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Past BOTM discussions > June 2018 BOTM Fathers and Sons

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message 1: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
Chinook has volunteered to be our moderator, so this is thread is for her. Thanks Chinook for volunteering.


message 2: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments Pre-reading questions:



1. Turgenev was a writer intently interested in social reforms, and as a realistic novelist, he set his work in contemporary Russia. The novel is set in the year 1859 carefully depicts the gradual rise of nihilism, growing liberalism in Russia, the move to emancipate the serfs in 1861, the anger and radicalism of the younger Russian generation, and the development of a middle class. To what degree are you familiar with Russian history?
2. I’ve seen some contrasts between Fathers and Sons and Albert Camus's The Stranger that compare Camus's existentialist narrator to Bazarov. What do you know about nihilism and existentialism?
3. The novel looks at the differences of views between two generations. Do you feel your own views are significantly different than those of your parents?
4. In the novel the characters move around a lot and the new locations are used to develop more of their personalities. Have you moved around yourself? Do you think that has developed different parts of your personality?


message 3: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 2078 comments Mod
Fathers and Sons Ivan Turgenev
★★★

Based in Russia during the period of the emancipation of the serfs this is a story about relationships.

As the title suggests the main relationships explored are those between the old generation fathers and the young intellectual sons we see these relationships through the nihilist Barazov and his star struck follower Arkady.

(view spoiler)

I did not like Barazov as a character to me he seemed confrontational just for confrontations sake he also appeared to care nothing about the feelings of others, whereas I like Arkady as a young man torn between defending his family, falling in love and impressing his friend.

I must confess to having a real problem with the names I can remember the characters by their actions however I had to look up the names to write this review.


message 4: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
1. Turgenev was a writer intently interested in social reforms, and as a realistic novelist, he set his work in contemporary Russia. The novel is set in the year 1859 carefully depicts the gradual rise of nihilism, growing liberalism in Russia, the move to emancipate the serfs in 1861, the anger and radicalism of the younger Russian generation, and the development of a middle class. To what degree are you familiar with Russian history?

Unfortunately, not that much. I never studied Russian history in school so my knowledge is really based on the major events and what I've picked up from reading Russian literature. I have tried to educate myself over the years while reading a variety of Russian classics but still have much to learn.

2. I’ve seen some contrasts between Fathers and Sons and Albert Camus's The Stranger that compare Camus's existentialist narrator to Bazarov. What do you know about nihilism and existentialism?
I haven't read either so can't compare the two. I don't typically love nihilistic writing/novels. I'm not a philosophy major so will likely butcher this but nihilism is the belief that this is no inherent meaning in life and any attempt to create or construct meaning is a futile endeavor. Existentialism is belief that there is no inherent meaning in life but in contrast to nihilism, it allows us to construct our own meaning. They are similar in that neither philosophy supports the world or life as things with inherent meaning (e.g., disavowal of religion and faith).

3. The novel looks at the differences of views between two generations. Do you feel your own views are significantly different than those of your parents?
Yes definitely. My parents are significantly more conservative than I am although I do share more in common with my mother than with my father. My parent's political views have shifted over the years with both become much more negative about the world.

4. In the novel the characters move around a lot and the new locations are used to develop more of their personalities. Have you moved around yourself? Do you think that has developed different parts of your personality?
Yes. I was born in NYC, moved to England when I was 2, then moved to Costa Rica when I was 12. I then moved to the US for college and have lived in PA, NYC, and now the Boston area. Moving around so much contributed to my personality in several ways. I think I became more adaptable and flexible in my thinking as a result of having lived in different places. It's easy for me to meet new people and make friends (although I'm certainly on the introverted side).


message 5: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments I’m starting the book today, so I thought I’d answe my own questions first!

1. To what degree are you familiar with Russian history?
I know fairly little. I’ve absorbed a lot of random stuff, from books ranging from classics to historical bodice toppers and movies and my parents - my mom studied Russian Lit and my father Russian history at university. I did read A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 four years ago and while it does look at the history leading up to the revolution, really I’m most acquainted with more recent Russian history.

2. What do you know about nihilism and existentialism?
Little, to be honest. The basic descriptions and not much more. I read Camus’ The Stranger for my French class oral exam in high school and I was far too young to handle the topic in a second language, was my conclusion. I’ve read it in English since, but I wasn’tuch of a fan.

