By Dimitry I. Pisarev in Sochineniya 2 {Moscow, 1955)7-50. Translated by Lydia Hooke


Pisarev (1840-68), the most radical critic of the 1860's, published his review of Fathers and Sons within a month of the novel's appearance, and was in part responsible for the controversy that arose over the work. This essay is somewhat atypical of his work, where he usually sacrificed his genuine critical insight to further "The Destruction ofAesthetics," as he entitled one of his essays.


Turgenev's new novel affords us all those pleasures which we have learned to expect from his works. The artistic finish is irreproachably good: the characters and situations, the episodes and scenes are rendered so graphically and yet so unobtrusively, that the most arrant repudiator of art will feel on reading the novel a kind of incomprehensible delight which can be explained neither by the inherent interest of the narrated events, nor by the striking truth of the fundamental idea. The fact is that the events are not particularly entertaining and that the idea is not startlingly true. The novel has neither plot nor denouement, nor a particularly well-considered structure; it has types and characters, it has episodes and scenes, and above all through the fabric of the narration we see the personal, deeply felt involvement of the author with the phenomena he has portrayed. And these phenomena are very close to us, so close that our whole younger generation with its aspirations and ideas can recognize itself in the characters of this novel. By this I do not mean to say that in Turgenev's novel the ideas and aspirations of the younger generation are depicted just as the younger generation itself understands them: Turgenev regards these ideas and aspirations from his own point of view, and age and youth almost never share the same convictions and sympathies. But if you go up to a mirror which while reflecting objects also changes their color a little bit, then you recognize your own physiognomy in spite of the distortions of the mirror. We see in Turgenev's novel contemporary types and at the same time we are aware of the changes which the phenomena of reality have undergone while passing through the consciousness of the artist. It is interesting to observe the effects on a man like Turgenev of the ideas and aspirations stirring in our younger generation and manifesting themselves, as do all living things, in the most diverse forms, seldom attractive, often original, sometimes misshapen.


Such an investigation may have profound significance. Turgenev is one of the best men of the last generation; to determine how he looks at us and why he looks at us thus and not otherwise is to find the reason for that conflict which is apparent everywhere in our private family life; this same conflict which so often leads to the destruction of young lives and which causes the continual moaning and groaning of our old men and women, who have not been able to fit the deeds and ideas of their sons and daughters to their own mold. As you can see, this is a task of vital importance, substantial and complex; I probably will not be able to cope with it but I am willing to try.


Turgenev's novel, in addition to its artistic beauty, is remarkable for the fact that it stirs the mind, leads to reflection, although, it does not solve a single problem itself and clearly illuminates not so much the phenomena depicted by the author as his own attitudes toward these phenomena. It leads to reflection precisely because everything is permeated with the most complete and most touching sincerity. Every last line in Turgenev's latest novel is deeply felt; this feeling breaks through against the will and realization of the author himself and suffuses the objective narration, instead of merely expressing itself in lyric digressions. The author himself is not clearly aware of his feelings; he does not subject them to analysis, nor does he assume a critical attitude toward them. This circumstance gives us the opportunity to see these feelings in all their unspoiled spontaneity. We see what shines through and not just what the author wants to show us or prove. Turgenev's opinions and judgments do not change our view of the younger generation or the ideas of our time by one iota; we do not even take them into consideration, we will not even argue with them; these opinions, judgments, and feelings, expressed in inimitably lifelike images, merely afford us material for a characterization of the older generation, in the person of one of its best representatives. I shall endeavor to organize this material and, if I succeed, I shall explain why our old people will not come to terms with us, why they shake their heads and, depending on the individual and the mood, are angry, bewildered, or quietly melancholy on account of our deeds and ideas.



The action of the novel takes place in the summer of 1859. A young university graduate, Arkady Nikolaevich Kirsanov, comes to the country to visit his father, accompanied by his friend, Evgeny Vassilyich Bazarov, who, evidently, exerts a strong influence on his young comrade's mode of thought. This Bazarov, a man of strong mind and character, occupies the center of the novel. He is the representative of our young generation; he possesses those personality traits which are distributed among the masses in small quantities; and the image of this man clearly and distinctly stands out in the reader's imagination.

