turgenevs-fathers-and-sons.jpg……….Weekend Reading!

One of Ivan Turgenev’s finest works, “Fathers and Sons”, the first of the great 19th century Russian novels to achieve international renown. A stirring tale of generational conflict during a period of social revolution, it vividly depicts the friction between liberal and conservative thought and the rise of the radical new philosophy Nihilism – “does not bow down before any authority, which does not take any principle on faith, whatever reverence that principle may be enshrined in. A philosophy that regards everything from the critical point of view” .

Turgenev created a prototype “a Cynical young man who ridicules the age-old establishments and conventions like state, church, home and subordination to aristocratic lifestyle” through Bazarov. Arkady Kirsanoff arrives home with his friend Bazarov, a biologist. Arkady’s father and uncle, already distressed by the upheaval of the peasants, grow increasingly irritated at Bazarov’s outspoken Nihilism. 

The startling realization of Generational conflict as felt by the older generation stirs up rich emotions in the reader -the genuine need of parents to spend more time with their young children, to kiss them, to pamper them as they used to do, when the young ones were manageable in their hands, to learn more about what they had learnt in those citadels of higher education….. I feel, it is more like a struggle with this never before seen or felt sense of alienation from their children and their newly acquired philosophies, peers’ blinding influences, the expression of which is strongly rooted in deriding the established ones. The outcome would be more interesting if younger generation succeeds to integrate the views, time-tested ways of living of older generation with their new approaches….which may be too demanding at times..….read through a few handpicked tiny bodies of words!   

“you and I are behind the times, our day’s over. Perhaps, Bazarov is right, but one thing I confess, makes me feel sore. I did so hope, precisely now, to get on to such close, intimate terms with Arkady, and it turns out I am left behind, and he has gone forward, and we can not understand one another…” {Nikolai Petrovitch to his brother Pavel Petrovitch)

“it seems, to order a coffin and cross one’s arms on one’s breast…   {Nikolai Petrovitch to his brother Pavel Petrovitch)

“In old days, young men had to study, they did not want to be called dunces, so they had to work hard whether they liked it or not. But now, they need only say, Everything in the world is foolery! And the trick is done. Young men are delighted. And to be sure they were simply geese before, and now they have suddenly turned nihilists” { Pavel Petrovitch to Arkady)  

“Life is a happy thing for my parents. My father at 60 is fussing around, talking about palliative measures, doctoring people, laying the bountiful master with the peasant- having a festive time, and my mother is happy too – her day’s soc chockfull of duties of all sorts, and sighs and groans that she’s no time even to think of herself…”  { Bazarov to Arkady)

“A son is a separate piece cut off. He’s like the falcon that flies home and flies away at his pleasure; while you and I are like funguses in the hollow of a tree, we sit side by side, and do not move from our place. Only I am left unchanged for you, as you for me” { Bazarov’s mom to his dad)

I have always been enchanted with Russian novelists’ indulgence in the local color through light and palatable language – sombre landscapes, the threadbare peasants’ existence in the villages, the dawns unfolding, the dusks spreading their charm over the golden wheat fields and rye fields…..the fragrance of mother earth throbs fervently at every pore of the story….‘In truth, I think that there is nowhere on earth that smells like this, as it does in these regions! yes and the sky here…’,  the swift change in the mood manages to retain certain degree of resplendency -euphoric a tone slips into despondency blended with a state of negligence to form a strong background for the rising radical mindsets….

“…..The country through which they were driving could not be called picturesque. Fields upon fields stretched all along to the very horizon, now sloping gently upwards, then dropping down … little streams too with hollow banks, tiny lakes with narrow dykes, and little villages with low hovels under dark and often tumble-down roofs, and slanting barns with walls woven of  brushwood, and gaping doorways beside neglected threshing floors; and churches, some brick-built, with stucco peeling off in patches, others wooden, with crosses fallen askew and overgrown graveyards….the peasants they met were all in tatters and on the sorriest little nags; the willows with their trunks stripped of bark, and broken branches, stood like ragged beggars along the roadside….this is not a rich country, it cant go on like this, reforms are absolutely necessary….” 

Now the piece de resistance in this classic …..”there is a small village graveyard in one of the remote corners of Russia. Like almost all our graveyards, it presents a wretched appearance; the ditches surrounding it have long been overgrown; the grey wooden crosses lie fallen and rotting under their once painted gables; the stone slabs are all displaced, as though some one were pushing them up from behind ; two or three bare trees give a scanty shade…..But among them is one untouched by man, untrampled by beast, only the birds perch upon it and sing at daybreak. …two young fir-trees have been planted, one at each end. Yevgeny Bazarov is buried in this tomb. Often from the little village not far off, two quite feeble old people come to visit it – a husband and wife. Supporting one another, they move to it with heavy steps, they go up to the railing, fall down, and remain on their knees, and long and bitterly they weep, and yearn and intently they gaze at the tomb stone, under which their son is lying; they exchange some brief word, wipe away the dust from the stone, set straight a branch of a fir-tree, …can not tear themselves from this place, where they seem to be nearer to their son, to their memories of him….Can it be that their prayers, their tears are fruitless? Can it be that love, sacred, devoted love, is not all-powerful? However, passionate, sinning, and rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers growing over it peep serenely at us with their innocent eyes……they tell us not of eternal peace alone, of that great peace of “indifferent” nature…….     

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