3. Do you feel your own views are significantly different than those of your parents? My parents are fairly liberal people and so in that way we are similar. I think they are open-minded and I differ mostly from them in being exposed sooner to new ways that should be applied - like, they were always accepting and supportive of gay, lesbians and bisexuals, but I suspect are less aware of things like trans or gender queer issues. I did rebel fairly strongly against them in my teens and early twenties.

4. Have you moved around yourself? Do you think that has developed different parts of your personality? I was born in Canada and once I moved away for University, I’ve seldom been back. I did spend a year in Vancouver, across the country from where I was born and then Scotland, South Korea and now Colorado. Interestingly, we are now planning to move back to Canada and hopefully within a few hours drive of my hometown so we can be closer to my family, as they are really the only involved families members in our daughters’ lives.

I think moving overseas and to different countries and continents has made a huge difference in my perspectives. I’ve learned so much from the norms in other cultures, from the successes and failures of other countries in terms of dealing with basic ways to solve the sorts of problems we al have to solve. I’ve learned aspects of what it means to be a visible minority and also an invisible one. I’ve developed hobbies and skills I would likely never have encountered. I think sometimes I’ve learned more about myself and my own culture than I have about anything else over the years.


message 6: by Pip (last edited Jun 14, 2018 08:40PM) (new)

Pip | 1473 comments 1. I know very little Russian history, mostly gleaned from the 19th Century novels I have read. I visited the country in 1990 and wrote in my diary: I have disagreed with Reagan on almost everything, but I agree that this is an evil empire! I am spending a couple of days in St. Petersburg this summer. I loved it in contrast to Moscow in 1990 and I am intrigued to visit again and see what has changed.
2. My ideas about nihilism and existentialism are rather hazy, but I feel I understand the difference after Jen's explanation. I have had Camus on my TBR list all my life and still have not read anything by him. The only other Turgenev I have read is Virgin Soil.
3. My views are different from my parents', although I feel that they were products of their time, having lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. I argued vehemently with my father about women's roles and my mother because she was irrational, but my father died just before my 16th birthday. My dismissal of my mother's world view was not unlike that of Arkady when he contradicted his father and uncle. I mellowed as I got older, but then found that my daughters argued with their grandmother about precisely the same issues. I think that politically and socially I still have similar views to those of our daughters who are now in their fifties, and my grandchildren who are in their twenties. Although I sometimes think that my grandchildren are less liberal than I.
4. I didn't travel outside New Zealand until I was nearly 40, and my first trips involved school trips to Australia and New Caledonia.This was unusual. Nearly all New Zealanders travel at least to Britain when they are young. I was 44 when I left without any schoolchildren in tow and went to live in Fiji. I changed there because I realised that what I looked upon as hovels were actually comfortable homes and material possessions were not important. The antipathy between Fijian Indians and Fijians was understandable when their history was known. I then moved to Hong Kong where materialism was rampant, but everyone worked extremely hard and there was no safety net for those who failed to prosper. Hong Kongers could not believe that if you didn't have a job you were given a benefit in N.Z. When I moved to Sri Lanka I was exposed to Buddhism's reverence for life, which made it a wild life haven (but Sinhalese and Tamils were murdering each other enthusiastically for the whole time we lived there). This was the first time I had made Muslim friends, and I came to appreciate their devotion and discipline. Finally, before returning to N.Z. we lived in Germany, where everyone was so disciplined about almost everything. No jaywalking and sorting rubbish 11 different ways, for example. No speed limit on the autobahn was the interesting exception. When we returned to N.Z. after 23 years we found people extraordinarily complacent, insular and unmoved by the perils of global warming. So yes, moving changed the way we lived and our world view each time we were in a different culture.


message 7: by Kristel (last edited Jun 08, 2018 06:38PM) (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
1. Turgenev was a writer intently interested in social reforms, and as a realistic novelist, he set his work in contemporary Russia. The novel is set in the year 1859 carefully depicts the gradual rise of nihilism, growing liberalism in Russia, the move to emancipate the serfs in 1861, the anger and radicalism of the younger Russian generation, and the development of a middle class. To what degree are you familiar with Russian history?

I've read a few Russian novels and from that most of my familiarity with the history is derived. I think The Artamonov Business must be set during the same historical time period as it covers the emancipation of the serf and the changes that are occurring in the Russian generations and the development of the middle class.