Bazarov is the son of a poor district doctor; Turgenev says nothing about his life as a student, but it must be surmised that this life was poor, laborious, and difficult; Bazarov's father says of his son that he never in his life took an extra kopeck from them; to tell the truth, it would have been impossible to take very much even if he had wanted to; consequently, if the elder Bazarov says this in praise of his son, it means that Evgeny Vassilyich supported himself at the university by his own labor, eking out a living by giving cheap lessons and at the same time finding it possible to prepare himself ably for his future occupation. Bazarov emerged from this school of labor and deprivation a strong and stern man; the course of studies in natural and medical sciences which he pursued developed his innate intelligence and taught him never to accept any idea and conviction whatsoever on faith; he became a pure empiricist; experience became for him the sole source of knowledge, his own sensations- the sole and ultimate proof.  

"I maintain a negative attitude," he says, "by virtue of my sensations; I like to deny- my brain's made on that plan, and that's all! Why do I like chemistry? Why do you like apples?- also by virtue of our sensations. It's all the same thing. Men will never penetrate deeper than that. Not everyone will tell you that, and, in fact, I won't tell you so another time."

As an empiricist, Bazarov acknowledges only what can be felt with the hands, seen with the eyes, tasted by the tongue, in a word, only what can be examined with one of the five senses. All other human feelings he reduces to the activity of the nervous system; consequently, the enjoyment of the beauty of nature, of music, painting, poetry, the love of a woman do not seem to him to be any loftier or purer than the enjoyment of a copious dinner or a bottle of good wine. What rapturous youths call an ideal does not exist for Bazarov; he calls all this "romanticism," and sometimes instead of the word "romanticism" he uses the word "nonsense." In spite of all this, Bazarov does not steal other people's handkerchiefs, he does not extract money from his parents, he works assiduously and is even not unwilling to do something useful in life. I have a presentiment that many of my readers will ask themselves: what restrains Bazarov from foul deeds and what motivates him to do anything useful? This question leads to the following doubt: is not Bazarov pretending to himself and to others? Is he not showing off? Perhaps in the depths of his soul he acknowledges much of what he repudiates aloud, and perhaps it is precisely what he thus acknowledges which secretly saves him from moral degradation and moral worthlessness. Although Bazarov is nothing to me, although I, perhaps, feel no sympathy for him, for the sake of abstract justice, I shall endeavor to answer this question and refute this silly doubt.

You can be as indignant as you please with people like Bazarov, but you absolutely must acknowledge their sincerity. These people can be honorable or dishonorable, civic stalwarts or inveterate swindlers, depending on circumstances and their personal tastes. Nothing but personal, taste prevents them from killing or stealing and nothing but personal taste motivates such people to make discoveries in the realms of science and social life. Bazarov would not steal a handkerchief for the same reason that he would not eat a piece of putrid beef. If Bazarov were starving to death, then he probably would do both. The agonizing feeling of an unsatisfied physical need would conquer his aversion to the smell of rotting meat and to the secret encroachment on other people's property. In addition to direct inclination, Bazarov has one other guiding principle in life- calculation. When he is sick, he takes medicine, although he feels no direct inclination to swallow castor oil or assafetida. He acts thus through calculation: he pays the price of a minor unpleasantness in order to secure greater comfort in the future or deliverance from a greater unpleasantness. In a word, he chooses the lesser of two evils, although he feels no attraction even to the lesser evil. This sort of calculation generally proves useless to average people; they are calculatingly cunning and mean, they steal, become entangled and wind up being made fools of anyway. Very clever people act differently; they understand that being honorable is very advantageous and that every crime, from a simple lie to murder, is dangerous and consequently inconvenient. Thus very clever people can be honorable through calculation and act openly where limited people would equivocate and lay snares. By working tirelessly, Bazarov is following his direct inclination and taste, and, furthermore, acts according to the truest calculation. If he had sought patronage, bowed and scraped, acted meanly instead of working and conducting himself proudly and independently, he would have been acting against his best interests. Careers forged through one's own work are always more secure and broader than a career built with low bows or the intercession of an important uncle. By the two latter means, it is possible to wind up as a provincial or even a metropolitan bigwig, but since the world began, no one has ever succeeded in becoming a Washington, Copernicus, Garibaldi, or Heinrich Heine through such means. Even Herostratus built his career by his own efforts and did not find his way into history through patronage. As for Bazarov, he does not aspire to become a provincial bigwig: if his imagination sometimes pictures the future, then this future is somehow indefinitely broad; he works without a goal, in order to earn his crust of bread or from love of the process of work, but, nevertheless, he vaguely feels that given the caliber of his mind his work will not pass without a trace and will lead to something. Bazarov is exceedingly full of self-esteem, but this self-esteem is unnoticeable as a direct consequence of his vastness. He is not interested in the trifles of which commonplace human relationships are composed; it would be impossible to insult him with obvious disdain or to make him happy with signs of respect; he is so full of himself and stands so unshakably high in his own eyes that he is almost completely indifferent to other people's opinions. Kirsanov's uncle, who closely resembles Bazarov in his cast of mind and character, calls his self-esteem "satanic pride." This expression is well-chosen and characterizes our hero perfectly. In truth, it would take nothing short of a whole eternity of constantly expanding activity and constantly increasing pleasures to satisfy Bazarov, but to his misfortune, Bazarov does not believe in the eternal existence of the human personality.

