There is something about the, dare I say, second tier Russian classical authors, such as Turgenev and Gogol, that I find almost mesmerizing. The primary characters are the gentlefolk mentioned in the title – rich enough to have inherited some sort of estate (complete with serfs and house servants, needless to say), but no wealthier than that. The men rarely have any profession, other than the occasional doctor, and spend most of their days hunting, fishing, and visiting their neighbors. The women for their part, spend their days visiting as well, playing cards, plunking out some music (typically rather poorly) and trying their best to marry off their daughters to the scarce available males. And it is such a peaceful tranquil life out on the steppes. The young men may go off to university for a bit, but it rarely seems to take, and they drift on back.
But I love his writing. Here is a bit from First Love, an account of a sixteen-year-old’s first infatuation. He is staying with his parents in a villa, for the summer break from university. Roaming about the gardens, “I was all expectancy and diffidence and wonder and eagerness; my fancies played and darted, always round the same images, like martins at day-break round a bell-tower, I was pensive, melancholy, even tearful; but even through the tears and melancholy induced now by a melodious line of verse, now by the beauty of evening, there pushed up, like spring grass, a joyful sense of youthful effervescent life.”
Do you remember feeling like that? I do.