2. I’ve seen some contrasts between Fathers and Sons and Albert Camus's The Stranger that compare Camus's existentialist narrator to Bazarov. What do you know about nihilism and existentialism?

Nihilism and existentialism was a philosophical turning away from belief in God and morals and the belief that life is meaningless. Existentialism believes in self determination. I am not especially fond of these aspects and find the literature often difficult to read.

I did read The Stranger and it was not a favorite, I liked The Plague much more.

3. The novel looks at the differences of views between two generations. Do you feel your own views are significantly different than those of your parents? Some might differ a bit but when more is similar than different.

4. In the novel the characters move around a lot and the new locations are used to develop more of their personalities. Have you moved around yourself? Do you think that has developed different parts of your personality? I have moved a lot. I moved and attended 5 different schools in my youth. I am not sure that this resulted in a change in my person but one thing that started to occur is that I no longer made many friendships but I think I am basically introverted anyway. On the other hand, I am still in contact with my best friend from 5 grade.

I've not traveled like the rest of you have other than to sight see. That really doesn't immerse you in the culture. I have stayed pretty much in the Midwest part of the US. I also am of the generation that is less educated in awareness of racism in all its aspects.


message 8: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments For anyone who has finished the book:

1. What causes the disconnect between the old generation and the young in Fathers and Sons?

2. Does the narrator seem to favor the old generation or the young? Romanticism or nihilism? Tradition or revolt?


message 9: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
1. The disconnect between the old generation and younger generation is their philosophy about life and meaning. The older generation are romantics where as the younger are nihilists. This is same type of disconnect that happens in many generations. The older generation being tied more closely to traditional values and the younger generations challenging the values held by their parents. In this case there is a pretty dramatic difference between fathers and sons and their belief systems and I think this parallels the social and political changes occurring in Russia at the time of the novel.

2. I'm not sure. On the one hand, Pavel Petrovitch Kirsanov is quite a pompous and silly character who isn't portrayed in the best light and is the one person who seems to most closely represent the aristocracy and traditional viewpoints. On the other hand, Yevgeny Vassilievitch Bazarov is also an unpleasant character (in my opinion) for the most part and it is his belief system that is most challenged when he finds himself falling in love. And the ending suggests that romanticism triumphs. So I'm not sure the narrators heavily favors one versus the other.


message 10: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments 1. I agree with Jen - basically they are arguing over whether anything has any inherent value/meaning.

2. I felt more sympathy for Pavel because he seemed at heart to have his family in kind during much of what he did. I tend more to the romanticism view myself - it’s idealistic but hopeful in comparison to Bazarov, who seems to suck all the fun and joy out of everything. He treated his parents quite badly, as well, though I also thought that their behaviour to him was some of the worst parenting I’ve seen displayed in a book.


message 11: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments 3, What is the role of romance and love in the novel? How do characters' successes or failures with love shape their destinies?

4. How are women portrayed in the novel? Does the portrayal seem sexist? Do they seem to have more or less power than men? Does the perspective change as the novel goes on?


message 12: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments 3. Romantic love is quite pivotal in each character’s life. Failure in love drives Pavel to pretty much waste the rest of his life. Failure in love for Barzarov seems to both solidify his position as a nihilist, in that he seems to double down on it, but I think it also destroys his actual core belief in the philosophy. If his love was returned I think he might have been less dogmatic and as a result, happier. Love makes Arkady and his father happy people.

5. In general, I thought women were portrayed here as being quite independent, though it’s also made clear that they take this independence and power for themselves in a fairly sexist society.


message 13: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1473 comments 1. The disconnect between fathers and sons is between men who have seen much of the world in the army and who have become settled in the countryside and their sons, who are fresh out of university and know everything. The fathers are not reactionary, they are in favour of the emancipation of the serfs and are dealing with the challenges of a rapidly changing society, and are,indeed, rather more tolerant of the nihilism of the sons than I would have expected.
2. Bazarov deeply disapproves of romanticism, but he fights a duel and participates in a wildly romantic deathbed scene, which are distinctly anti-nihilistic, if such a nomenclature exists. I suspect that Turgenev is rather a romantic really. After all, Uncle Pavel is a romantic character, who argues with Bazarov more convincingly than anyone else.
3. Both sets of parents are depicted as being happily married, or living in sin, as the case may be. And there is considerable happy ever after at the end, so romance and love are important. Arkady's more moderate views lead him to love while Barzarov meets his match in the intellectual Anna and his more extreme views (and his superior attitude) have a lot to do with him not finding the love he doesn't believe in.
4. All the women are strong characters in their own right. I particularly liked the description of Barzarov's mother, who is wildly superstitious and illogical, but is also intelligent enough to hold a conversation for half an hour (!). So yes, the portrayal is sexist, but the female characters do have independent views and are beautifully described.


message 14: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
I finished the book last night. My copy is an Oxford World Classics and translation a new one by Richard Freeborn who had access to the Tugenev's working manuscripts. Appendix contained English translation of some of Tugenev's preparatory sketches for the novel.