"You said, for instance," he says to his friend Arkady, "to-day as we passed our bailiff Philip's cottage- it's the one that's so nice and clean-well, you said Russia will attain perfection when the poorest peasant has a hut like that, and every one of us ought to work to bring it about. ... And I felt such a hatred for this poorest peasant, this Philip or Sidor, for" whom I'm to be ready to jump out of my skin, and who won't even thank me for it ... and what do I need his thanks for? Why, suppose he does live in a clean hut, while I am pushing up daisies,- well, what comes after that?"

Thus Bazarov, everywhere and in everything, does only what he wishes or what seems to him to be advantageous or convenient. He is ruled only by his whims or his personal calculations. Neither over himself, nor outside himself, nor within himself does he recognize a moderator, a moral law or principle; ahead- no exalted goal; in his mind- no high design, and yet he has such great capacities.- But this is an immoral man! A villain, a monster!- I hear the exclamations of indignant readers on all sides. Well, all right, a villain and a monster; abuse him further; abuse him more, persecute him with satire and epigrams, indignant lyricism and aroused public opinion, the fires of the Inquisition and the executioners' axes- and you will neither rout him out nor kill this monster, nor preserve him in alcohol for the edification of the respectable public. If Bazarovism is a disease, then it is a disease of our time, and must be endured to the end, no matter what palliatives and amputations are employed. Treat Bazarovism however you please- that .. is your business; but you will not be able to put a stop to it; it is just the same as cholera.


The disease of an age first infects the people who by virtue of their mental powers stand higher than the common level. Bazarov, who is possessed by this disease, is distinguished by his remarkable mind and consequently produces a strong impression on people who come into contact with him. "A real man," he says, "is one whom it's no use thinking about, whom one must either obey or hate." This definition of a real man precisely fits Bazarov himself: he continually seizes the attention of the people surrounding him at once; some he frightens and antagonizes; others he conquers, not so much with arguments as with the direct force, simplicity, and integrity of his ideas. As a remarkably intelligent man, he has never yet met his equal. “'When I meet a man who can hold his own beside me,' he said, dwelling on every syllable, “then I'll change my opinion of myself."

He looks down on people and rarely even takes the trouble to conceal his half-disdainful, half-patronizing attitude toward those who hate him and those who obey him. He loves no one; although he does not break existing ties and relationships, he does not move a muscle to renew or maintain these relationships, nor does he soften one note in his harsh voice or sacrifice one cutting joke or witty remark.


