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Sketches from a Hunter's Album by Ivan…
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Sketches from a Hunter's Album (1852)

by Ivan Turgenev

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Turgenev was born into two aristocratic Russian families. His mother had inherited some wealth before marrying, which offset his otherwise titled but broke father. As a young man he lived on the family estate, and this collection of short stories, published in book form in 1852, encompasses his experience with people and places as he hunts throughout Russia during the twilight years of serfdom. I have read many instances of people claiming that these works are his masterpiece, and that the sketches brought to light the plight of the peasants, ultimately leading to the end of serfdom in 1861. Whether the works had such significance I will leave to the experts, but when I teach social movements as a process of institutional evolution, a key text (such as Martin Luther King's speech during the American civil rights movement) usually motivates the masses towards some form of social change, which concludes with a change in institutions. Clearly, Sketches played a part in motivating social change, and I use this book as an example of the impetus for the social movement that led to the emancipation of serfs. I also understand that Turgenev adopts the "Russian realist" style in that the narrator is "uncommitted" to the other characters in the work, and this is true of the Sketches in general. This translation is by Constance Garnett, and I must say that it reads well. Having read Turgenev's Fathers and Sons a few years ago, I recognise the clarity of the prose that I also found in my first reading of Chekhov. My limited reading of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, however, suggests that these two authors have become somewhat dated, at least in translation. Hemingway said as much about Tolstoy's War and Peace in "Old Newsman Writes" (see By-Line, p. 188). Which leads me to all sorts of interesting comparisons I have mentioned previously in my review on Chekhov's comic stories. Harold Bloom and Italo Calvino saw the relationship in style between Turgenev, Chekhov, Maupassant, and Hemingway. Having now read each of these authors, I feel that way about their prose technique. But while reading a little about Turgenev, I discovered that Sherwood Anderson "echoed" Turgenev (according to Ridout), and that Turgenev had also written a short work entitled The Torrents of Spring. Now I see the greater part of the humour in Hemingway's novella The Torrents of Spring, which was written as a parody of Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. I immediately purchased a copy of Turgenev's Torrents to see what else I can learn about this interesting clash of egos. Given that Sketches is now 166 years old, and has well and truly stood the test of time, I can see how it is a classic of the highest order. That other brilliant Russian author, Nabokov, rated the great Russian authors with Tolstoy first, Pushkin and Chekhov second, and Turgenev third (ahead of Gogol and Dostoevsky). According to Nabokov, of the Russian authors, Pushkin loses the most in translation. What I find most interesting is not so much the actual reading of the book, which of course is worth every moment, but how Turgenev and this particular work fit into my bumbling reading scheme. I met a man just recently who had an achievement style he coined "Managing by bumbling along". It seemed to work for him, and, in my reading, at least, it seems to be working out quite well. While there does seem to be a logic that a smarter reader might follow, I do enjoy the various surprises I discover while reading back and forth between the classics, the early twentieth century authors, and the present. Turgenev gives an eye-opening account of life during the end of Russian serfdom. One imagines it was eons ago, but one only has to consider that the transportation of convicts was still in full-swing in 1850s Australia to understand that this period in history was far removed from life in the Anglo democracies today. Without Turgenev's work, we would lack many primary sources into the life of the Russian peasant. That one can read and still enjoy reading such works today is remarkable. ( )
  madepercy | Jun 10, 2018 |
Meriterebbe la lettura (e le cinque stelle) anche solo per gli idilli naturalistici e per le deliziose descrizioni di carattere atmosferico!
Ma merita la lettura soprattutto perché anche qua c'è la Rus', il suo Spirito e se uno la ama non può chiedere di meglio ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
A series of short stories about rural russian in the 1830's. The are three (wonderful) aspects: the description of the countryside, the injustices inherent in the institution of serfdom and, on occasion, its bad effects on the nobility, and the glorious feats of the soul that some do to achieve 'humaness' and more. ( )
  pnorman4345 | Feb 16, 2016 |
a pleasant surprise ( )
  mahallett | Mar 16, 2014 |
In his Preface to "The Seasons" the Scottish poet James Thomson said, "I know no subject more elevating, more amazing, more ready to poetical enthusiasm, the philosophical reflection, and the moral sentiment than the works of nature. Where can we meet such variety, such beauty, such magnificence?"
This is a theme that runs through the Sketches From a Hunter's Album. The beauty of the sylvan glade or the summer sun glistening off the meadows flowers is brought to life by the prose of Turgenev in these vignettes. Certainly the characters are also finely drawn and include all social stratas while emphasizing the narrator's interactions with peasants and serfs. It is the latter that impress the reader by the respect and generosity with which they are treated. The combination of fascinating characters and beautiful nature writing made this book a joy to read. I found myself looking forward to the next chapter with expectation that I would be treated to another even more interesting facet of the countryside and its denizens. I was not disappointed until the end of the book and only then because I did not want it to end.
Considering this book was first published in 1852 after having appeared serially as separate sketches, it is a further wonder because the serfs would not be freed for another decade. These short stories revealed Turgenev's unique talent for story-telling. And they greatly influenced Russian short story writers into the early 20th century, including Anton Chekhov, Ivan Bunin, Alexander Kuprin and others. The stories remain fresh today, even in translation, and reward the reader with their magnificence. But let me leave you with a quote from Turgenev himself that expresses my feelings as well:
“the deep, pure blue stirs on one’s lips a smile, innocent as itself; like the clouds over the sky, and, as it were, with them, happy memories pass in slow procession over the soul” ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | May 24, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Turgenev, Ivanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Freeborn, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freeborn, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moinot, PierreForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mongault, HenriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Whoever has happened to travel from Bolkhov County into the Zhizdra region will no doubt have been struck by the the sharp differences between the nature of the people in the Orlov Province and those in Kaluga.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140445226, Paperback)

Turgenev's first major prose work is a series of twenty-five Sketches: the observations and anecdotes of the author during his travels through Russia satisfying his passion for hunting. His album is filled with moving insights into the lives of those he encounters peasants and landowners, doctors and bailiffs, neglected wives and bereft mothers each providing a glimpse of love, tragedy, courage and loss, and anticipating Turgenev's great later works such as First Love and Fathers and Sons. His depiction of the cruelty and arrogance of the ruling classes was considered subversive and led to his arrest and confinement to his estate, but these sketches opened the minds of contemporary readers to the plight of the peasantry and were even said to have led Tsar Alexander II to abolish serfdom.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An intriguing confession of doctor's romantic involvement with a beautiful 20 year old patient. Followed by Turgenev's exquisite, often meditative descriptions of Russian countryside and mysterious herbalist Kassyan infatuated with Gamayane, a prophetic bird of Russian folklore, a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1907832068, 1907832092

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