Russian Writers

Years ago, I resistered for a course on Russian literature.  The course was cancelled due to low enrollment but, luckily, I had bought most of the texts. 

It was great reading and included the classic Russian comic novel, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgarov, stories by Ivan Bunin and Journey into the Whirlwind by Euginia Ginzberg – an account of her experience in the Gulag.  The last was particularly riveting reading.  Too bad the course was cancelled, but I was glad I registered.  I wouldn’t have come across these books otherwise.

This week I found a book of short stories by Turgenev in the library.  I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Turgenev before.  Interestingly,  he was devoted to the opera singer Pauline Viardot and used to follow her on tour.

I do remember a story about Turgenev in a biography of Tolstoy I read years ago.

Tolstoy was quite volatile as a young man and he was very competitive with Turgenev, who was older and more established.   Several times, Tolstoy was publicly very rude to Turgenev.   Years later, when Tolstoy was married, had a family and an established reputation – he decided to make amends.   He wrote to Turgenev, who was in Europe, and invited him to visit.   Turgenev graciously accepted, and called at the Tolstoy estate when he returned to Russia.    The visit was on a sunny, spring day and Turgenev was in good spirits.   He showed the Tolstoy children how to dance the can-can, which was then all the rage in Paris.

That night, true to form, Tolstoy wrote in his diary;  

TURGENEV. CAN-CAN.  SAD.

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