1. I do think there is often a disconnect between generations and between fathers and son at certain points in the development stages. I also think their is usually a return to closer relationship after some maturity accumulates for the son. In this book, I think the fathers are trying very hard to be supportive of their sons and to the changes that is occurring in their world. That isn't always an easy thing.
2. I don't think the author was overly sold on nihilism and there was plenty of romanticism in the book. I agree with Pip on the points she made.
3. This book was surprisingly a "happy every after, good ending book" except for Bazarov and he was a character that did encourage sympathetic reactions from the reader. It almost felt like Bazarov's behaviors following the 'cut' were a bit suicidal as if he had lost the will to live. Nihilism wasn't very rewarding.
4. I liked the women in the book. I thought Bazarov's discounting them as serious people was very chauvinistic on his part. He had an attitude of superiority to the pheasants and to women.


message 15: by Melissa (new)

Melissa 1. I don’t know if the author really favors one or the other. To me, by the end, it was that age old story of the younger generation always thinking they know better than their dotty old parents, but as time goes by the grow up, get grounded, and become part of their communities too. Yes, they have some new ideas, that come with technology moving forward, and some pan out, some don’t....but as a whole they join in their community and the community as a whole moves together forward incrementally.

2. Romanticism wins in the end, because it is only in the romantic/sentimental group that new bonds are formed, families work together, and the next generation springs from.


message 16: by George P. (new)

George P. | 538 comments I started reading Fathers and Sons a bit a few days ago and am still early in it because of reading several others simultaneously. I'm reading the C. Garnett translation on my Kindle, but may switch to an e-audiobook later (the library listing doesn't show the translator; read by George Guidall). With tomorrow being Father's Day it is a great time to read it.
I know little of philosophy and have never been particularly interested in it. I have read Camus' popular novels and liked them, but no Goethe or Sartre as yet. I would like to learn more, if I can do it painlessly by reading novels.
My parents and I don't differ very much in our political views, and we really didn't argue much about our outlook and politics, but I'm probably more adventurous in life than they were. When I was young I had less of a goal of financial comfort than they but I eventually came to be more interested in it.
I've never lived outside the US but have lived in 2 different regions (southeast and mountain-west) and have been able to travel outside the country a fair amount. It's hard to know the effect of that on my personality because I don't know how I would be different if I had stayed put more. I'm fairly sure it has increased my interest in the wider world; I watch a lot of foreign language films and read a lot of books by writers from other countries.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I really like this book!

1. Don't know that much about Russian history (to my shame) compared to other European countries. But I've always fancied learning the Russian language - will probably get round to it in retirement lol!

2. This was my first introduction to nihilism and from following the novel it was enough to give me the gist of it. I can see how that theory could fit into the politics of the time.

3. I would say that my political opinions are very much the same as my mothers' who raised me alone and we still remain very close. I love following Scottish politics - the present ongoing independence debate is at an exciting point just now; the whole state of EU politics actually is. Could it be that as a result of Brexit the UK would trade more with Russia?? - will we become closer?

4. I spent some time living in Spain when I was at University - a fantastic experience. I've mostly lived in Scotland and have moved about the coast but always not too far from Edinburgh. It does help develop parts of your personality - using social skills when living in new communities. I have always loved travel although with small children it's not always as easy nowadays but I would like to teach my children that the world is their oyster. Learning the history and current politics of foreign cultures is imperative to this. I would definitely recommend this book to them when they are older as it wasn't just about politics, it was also emotionally absorbing. I am very keen to read more Turgenev.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I've just realised that I've answered the first lot of questions...I'll prob look at the other ones later on oops :o)


message 19: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1533 comments 1. Turgenev was a writer intently interested in social reforms, and as a realistic novelist, he set his work in contemporary Russia. The novel is set in the year 1859 carefully depicts the gradual rise of nihilism, growing liberalism in Russia, the move to emancipate the serfs in 1861, the anger and radicalism of the younger Russian generation, and the development of a middle class. To what degree are you familiar with Russian history?

