Review: Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons
Ivan Tugenev

The novel that really introduced the concept of nihilism to the world. In many ways, this is a classic story. Father sends son away to school, son comes back, changed, with new ideas that feel dangerous to the father. They grow apart. But with time, and love, there is a sort of reconciliation.

This is, for a Russian novel of the time, not even particularly dark. Yes there is loss, and sadness, but at least some of our main characters find love and fulfilment, which is more than you can say of most of the works of Dostoyevsky.

I read this book as a young man when I was trying to get a feeling for what nihilism was. I asked all my smarty pants grad school friends and they suggested starting here. It probably isn’t the best place, for though nihilism is a central plot point in the book (its what separates the father and son) it isn’t very well defined. But then again, perhaps it is just not that easy to define nihilism.

This is worth the time if you’re interested in the history of nihilism, or deeply interested in Russian fiction.  Others would be better of looking at Dostoyevsky’s the Devils.

Recommended for the enthusiast.


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