He acts thus not in the name of a principle, not in order to be completely frank at every moment, but simply because he considers it completely unnecessary to lay any restraint whatsoever on himself; for the same motive from which Americans throw their legs over the backs of chairs and spit tobacco juice on the parquet floors of elegant hotels. Bazarov needs no one, fears no one, loves no one and consequently spares no one. Like Diogenes he is almost ready to live in a barrel and because of this grants himself the right to tell people to their faces the harsh truth, simply because it pleases him to do so. We can distinguish two sides to Bazarov's cynicism- an internal and an external one; a cynicism of thought and feeling and a cynicism of manner and expression. An ironic attitude toward emotion of any sort, toward dreaminess, lyrical transports and effusions, is the essence of the internal cynicism. The rude expression of this irony, and a causeless and purposeless harshness in the treatment of others relates to external cynicism. The first depends on the cast of mind and general world view;  the second is conditioned by purely external conditions of development; the traits of the society in which the subject under consideration lived. Bazarov's derisive attitude toward the softhearted Kirsanov follows from the basic characteristic of the general Bazarov type. His rude clashes with Kirsanov and his uncle arise from his individual traits. Bazarov is not only an empiricist, he is also an uncouth rowdy, who has known no life other than the homeless, laborious, sometimes wildly dissipated life of the poor student. In the ranks of Bazarov's admirers there will undoubtedly be those who will be enraptured by his coarse manners, the vestiges of student life, who will imitate these manners, which are, in any case, a shortcoming and not a virtue, who will perhaps even exaggerate his harshness, gracelessness, and abruptness. In the ranks of Bazarov's enemies there will undoubtedly be those who will pay particular attention to these ugly features of his personality and will use them to reproach the general type. Both of these groups would be mistaken and would only be displaying their profound incomprehension of the real matter. We may remind them of Pushkin's lines:


One may be a man of sense

Yet consider the beauty of his fingernails.

It is possible to be an extreme materialist, a complete empiricist and at the same time look after your toilet, treat your acquaintances politely, be amiable in conversation and a perfect gentleman. I say this for the benefit of those readers who attribute great significance to refined manners, who look with aversion on Bazarov, as on a man who is mal eleve and mauvais ton. ((badly brought up and ill-bred)  He really is mal eleve and mauvais ton, but this really has no relevance to the essence of the type and speaks neither against it nor in its favor. Turgenev decided to choose as a representative of the Bazarov type an uncouth man; of course as he delineated his hero, he did not conceal or try to gloss over his awkwardness. Turgenev's choice can be explained by two motives; first, the character's personality, the tendency to deny ruthlessly and with complete conviction everything which others consider exalted and beautiful, is most often engendered by the drab conditions of a life of labor; from hard labor the hands coarsen, so do the manners and emotions; the man grows stronger and banishes youthful dreaminess, rids himself of lachrymose sensitivity; it is not possible to daydream at work, the attention is directed on the business at hand, and after work one must rest and really satisfy one's physical needs and one has no time for dreams. This man has become used to looking on dreams as on a whim, peculiar to idleness and aristocratic pampering; he has begun to consider moral sufferings to be products of daydreams; moral aspirations and actions as imagined and ridiculous. For him, the laboring man, there exists only one, eternally recurring care; today he must think about how not to starve tomorrow. This simple care, terrible in its simplicity, overshadows everything else for him, secondary anxieties, the petty troubles and cares of life; in comparison with this care the artificial products of various unsolved problems, unresolved doubts, indefinite relations which poison the lives of secure, idle people seem to him to be trivial and insignificant. Thus the proletarian laborer, by the very process of his life, independently of the process of refection, arrives at practical realism; from lack of leisure he forgets how to dream, to pursue an ideal, to aspire to an unattainably lofty goal. By developing the laborer's energy, labor teaches him to unite thought and deed, an act of will with an act of the mind. The man who has learned to rely on himself and on his own capacities, who has become used to accomplishing today what he conceived yesterday, begins to look with more or less obvious disdain on people who- dream of love, of useful activity, of the happiness of the whole human race, and yet are not capable of lifting a finger to improve even a little whether he be doctor, artisan, pedagogue, or even a writer (it is possible to be a writer and at the same time a man of action), feels a natural, indefinable aversion to phrase making, to waste of words, to sweet thoughts, to sentimental aspirations, and in general to all pretensions not based on real tangible forces. This aversion to everything estranged from life and everything that has turned into empty phrases is the fundamental characteristic of the Bazarov type. This fundamental characteristic is engendered in precisely those various workshops where man, sharpening his mind and straining his muscles, struggles with nature for the right to live in the wide world. On these grounds, Turgenev had the right to take his hero from one of these workshops and to bring him into the society of cavaliers and ladies, in a work apron, with dirty hands, and a gloomy and preoccupied gaze. But justice forces me to put forward the proposition that the author of Fathers and Sons acted thus not without an insidious intention. This insidious intention is the second motive to which I referred earlier. The fact is that Turgenev, evidently, looks with no great favor on his hero. His soft, loving nature, striving for faith and sympathy, is jarred by corrosive realism; his delicate esthetic sensibility, not devoid of a large dose of aristocratism, takes offense at the faintest glimmer of cynicism; he is too weak and sensitive to bear dismal repudiations; he must become reconciled with existence, if not in the realm of life, at least in the realm of thought, or, more precisely, dreams. Like a nervous woman or the plant "touch-me not," Turgenev shrinks from the slightest contact with the bouquet of Bazarovism.