I am not very familiar at all. My father traveled there frequently so I have somewhat of a voyeur's glimpse of the country but am not very knowledgable in regards their history.

2. I’ve seen some contrasts between Fathers and Sons and Albert Camus's The Stranger that compare Camus's existentialist narrator to Bazarov. What do you know about nihilism and existentialism?

I read Camus in college because it seemed to be required, not by the institution but by my peers. Other than that I am afraid I am ignorant.

3. The novel looks at the differences of views between two generations. Do you feel your own views are significantly different than those of your parents?

I think that my parents and I share some real basic values but do not see eye to eye on politics or how to go about making things better in the world. I think the worlds we grew up in were extremely different in almost all aspects but nevertheless, we can each see the world from the other's point of view with a little urging.

4. In the novel the characters move around a lot and the new locations are used to develop more of their personalities. Have you moved around yourself? Do you think that has developed different parts of your personality?

I have moved frequently and I do think that it forces one to be more open minded about others. When I travel now, I still am repeatedly shocked in a delightful way at seeing the world through different perspectives and being opened up and changed by that new perspective is one of the best things about both moving and traveling.

I am going to start reading the book now.


message 20: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1533 comments I am reading a library edition with a 1941 copyright by Heritage Press. It is translated by Constance Garnett with a forward by Sinclair Lewis and some absolutely wonderful wood carvings by Fritz Eichenberg. Has anyone else seen these woodcarvings? I find them amazing.


message 21: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments 5. How does the historical setting come to influence the most central events of the novel? In what ways is Bazarov very much a character of his time?

6. Do you find Bazarov to be a compelling character? If so, what makes him so compelling?


message 22: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1473 comments 5. I believe that nihilism was quite the thing in Russia at the time, so Turgenev was dealing with a topical issue.
6. I thought Bazarov to be insensitive and opiniated, but definitely charasmatic.


message 23: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1533 comments 1. What causes the disconnect between the old generation and the young in Fathers and Sons?

As others have mentioned, the disconnect comes from growing up under different historical realities and the nature of sons (and daughters) to look at the world they inherited and rebel against their parents. In particular, at this time in Russia there were extreme political changes happening around the world and closer to home. The old feudal order was being tested by the industrialized economy and the rise of the middle class. In particular, the older generation in the novel were a bit world weary and appreciated being out in the country and attempting to do their best on a small scale, while the two main male characters were, at the beginning of the novel, thoroughly discomforted by being in the backwater of their ancestral homes.

2. Does the narrator seem to favor the old generation or the young? Romanticism or nihilism? Tradition or revolt?

I found the narrator to be largely on the side of romanticism although in a way that the parents are, which is they are a bit ashamed of their emotions but nevertheless overflow with them. I think that the fact that Bazarov's story ends in a decidedly romantic series of events after embodying nihilism throughout the book reflects the author's thoughts on romanticism clinging closer to the very nature of humans in history than nihilism does. Pavel, who could be a stand in for romanticism the way that Bazarov is a stand in for nihilism, is not an endearing character as he is too pompous and he throws his life away on nostalgic reflections. Still he does seem to do the right thing for his family in the end.
I loved Chinook's comment about the parents exhibiting the worst parenting skills.

3. What is the role of romance and love in the novel? How do characters' successes or failures with love shape their destinies?

I found this book to be quite unique in that it allowed a number of the main characters to live happily ever after and it even allowed Araky's father to be happy with his relationship with his son in the end. Bazarov and Pavel did not fair so well as they did not have their love returned, which ultimately was the determining factor of their whole life, not their philosophies.

4. How are women portrayed in the novel? Does the portrayal seem sexist? Do they seem to have more or less power than men? Does the perspective change as the novel goes on?

Again, uniquely for its time I believe, some woman were powerful and not simply because they could make men fall in love with them. Madame Odintsov made hard practical decisions to solidify her place in life and worked to protect her sister. Evdoksys was also able to hold her own in arguing with the men about philosophy. Katya is an accomplished musician and was clearly going to rule the household.

5. How does the historical setting come to influence the most central events of the novel? In what ways is Bazarov very much a character of his time?

