Ivan Sergeivich Turgenev



  • (1818 - 83) Russian playwright and novelist, who laid thefoundations of the modern Russian theater with his realistic dramasof everyday life. His skilful use of domestic details to evoke theinner feelings of his characters is seen most clearly in A Monthin the Country, the first Russian psychological drama. The playwas a major influence on Anton Chekhov.

    Turgenev was still a student at the university of St Petersburgwhen he published his first play, Steno (1834), a poetic melodramainfluenced by Byron. After returning from further studies in Berlin,he fathered an illegitimate daughter by his mother's seamstress. In 1843he fell in love with the married opera singer MmeViardot, to whom he remained devoted for the rest of his life.

    Between 1846 and 1852 Turgenev wrote a series of satiricalcomedies, most of which he intended to be read rather than acted. His secondplay, written in the style of Nikolai Gogol, was Moneyless;or, Scenes from the Life of a Young Nobleman (1846). This wasfollowed by Where It's Thin It Tears (1848), The Bachelor(1849), which was written for the great comic actor Mikhail Shchepkin,The Boarder (1850), and A Provincial Lady (1851). Turgenev'smasterpiece, A Month in the Country, was written in 1850but not staged until 1872.

    Censorship, imprisonment, and exile eventually drove Turgenevfrom the stage. In 1852, he was imprisoned for a month and then exiledto his estate, Spasskoye, for 18 months under police supervision. Thiswas ostensibly because of an obituary he had written praising theofficially disgraced Gogol, but was more probably a result of his attacks onserfdom. From 1854 Turgenev lived mostly in Germany and France, becoming thebest-known Russian writer in the West with a series of masterful prose works,including his great novel Fathers and Sons (1862).