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Virgin Soil

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,407 Ratings  ·  54 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
Paperback, 355 pages
Published August 31st 2000 by NYRB Classics (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
Manuel Alfonseca
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 21, 2017 rated it liked it
ادبیات روسیه خیلی مورد علاقه من نیست، ولی داستان خاک بکر و نثر روان و پایان غافلگیر کننده آن را دوست داشتم.
Joseph Pinchback
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
B. Morrison
Mar 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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
Oct 08, 2014 marked it as to-read

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 04, 2015 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
Monty Milne
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it
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
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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. Nejdanov���s 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 p
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stately and measured when opposed to Dostoevsky's gargantuan, fervid DEMONS, w/ which is has some obvious similarities and which preceded it by a mere five years, I feel driven to contend that though unquestionably the lesser masterpiece, VIRGIN SOIL is probably by any measure the more retrospectively prescient. If Doestoevsky's vision would seem to portend hell and conflagration, Turgenev's seems to soberly foresee actual revolution. The organizers, then, in opposition to the nihilists. VIRGIN ...more
Czarny Pies
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian-lit
Bien des gens qui ont affiche des revues de "Terres Vierges" sur le site de Goodreads semblent penser moins du roman parce qu'il traite comme les "Possèdés" de Dostoïevski du thème des cellules révolutionnaires en Russie au dix-neuvième siècle. Ces gens croient probablement que l'on devra vider la question des cellules révolutionaires dans un seul roman et qu'un deuxième n'est pas nécessaire. Le sujet est finallement complexe et on peut bien lire plusiers qui l'abordent. À mon sens, "Terres Vier ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jul 17, 2014 added it
Shelves: russian
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 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
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Moien Aghcheli
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
به نظرم بعد از پدارن و پسران بهترین اثر تورگینف بود. یک شروع ارام و عطفی بسیار قوی با پایانی غم انگیز.
اون موقع که نژدانف با رفت به شهر ت و یا قبلتر از اون دعوای مارینا با زن دایی اش نقاط عطف داستان بودند.
شخصت پردازی این کتاب خیلی خوب بود. عناصر کتاب همه در ارتباط با هم دیگه بودند. و یه داستان رئالیسیتی از یک انقلاب نا موفق را به تصویر می کشیدند.
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Yogy TheBear
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was a good description of the populist movement in Russia. The populist movement can be considered the spiritual father of latter revolutionary socialist movements in Russia.
My observations will be of a more political aspect then literary.
The first comparation I can think about of the populist movement in Russia is the abolitionist one in the anglo saxon world. And from here starts my questions and dilemmas.
Why was the russian version inherently socialist and anti capitalist .
Why did they t
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: translated, russian
3.5. Actually a very good, somewhat old-fashioned novel, in the sense that novels are not much made this way anymore, and considering how long it took me to muster up interest in continuing to read it. I think the reason is that the characters are first-rate, sublime creations, but the plot is slow. Highlights: Fimushka and Fomushka, Nedzhanov's book of verses, Paklin's cigar. Paklin in particular was a great character.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
A dollar-store "Demons" for people who think Dostoyevsky's too "negative".
Amina Sadr
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Read the Russian original.

Five stars. As it was in case of "Smoke", i find this supposedly "weak", according to critics, novel better and more valuable than the higher rated works of Turgenev. This, once again, has discouraged me from reading critique before getting familiar with the novel itself, and sometimes even after.
The common theme present in both "Virgin soil" and "Smoke" is the struggle of a person who doesn't fit neither black(or red in this case), nor white. His inner organization i
Judith Rich
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001, russia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2016 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 rated it really liked it
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
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NYRB Classics: Virgin Soil, by Ivan Turgenev 1 6 Oct 30, 2013 09:38PM  
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Iván Serguéyevich Turguénev (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 t ...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:” 3 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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