It was a time of tremendous change in Russia. Even the aristocracy knew that they had to make change through land reforms and paying wages (and collecting rents). I think that they hoped that through these kind of changes they could forestall the revolution (clearly they failed). The younger generation, as is often the case, were advocating extreme changes rather than just incremental changes. Nihilism was one of the more extreme philosophies of that time. If nothing mattered than any change was acceptable.

6. Do you find Bazarov to be a compelling character? If so, what makes him so compelling?
Obviously, he was obnoxious. He treated his friends and his parents extremely poorly and he never altered his opinions after his discussions with friends. He didn't even alter his opinions after falling in love even though you would have thought that would make him question his belief. Instead, it just made him despair as being weak in his belief. I did find him compelling however. I can imagine how the strong minded women found him a good match for their own minds. Also, Turgenev made sure that dogs and children loved him....


message 24: by Diane (last edited Jun 22, 2018 06:51PM) (new)

Diane  | 2051 comments 1. Turgenev was a writer intently interested in social reforms, and as a realistic novelist, he set his work in contemporary Russia. The novel is set in the year 1859 carefully depicts the gradual rise of nihilism, growing liberalism in Russia, the move to emancipate the serfs in 1861, the anger and radicalism of the younger Russian generation, and the development of a middle class. To what degree are you familiar with Russian history?

What I learned in school in respect to Russian history was limited. Most of what I have learned has been through books and the Internet.

2. I’ve seen some contrasts between Fathers and Sons and Albert Camus's The Stranger that compare Camus's existentialist narrator to Bazarov. What do you know about nihilism and existentialism?

Nihilism is a rejection of traditional beliefs, values, and universal truths, such as the belief in a higher power. These things are thought to be of no value or purpose to life and it is pointless to try to change that. In fact, life itself is thought to be of little purpose. Nihilism is often considered a belief in nothing, but that is not entirely true. It is more faith in nothing than a belief in nothing. In nihilism, if something cannot be proven, then it probably doesn't exist.
Existentialism is similar in that it also assumes that there is little meaning or purpose to life. The difference is that existentialists are less fatalistic and take action to create meaning in their lives. Another difference is that existentialists, who view the future with uncertainty, tend to live in the here and now. They believe that they are products of their actions and not their beliefs. Basically, nihilists and existentialists have a pessimistic view of life and its meaning, but existentialists are more proactive.


3. The novel looks at the differences of views between two generations. Do you feel your own views are significantly different than those of your parents?

Definitely. Oddly, I share many similar views with my grandparents.

4. In the novel the characters move around a lot and the new locations are used to develop more of their personalities. Have you moved around yourself? Do you think that has developed different parts of your personality?

I have moved around a lot, especially in my childhood. I was just thinking about this the other day and the fact that I attended 12 different schools in 7 different states during my childhood. I continued to move as an adult, reaching a total of 11 US states that I have called home. We won't even go into all of the cities and towns. All this movement did shape who I am. On the plus side, it made me more adaptable to new situations. On the negative side, it is difficult for me to maintain long lasting relationships, as they have traditionally been temporary for me throughout my life. I lose touch with people easily after relocating to a new area or situation.

5. How does the historical setting come to influence the most central events of the novel? In what ways is Bazarov very much a character of his time?

Russia was undergoing significant change during that time. There was a lot of social upheaval. There were many political, social, and economic changes, most notably the shift from a feudalistic economy to a free-market economy. Russia had also recently suffered a crushing defeat in the Crimean War and was looking to make significant reforms within the country. The book also took place in the countryside, which was considered more "backward" and less progressive than the cities.

After returning from the city, Bazarov has a heightened awareness of the backwardness of the countryside. He sees it as a place devoid of culture. Now that he is "citified" and educated, he is arrogant and thinks himself better than all these ignorant country bumpkins back home. He is part of the "new" generation and has latched onto the recently discovered philosophy of nihilism.


6. Do you find Bazarov to be a compelling character? If so, what makes him so compelling?

Yes. He is annoyingly arrogant and overconfident in the beginning, but does possess a certain charisma. He becomes more humble as the book progresses, especially in the end.


While I was reading this today, I read a passage where Bazarov exclaims, "Today is June the 22nd, the day of my guardian angel," I thought it was pretty cool that I read this on June 22 (although many years later).


message 25: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments Oh, that’s a nice bit of serendipity!


message 26: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1473 comments Thank you so much Diane for your explanation of nihilism and of existentialism. I think I understand both movements better after what you have written.


message 27: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments 7. How does Turgenev use nature in his novel to depict the older generation and their traditional way of life?