This feeling, an involuntary antipathy toward this tenor of thought, he presented to the reading public in a specimen as ungraceful as possible. He knows very well that there are very many fashionable readers in our public and, counting on the refinement of their aristocratic tastes, he did not spare the coarse details, with the evident desire of debasing and vulgarizing not only his hero but the cast of ideas which form the defining characteristic of the type. He knows very well that the majority of his readers will say of Bazarov that he is badly brought up and that it would be impossible to have him in a respectable drawing room; they will go no further or deeper; but speaking with such people, a talented artist and honorable man must be extremely careful out of respect for himself and the idea which he is upholding or refuting. Here one must hold one's personal antipathy in check since under some conditions it can turn into the involuntary slander of people who do not have the opportunity to defend themselves with the same weapons. •••••••• •••••••••  Arkady's uncle. Pavel Petrovich, might be called a small-scale Pechorin; he sowed some wild oats in his time and played the fool but finally began to tire of it all; he never succeeded in settling down, it just was not in his character; when he reached the time of life when, as Turgenev puts it, regrets resemble hopes and hopes resemble regrets, the former lion moved in with his brother in the country, surrounded himself with elegant comfort and turned his life into a peaceful vegetation. The outstanding memory of Pavel Petrovich's noisy and brilliant life was his strong feeling for a woman of high society, a feeling which had afforded him much pleasure, and afterward, as is almost always the case, much suffering. When Pavel Petrovich's relations with this woman were severed, his life became perfectly empty.

 "He wandered from place to place like a man possessed;" Turgenev writes, "he still went into society; he still retained the habits of a man of the world; he could boast of two or three fresh conquests; but he no longer expected anything special of himself or of others, and. he undertook nothing. He aged and his hair turned grey; to spend his evenings at the club in jaded boredom, and to argue in bachelor society became a necessity for him- a bad sign as we all know. He did not even think of marriage, of course. Ten years passed in this way. They passed by colorless and fruitless- and quickly, fearfully quickly. Nowhere does time fly past as in Russia; in prison they say it flies even faster."

An acrimonious and passionate man, endowed with a versatile mind and a strong will, Pavel Petrovich is sharply distinguished from his brother and from his nephew. He does not succumb to the influence of other people; he himself dominates the people around him and he hates those people from whom he suffers a rebuff. He has no convictions, truth to tell, but he has habits by which he sets great store. From habit he speaks of the rights and duties of the aristocracy, and from habit proves in arguments the necessity for principles. He is used to the ideas which are held by society and he stands up for these ideas, just as he stands up for his comfort. He cannot bear it when someone refutes his ideas, although, at bottom, he has no heartfelt attachment to them. He argues with Bazarov much more energetically than does his brother, and yet Nikolai Petrovich suffers much more from his merciless repudiations. In the depths of his soul, Pavel Petrovich is just as much of a skeptic and empiricist as Bazarov himself; in practical life he always acted and acts as he sees fit, but in the realm of thought he is not able to admit this to himself and thus he adheres in words to doctrines which his actions continually contradict. It would be well if uncle arid nephew were to exchange convictions, since the first mistakenly ascribes to himself a belief in principes and the second just as mistakenly imagines himself to be an extreme skeptic and a daring rationalist. Pavel Petrovich begins to feel a strong antipathy toward Bazarov from their first meeting. Bazarov's plebeian manners rouse the indignation of the outdated dandy; his self-confidence and unceremoniousness irritate Pavel Petrovich as a lack of respect for his elegant person. Pavel Petrovich sees that Bazarov does not allow him to predominate over himself and this arouses in him a feeling of vexation on which he seizes as a diversion amidst the profound boredom of country life. Hating Bazarov himself, Pavel Petrovich is outraged by all his opinions; he carps at him, forces him into arguments, and argues with the zealous enthusiasm which is displayed by people who are idle and easily bored. And what does Bazarov do amidst these three personalities? First of all, he endeavors to pay them as little attention as possible and spends the greater part of his time at work; he roams about the neighborhood, collects plants and insects, dissects frogs, and occupies himself with his microscope; he regards Arkady as a child, Nikolai Petrovich as a good natured old man or, as he puts it, an old romantic. His feeling toward Pavel Petrovich is not exactly amicable; he is annoyed by the element of haughtiness in him, but he involuntarily tries to conceal his irritation under the guise of disdainful indifference. He does not want to admit to himself that he can be angered by a "provincial aristocrat," yet his passionate nature outs; frequently he replies vehemently to Pavel Petrovich's tirades and does not immediately succeed in gaining control over himself and once more shutting himself up in his derisive coldness. Bazarov does not like to argue or, in general, to express his opinions and only Pavel Petrovich is sometimes able to draw him into a significant discussion. These two strong characters react with hostility to each other; seeing these two men face to face it is easy to be reminded of the struggle between two successive generations. Nikolai Petrovich, of course, is not capable of being an oppressor: Arkady Nikolaevich, of course, is incapable of struggling against familial despotism; but Pavel Petrovich and Bazarov could, under certain conditions, be clear representatives: the former of the congealing, hardening forces of the past, the latter of the liberating, destructive forces of the present.

