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Virgin Soil
Ivan Turgenev
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Virgin Soil

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  1,266 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Turgenev was the most liberal-spirited and unqualifiedly humane of all the great nineteenth-century Russian novelists, and in Virgin Soil, his biggest and most ambitious work, he sought to balance his deep affection for his country and his people with his growing apprehensions about what their future held in store. At the heart of the book is the story of a young man and a ...more
Published (first published 1877)
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Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Opening lines:
AT one o'clock in the afternoon of a spring day in the year 1868, a young man of twenty-seven, carelessly and shabbily dressed, was toiling up the back staircase of a five-storied house on Officers Street in St. Petersburg. Noisily shuffling his down-trodden goloshes and slowly swinging his heavy, clumsy figure, the man at last reached the very top flight and stopped before a half-open door hanging off its hinges. He did not ring the bel
B. Morrison
Virgin Soil, Turgenev’s last novel, is about the Populist movement in Russia in the late 1860s and 1870s, a hundred years before my experiences in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Turgenev's idealistic revolutionaries want to awaken the slumbering people and help them take back their country from the ruling classes. The story focuses on Alexey Nezhdanov, a young student in St. Petersburg, who wants to devote his life to the cause, condemning as elitist the poetry he cannot keep himse ...more
Joseph Pinchback
If I had to come up with a slogan for Ivan Turgenev, it would be, "Turgenev - For God's sake, would somebody read something besides Fathers and Sons?" Granted, Fathers and Sons is his best novel, but he's got some other good stuff. I dare you to read First Love and tell me that it isn't moving. It's a short story, so quit complaining and just go read it. As for this novel, Virgin Soil, those of you who have read Fathers and Sons will find a lot of similar things. It's another book about Nihilism ...more
Sep 02, 2016 Bettie☯ marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

Brazilliant found the link:

"To turn over virgin soil
it is necessary to use a deep plough
going well into the earth,
not a surface plough
gliding lightly over the top."
—From a Farmer's Notebook.

Opening: AT one o'clock in the afternoon of a spring day in the year 1868, a young man of twenty-seven, carelessly and shabbily dressed, was toiling up the back staircase of a five-storied house on Officers Street in St. Petersburg. Noisily shuffling his down-trodden
Oct 15, 2015 GaiaP rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Si potrebbe dire che Turgenev ha avuto due colpi di genio con i quali si è guadagnato l'eternità letteraria: ha inventato il termine "nichilista" e ha creato il carattere dell'"uomo superfluo", padre putativo di tutti gli inetti di novecentesca memoria. "Terra Vergine", ultimo romanzo scritto dall'autore poco prima di morire, rappresenta il punto di convergenza di queste due geniali trovate e, benché forse appena inferiore a "Padri e Figli", è un riuscitissimo romanzo.
Consigliato a tutti i russ
Virin Soil is both a love story and social commentary about Russia in the 1800s. Protagonist Nejdanov is a young man trapped between two worlds. He is the illegitimate son of an aristocrat and member of Populism movement. Nejdanovs struggles parallel the struggles of his county. He is inducted into the movement as a result of his background but he struggles with this identity throughout the book.