8. How does Turgenev make use of humor to present his themes in the novel? For example, satire, parody, humorous and dramatic situations. Does his use of humor enhance the story?


message 28: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 481 comments Pre-reading questions (even though I only have four chapters left of the book.)

1. I only know the basics of Russian history. More about the revolution and WW2 than anything else.

2. I had a bit about existentialism in university, but it's not something I know particularly much about. I mainly associate it with Sartre. Nihilism I associate with Nietzsche But also the movie The Big Lebowski https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_29y...

I have read The Stranger/The Outsider, but most of the hidden existentialist meanings went over my head. I started to look at various analysis and commentaries to the book after I'd read it, but finally decided I didn't like the book enough to bother. I can't see much similarity between Camus and Turgenev here, in plot, characters, writing style. There's a theme of alienation and ennui, but surely that's not that rare.

3. My parents are only 20 years older than me, and in this day and age that seems to be less of a gap than it was in Turgenev's time. We do see some things differently yes, but I don't think that's just a generation thing. My mother and father see many things very differently too, and they were born less than a year apart.

4. I am Norwegian and lived in two different towns there. I also lived a year in Paris, 6 months in Brighton, England, and have now lived 4 years in Wales. Living in different places, especially different countries definitely changes you and the way you look at things. Knowing different languages shapes and expands the way you see things too.


message 29: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 481 comments I've finished the book now. I was rather surprised at Bazarov's death! Even pre-antibiotics typhoid fever only killed 2/10 patients, most of them young children. Unless I am completely misinformed. I expected Bazarov to recover and maybe reassess his life. Find some joue de vivre. Instead we get a deathbed scene that would have been worthy of Arkady's uncle Pavel.

I think Turgenev was decidedly on the side of the romanticists. Bazarov seems to mainly be a nihilist because it allows him to reject all authority and set himself up as one, complete with disciples, and to pour scorn on anyone who disagrees with him. Although perhaps that is too harsh. He did seem to tire of his hangers-on. Sometimes it also seemed like his nihilism was an excuse not to try to make anything of himself. He could just study his frogs and impress the young and impressionable, and not attempt to actually break through the remnants of the old social caste system.

I was also surprised that Odintsova remarried. I guess she was lonely and bored, and she picked a husband where there was no risk of getting carried away by passion, but surely she could have done something else! She had already tried marriage, and didn't care much for it. She had the means to do whatever, invite whomever. There is nothing in her character or story to suggest that she would want to remarry.


message 30: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1533 comments 7) Arkady’s father could not make his farm prosperous. His trees would not grow, his crops had blight. Bararoz on the other hand had a way with nature that seemed better able to understand what was really happening in the woods and fields around him. However, he went out and just “collected” nature to dissect it and understand it, rather than attempting to have some relationship with it that aligned with the productivity of humans. It isn’t until the very end that we see some balance when Arkady himself is able to bring some prosperity to his father’s farm.


message 31: by Chinook (new)

Chinook | 282 comments Those last two questions - I didn’t really see the use of nature as a theme, but I kept coming across it as a theme.

But I loved how funny this was. I may not have been rolling around laughing or anything, but I snickered quite a few times and I hadn’t expected that.


message 32: by George P. (last edited Jun 27, 2018 06:24PM) (new)

George P. | 538 comments No doubt some of you have finished by now- I'm still working on it, about 3/4 through now.
About a year ago I read (Ukrainian) writer Nicolai Gogol's Dead Souls, which was written about 20 years before Fathers and Sons. At that time serfs could be sold from one farmer to another and inherited from the father to the son. It's interesting now to read this novel in which this practice is being phased out. Much of what I know about older Russian history I learned from novels such as this, The Brothers Karamazov, and Anna Karenina. I haven't yet read War and Peace but want to do that in the next year or 2.
Have others read some of these novels, and what similarities do you see from the history?


message 33: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1533 comments As Chinook says, the rather amazing thing about Fathers and Sons is that it has a sense of humor and is downright playful at times, something that other Russian novels I have read do not have in the least. Russian history definitely comes with weight. However, I have not read that many Russian novels. I read War and Peace but I was so young when I read it, it was like reading science fiction. I might as well have been reading about Mars. I will have to reread it. I would like my next Russian novel to be The Idiot as it is climbing up my TBR pile.


message 34: by Kristel (last edited Jun 28, 2018 07:09PM) (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
George wrote: "No doubt some of you have finished by now- I'm still working on it, about 3/4 through now.
About a year ago I read (Ukrainian) writer Nicolai Gogol's Dead Souls, which was written abou..."

