Friday, April 14, 2017

Ivan Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons": Audiobook Review

... anthony heald publisher blackstone audio format unabridged audiobook"
I liked Anthony Heald's nuanced dramatization of the easily stereotyped Elmer Gantry a few years ago, when I was listening to Sinclair Lewis adaptations after making my way through his major novels. I assume Ivan Turgenev was in a way the Lewis of his day, half a century earlier, in sending up social mores and what a hundred years after Fathers and Sons was called "the generation gap."

This eight-hour reading of this 1862 work shows off Heald's ability to make characters brusque (Bazarov has a touch of blustering John Wayne to me), timid (most of the women regardless of class), bumptious (Arkady and his father Nikolai too), or flustered (Pavel among others). He also pays attention to the arguments advanced by the rude nihilist, and those of the Kirsanov brothers in reply: at one point the blunt doctor-to-be is chided as being among "four and a half" such angry young men.

In the narrative, both men face the opposition of the nobles and the upper class to their bold rejection of tradition and religion. Turgenev skims past these divisions, preferring to elaborate the psychological tensions as well as highlight the natural beauties apparent to one who in his earlier "hunting sketches" drew the plight of the suffering forward, as contrasted with the angst of graduates.

As my first exposure to Turgenev, this proved an engaging effort. I can see why Henry James praised his control of the narrative, and why Joseph Conrad would be attracted to its dissection of ideals. I'm not sure if it's risible that Bazarov for all his boasts of poverty--"my grandfather ploughed the land" visits his parents' home and mentions to Arkady that B's family only had fifteen (or was it twenty-two in another telling?) serfs. I suppose destitution was relative; I'd like to know Turgenev's take on it all.

As well as what "she's been through fire and water" and as a wag adds "all the brass instruments" means. While a bit may be lost in translation--Heald used the uncredited public domain Constance Garnett rendering while I followed along in the copyright-free 1948 Richard Hare version---this remains a valuable look at the up-and-coming tensions that would in half-a-century tear Russia apart. (Amazon US 4/14/17: Favorite quote from a nihilist: "Death's an old story, but new for each person.")

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