I enjoyed this book. I felt great empathy toward Nejdanov and thought that Turgenev was able to pres
Manuel Alfonseca
This book, dated 1877, was Ivan Turgenev's answer to Dostoievsky's The possessed (also titled The demons), dated 1872. His revolutionaries, however, are just naive incompetent idealists (all except Solomin, who actually never defines himself), who act prematurely until finally they lose faith in themselves and the cause.
Personally I prefer Dostoievsky's version, because it seems to me much closer to what actually were the real revolutionaries in the twentieth century.
Ahmad Sharabiani
842. Virgin Soil, Ivan Turgenev
خاک بکر - ایوانسرگییویچ تورگنیف (امیرکبیر) ادبیات روسیه
هنوز یادم مرا فراموش نکرده که نخست، ترجمه ی انگلیسی کتاب را با عنوان
Virgin soil, 1946
خواندم، انگار میکردم اثر را به زبان نگارنده خوانده ام، پز میدادم که به زبان اصلی کتاب را خوانده ام، سپس ترجمه آقای عبدالرحمان رزندی را که همان نسخه را ترجمه کرده بودند خواندم، امیرکبیر 1349، در 19 و 330 ص
Dec 02, 2016 Richard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: powys-100
This book about "social justice warriors" of 1860s Russia was a bit of a disappointment, especially compared to Sportsman's Sketches and The Home of the Gentry, both of which I loved. It's almost like Turgenev felt some sort of moral obligation to write a political book in the manner of Dostoevsky's Demons, but came up with a book that seems to fail to approach anything of that level. He is best in the earlier books describing nature and quirky Russians, and while there is some of that here, he ...more
Daniel Polansky
A story about revolutionaries in the Russian provinces circa 1880, I guess.There is, of course, an odd sort of formalism which is characteristic of this era of novel, in particular a tendency for the author to describe, basically without obfuscation, the intimate personality of their characters. I have previously lamented this quality in Austen, and though I think she is particularly brutal, it has to be said that it seems fairly ubiquitous – thinking on it now Hugo was pretty bad with that also ...more
Monty Milne
Oct 03, 2016 Monty Milne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very struck by the parallels with Dostoyevsky's "Devils", which I also read recently. I think I prefer Turgenev (even though this is not his best). Turgenev is not as unrelievedly gloomy as Dostoyevsky - there is humour and affection here, and of course Turgenev's extraordinary ability to draw us into the sight and taste and feel of his narrative. Opening his book is like imbibing a shaman's potion and flitting, shape-changed, back in time to smell the earth of mother Russia. Not that this ...more
Mar 12, 2016 Sashinka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
I really enjoyed this although I was quite surprised to find that it was actually published and got through the censors in 1871. I was impressed with just how free the writing was on the subject of uprisings and the attempt to bring about a revolution, albeit a doomed one. Put in a historical context, Russia has a history of censorship and those who wished to enlighten others as to the plight of the ordinary peasant or the corruption of the aristocracy had to do so in fairly veiled terms. Dostoe ...more
Mark Sacha
Conventionally plotted but politically savvy, Ivan Turgenev's last novel follows a group of would-be radicals in late Imperial Russia. The class tensions that would culminate in the catastrophic revolutions of 1917 are tangible here, but premature. The young rebels are zealous, even if they can't adequately explain the cause they are fighting for, much less convince the peasantry that it is worthwhile. Delays lead to frustration, and any hint of solidarity is effaced by their lack of skill. For ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Sina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
جوانان انقلابی عجول و خواستار تحولات یک شبه و تا حدودی هم بی هدف
قضیه انقلاب طوری هم عنوان میگردد که صرفن ساخته و پرداخته ذهن یک سری جوان متمدن است و آن ها هستند که خواستار احیا حق قشر ضعیف جامعه می باشند در حالی که قشر ضعیف که بیشتر منظور دهقانان هستند یا چیزی در سر ندارند که حرف آنان رو بفهمند یا اینکه شاید از اوضاع راضی هستند و همین دهقانان یکی از شخصیت های انقلابی را دستگیر می کنند و تحویل حکومت می دهند. البته در بین شخصیت ها تنها یک نفر وجود دارد که بیگدار به آب نمیزند و آهسته و پیوسته مسیر
Philip Lane
Apr 03, 2014 Philip Lane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this quite an easy read as it has a lot of dialogue in it and not too many characters to confuse me with the Russian names. I found the main characters of Marianne and Nejdanov very sympathetic and so I was rooting for them as times got more difficult. I found it quite revealing that the undercurrent of revolution was present in Russia for many decades before it actually broke out. I was particularly taken with the element of plans going awry as we continue to live in a world of conspira ...more
Jan 29, 2008 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know what was in the water around the time these guys in Russia were writing. Turgenov has such clarity. This book helped me see I had to move beyond my phase of focusing on all the things that weren’t working for me in this society.
Gemma Williams
Turgeneyev's novel about a group of rather clueless revolutionaries trying to propagandise the Russian peasantry, who just get them drunk and beat them up. The characters are idealistic, noble and riven by self doubt. Very readable.
Dec 29, 2016 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Turgenev's novel in 1877 was well-timed to coincide with, and perhaps encourage, a growing youth populist movement of budding "Reds" who rejected the heavy hand of the Russian aristocracy and sought to rouse "the people" in revolt. According to Turgenev, his aim was to present these radicals as sympathetically as possible: "Hitherto the younger generation has been presented in our literature either as a crew of crooks and scoundrels…or as much as possible idealised…. I decided to choose the midd ...more
Patrick Robitaille


A tragic love story set in the background of the nascent revolutionary movement in Russia. Right from the start, the opening quote sets the tone for the rest of the book ("To turn over virgin soil it is necessary to use a deep plough going well into the earth, not a surface plough gliding lightly over the top.") and applies to the efforts of Markelov, Nejdanov and Solomin and their fragile underground movement, as well as the characters' traits and their interactions/relationships. It is a b

Все романы Тургенева, кроме «Дворянского гнезда»: «Рудин», «Накануне», «Отцы и дети», «Дым» и «Новь» — наполнены идентичным содержанием. Достаточно прочитать один из них, чтобы понять содержание остальных. Ничего нового в тексте найти не получится, поскольку Тургенев пронёс свои убеждения через всю жизнь. Он не изменил им и на смертном одре. Ситуация в стране всё более накалялась, что укрепляло Тургенева в верности его взглядов, чему он посвящал создание очередной книги. Он красиво вплетал в пов ...more
Feb 18, 2016 Pip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel, expecting it to be a difficult read. The quote about tilling virgin soil sets the theme: that to instigate social change it is necessary to understand social pressures thoroughly and it is not easy to predict the outcomes of revolution. Just contemplate how communism, a beautiful idea, was so dire in practice. I found the contrast between the complacent aristocrats and the young revolutionaries to have been tellingly and carefully re ...more
Feb 12, 2012 Bill PETTIT rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Einstein tells us that the purpose of time is so that everything does not happen at once. This novel is about that time expansion and the conflict of events happening outside of the time frame, Turgenev writes in The Virgin Soil that the future belongs to Anonymous Russia and this novel was a tale of a future that over time came to be, alas not as easily as smoothly as perhaps he would have wanted. There is a deep arc in the story that may in fact have a contemporary application.

