust, his character stood out for his shyness, introspection and soft speech. His closest literary friend was Gustave Flaubert. His relations with Lev Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky were often strained, considering the pro-slavery tendency of both.
His complicated friendship with Tolstoy reached such animosity that in 1861 he challenged him to duel. Although he later apologized, they were not talking seventeen years. Dostoevsky in turn parodied Turgenev in his novel The Demons (1872), through the character of the novelist Karmazinov. In 1880, the famous speech of Dostoyevsky at the inauguration of the Pushkin monument dealt with his reconciliation with Turgenev.
Occasionally he visited England, and in 1879 the University of Oxford awarded him an honorary degree. He died in Bougival, near Paris, due to marrow cancer. On his deathbed he exclaimed, referring to Tolstoy; «Friend, go back to literature». With such inspiration, Tolstoy wrote works such as The Death of Ivan Ilich and The Sonata Kreutzer. By express wish of Turgenev his body was transferred to St. Petersburg and buried in the Volkovskoye cemetery.
In 1883 the brain of Turgenev was weighed, verifying the unusual measure of 2021 grams.
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