I’ve read many Russian novels of various authors. This one seemed rather unique in that it is not quite like other Russian novels. Tolstoy is not my favorite Russian author, I prefer Dostoyevsky but my favorite Tolstoy is his smaller books like the The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Anna Karenina. I’ve read The Nose and The Artamonov Business. This book might be different in that it was a story told through characters rather than plot.


message 35: by Paula (new)

Paula S (paula_s) | 220 comments This was a reread for me.

Pre-reading questions:
1. Turgenev was a writer intently interested in social reforms, and as a realistic novelist, he set his work in contemporary Russia. The novel is set in the year 1859 carefully depicts the gradual rise of nihilism, growing liberalism in Russia, the move to emancipate the serfs in 1861, the anger and radicalism of the younger Russian generation, and the development of a middle class. To what degree are you familiar with Russian history?
- Very little, only the general outlines.
2. I’ve seen some contrasts between Fathers and Sons and Albert Camus's The Stranger that compare Camus's existentialist narrator to Bazarov. What do you know about nihilism and existentialism?
Not much. Nihilism is believing in nothing, but I'm not sure about existentialism.
I'm not sure The Stranger is a fair comparison. The narrator clearly has Asperger's syndrome or high functioning autism, it's not a well-thought out philosophical mindset. Basarov on the other hand, and Arkadij even more, are nihilists because they think that's what is needed to make way for a better world.

3. The novel looks at the differences of views between two generations. Do you feel your own views are significantly different than those of your parents?
In some ways yes, in other ways no. The world is changing faster now than ever.
4. In the novel the characters move around a lot and the new locations are used to develop more of their personalities. Have you moved around yourself? Do you think that has developed different parts of your personality?
I travelled a lot when I was younger and (more importantly) stayed in foreign coutries for extented period. It definitely made me more open-minded. It was also an opportunity for me get away from a stressful life and recharge my batteries, helping me explore and develope my more gentle, relaxed side.

For anyone who has finished the book:

1. What causes the disconnect between the old generation and the young in Fathers and Sons?
The usual impatiens of the young wanting the world to be a better place without understanding the trade-offs and patience needed to actually improve the world and not just tear down the old ways.

2. Does the narrator seem to favor the old generation or the young? Romanticism or nihilism? Tradition or revolt?
romanticism wins the day. the only characters who achive happiness are those that choose love and home over improving the world.
3, What is the role of romance and love in the novel? How do characters' successes or failures with love shape their destinies?
love is the turning point in all their lives. I agree with Chinook
4. How are women portrayed in the novel? Does the portrayal seem sexist? Do they seem to have more or less power than men? Does the perspective change as the novel goes on?
It is a sexist society, but the novel itself didn't strike me as particialarly sexist.
5. How does the historical setting come to influence the most central events of the novel? In what ways is Bazarov very much a character of his time?
it was a time of change in Russia, and nihilism was apparently the trendy philosophy.
6. Do you find Bazarov to be a compelling character? If so, what makes him so compelling?
I felt a lot of sympathy for Basarov for being so unhappy in his life.
7. How does Turgenev use nature in his novel to depict the older generation and their traditional way of life?
there was a fair bit of romantizing of the trees and fields in the country side. there
8. How does Turgenev make use of humor to present his themes in the novel? For example, satire, parody, humorous and dramatic situations. Does his use of humor enhance the story?
I really enjoyed the bits of satire, in describing the mannerisms of people. I thought it enhanced the story.


message 36: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 481 comments I haven't read that much Russian literature, so it didn't occur to me that the use of humour and the happy ending (for most characters) was something unusual. I'm used to black humour and absurdism from more recent Eastern European authors. I'm curious to read more of Turgenev's work now, to see if this is his style. And I wonder if love and family is a recurring theme for him.


message 37: by George P. (new)

George P. | 538 comments Just finished Fathers and Sons. I think it was a remarkable book for its time for its sensitive portrayal of nuanced characters and their relationships. The overall story would be too dull for many readers today though.


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