Passages are lo
Feb 18, 2014 NobilisGughy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Infelice, infelice Neždanov! La tua è una personalità spezzata, figlia dell’antica Russia feudale e allo stesso tempo dello spirito rivoluzionario che tende al popolo. Due madri diverse, ma unite nell’impedirti di affermare te stesso, di costruirti un’identità: la prima perché decaduta, oramai consumata senza speranza, e la seconda perché prematura, non ancora approdata alla riva del reale.

Sei l'infelice frutto del passaggio fra due epoche, costrette in te ad una convivenza impossibile. Un dramm
Oct 22, 2015 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I doubt I understood everything going on the first time, but I have greatly enjoyed I.S. Turgenev's work, moreso than the Hunter's Sketches, by the same author. (Then again, that is a collection of short stories so it can't really fairly be compared.)

However, I got the impression something was actually happening during this novel; not only that, but that it actually meant something.

I suppose we'll all become anonymous sooner or later, to refer to the end in an oblique manner.
While I still have
Mar 24, 2012 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ramping up on Russia books in prep for my trip to St.Petersburg in May. Thsi book is very much like Fathers and Sons,depicting the clash of generations and the emerging radical underground movements. It has a sharp critique of the landed class, but also the foibles and naviete of the radicals. So he made everyone mad at him. Dostoyevsky said he was a Westernizer, whihc he was but I don't think of it as a negative. I think he is a wonderful writer -like Dickens, he can combine social commentary ...more
May 04, 2015 Pete rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub, russian
Interesting to see how different Nezhdanov is to Ragged Trousered Philanthropist's Barrington, and Nezhdanov's illusion of usefulness dissolves along with his fake authenticity in the struggle to persuade others.
نمی دونم چرا ولی از یک نویسنده روس انتظارم بیشتر بود فکر میکردم کتاب دلنشینی باشه ولی فقط راحت خوانده می شد و آنچه از روسیه انتظار داشتم که مخوف باشه و سرد و بی روح در کتاب ندیدم و بیشتر تلاطم درونی افراد رو به نظرم نشون داده
Anais Fawache
Mar 03, 2013 Anais Fawache rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book explores the personnal experience of ideology and social activism. Through describing the different characters' motivations for joining the cause, the author explores the hesitations, deceptions, setbacks and outbreaks inherent in ideological engagement.
I wasn't very familiar with the historical events of the period, so it was difficult to decide if the main character was tragic or just stupid. Nonetheless amazing, enjoyable, thought-provoking read. Also a bit crazy.
Having not read much from the nineteenth century Russian novelists, I hope this will set me well down the path.

A good story and an excellent portrait of the Russian countryside.
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NYRB Classics: Virgin Soil, by Ivan Turgenev 1 5 Oct 30, 2013 09:38PM  
  • Castle Richmond
  • Born in Exile
  • The Monastery
  • The Enchanted Wanderer: Selected Tales
  • Albigenses
  • Ormond
  • The Golovlyov Family
  • The Case of Comrade Tulayev
  • Summer in Baden-Baden
  • The Artamonov Business
  • Marius the Epicurean
  • The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays
  • The Queue
  • The Real Charlotte
  • The Stechlin
  • The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems
  • Soul
  • News from Nowhere and Other Writings
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (Cyrillic: Иван Тургенев) was a novelist, poet and dramatist, and now ranks as one of the towering figures of Russian literature. His major works include the short-story collection A Sportsman’s Sketches (1852) and the novels Rudin (1856), Home of the Gentry (1859), On the Eve (1860), and Fathers and Sons (1862). These works offer realistic, affectionate portrayals of the ...more
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“He went to bed early, but could not fall asleep. He was haunted by sad and gloomy reflections about the inevitable end— death. These thoughts were familiar to him, many times had he turned them over this way and that, first shuddering at the probability of annihilation, then welcoming it, almost rejoicing in it. Suddenly a peculiarly familiar agitation took possession of him… He mused awhile, sat down at the table, and wrote down the following lines in his sacred copy-book, without a single correction:” 2 likes
“Nezhdanov's heart began to beat violently and he lowered his eyes involuntarily. This girl, who had fallen in love with a homeless wretch like him, who trusted him, who was ready to follow him, to go with him towards one and the same goal — this wonderful girl — Marianna — at that moment was, for Nezhdanov, the embodiment of everything good and just on earth; the embodiment of that love, that of a family, sister or wife, which he had not experienced; the embodiment of homeland, happiness, struggle and freedom.” 2 likes
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