On whose side are the artist's feelings? This vitally important question may be answered definitely: Turgenev does not fully sympathize with any of his characters; his analysis does not miss one weak or ridiculous trait; we see how Bazarov senselessly repudiates everything, how Arkady revels in his enlightenment, how Nikolai Petrovich is as timid as a fifteen year-old boy, and how Pavel Petrovich shows off and is angry that he has not won the admiration of Bazarov, the only man whom he respects, despite his hatred of him.


Bazarov talks nonsense- this is unfortunately true. He bluntly repudiates things which he does not know or understand: poetry, in his opinion is rubbish; reading Pushkin is a waste of time; to be interested in music is ludicrous; to enjoy nature is absurd. It is very possible that he, a man stifled by a life of labor, lost or never had time to develop the capacity to enjoy the pleasant stimulation of the visual and auditory nerves, but it does not follow from this that he has a rational basis for repudiating or ridiculing this capacity in others. To cut other people down to fit your own measure is to fall into narrow-minded intellectual despotism. To deny completely arbitrarily one or another natural and real human need is to break with pure empiricism.


Bazarov's tendency to get carried away is very natural; it can be explained, first by the one-sidedness of his development, and secondly by the general character of the time in which we live. Bazarov knows natural and medical sciences thoroughly: with their assistance he has rid himself of all prejudices; however, he has remained an extremely uneducated man; he has heard something or other about poetry, something or other about art, and not troubling to think, he passed abrupt sentence on these subjects which were unknown to him. This arrogance is generally a characteristic of ours; it has its good sides such as intellectual courage, but on the other hand, of course, it leads at times to flagrant errors. The general character of the time is practicality: we all want to live by the rule that fine words butter no parsnips. Very energetic people often exaggerate the prevailing tendency; on these grounds, Bazarov's overly indiscriminate repudiations and the very one-sidedness of his development are tied directly to the prevailing striving for tangible benefits. We have become tired of the phrases of the Hegelians, our heads have begun to spin from soaring around in the clouds, and many of us, having sobered up and come down to earth, have gone to the other extreme and while banishing dreaminess have started to persecute simple feelings and even purely physical sensations, like the enjoyment of music. There is no great harm in this extremity, but it will not hurt to point it out; and to call it ludicrous does not mean to join the ranks of the obscurantists and old romantics. Many of our realists are up in arms against Turgenev because he does not sympathize with Bazarov and does not conceal his hero's blunders from the reader; many express the desire that Bazarov had been presented as an irreproachable man, a knight of thought without fear and reproach, and that thereby the superiority of realism to all other schools of thought would thus have been proved to the reading public. In my opinion, realism is indeed a fine thing; but let us not, in the name of this very realism, idealize either ourselves or our movement. We coldly and soberly regard all that surrounds us; let us regard ourselves just as coldly and soberly; all around us is nonsense and backwardness, but, God knows, we are far from perfect. What we repudiate is ridiculous but the repudiators have also been known, at times, to commit colossal follies; all the same, they stand higher than what they repudiate, but this is no great honor; to stand higher than flagrant absurdity does not yet mean to become a great thinker. But we, the speaking and writing realists, are now too carried away by the mental struggle of the moment, by this fiery skirmish with backward idealists, with whom it is not even worthwhile to argue; we, in my view, have gotten too carried away to maintain a skeptical attitude toward ourselves and to submit to rigorous analysis the possibility that we might have fallen into the dust of the dialectic battles which go on in journalistic pamphlets and in everyday life. Our children will regard us skeptically, or, perhaps, we ourselves will learn our real value and will begin to look a vol d'oiseau' (as the cow flies) on our present beloved ideas. Then we will regard the past from the height of the present; Turgenev is now regarding the present from the height of the past. He does not follow us, but tranquilly gazes after us and describes our gait, telling us how we quicken our pace, how we jump across ditches, how now and then we stumble over rough places in the road.


There is no irritation in the tone of his description; he has simply grown tired of moving on; the development of his own world view has come to an end, but his capacity to observe the movement of another person's thought process, to understand and reproduce all its windings, has remained in all its fullness and freshness. Turgenev himself will never be a Bazarov, but he has pondered this type and gained an understanding of it so true that not one of our young realists has yet achieved it. There is no apotheosis of the past in Turgenev's novel. The author of Rudin and "Asya," who laid bare the weaknesses of his generation and who revealed in A Hunter's Sketches a whole world of wonders which had been taking place right in front of the eyes of this very generation, has remained true to himself and has not acted against his conscience in his latest work. The representatives of the past, the "fathers," are depicted with ruthless' fidelity; they are good people, but Russia will not regret these good people; there is not one element in them which would be worth saving from the grave and oblivion, but still there are moments when one can sympathize more fully with these fathers than with Bazarov himself. When Nikolai Petrovich admires the evening landscape he appears more human than Bazarov who groundlessly denies the beauty of nature to every unprejudiced reader.

"And is nature nonsense?" said Arkady, looking pensively at the bright-colored fields in the distance, in the beautiful soft light of the sun, which was no longer high in the sky.

"Nature, too, is nonsense in the sense you understand it. Nature's not a temple, but a workshop, and man's the workman in it."

In these words, Bazarov's repudiation has turned into something artificial and has even ceased to be consistent. Nature is a workshop and man is a worker in it- with this idea I am ready to agree; but when I carry this idea further, I by no means arrive at the conclusion which Bazarov draws. A worker needs rest and rest does not only mean heavy sleep after exhausting labor. A man must refresh himself with pleasant sensations; life without pleasant sensations, even if all the vital needs are satisfied, turns into unbearable suffering. The consistent materialists, like Karl Vogt, Moleschotte, and Buchner do not deny a day-laborer his glass of vodka, nor the well-to-do classes the use of narcotics. They indulgently regard even the excessive use of such substances, although they acknowledge that such excesses are harmful to the health. If a worker found pleasure in spending his free time lying on his back and gazing at the walls and ceiling of his workshop, then every sensible man would say to him: gaze on, dear friend, stare as much as you please, it won't harm your health but don't you spend your working hours staring or you will make mistakes. Why then, if we permit the use of vodka and narcotics, should we not tolerate the enjoyment of beautiful scenery, mild air, fresh verdure, the gentle play of form and color? Bazarov, in his persecution of romanticism, with incredible suspiciousness seeks it in places where it never has existed. Taking arms against idealism and destroying its castles in the air, he himself, at times, becomes an idealist, that is, he begins to prescribe to man how he should enjoy himself and how he should regulate his own sensations. Telling a man not to enjoy nature is like telling him to mortify his flesh. The more harmless sources of pleasure there are, the easier it is to live in the world, and the whole task of our generation is precisely to decrease the sum of suffering and increase the strength and amount of pleasure. Many will retort that we live in such a difficult time that it is out of the question to think about pleasure; our job, they will say, is to work, to eradicate evil, disseminate good, to clear a site for the great building where our remote descendants will feast. All right, I agree that we are compelled to work for the future, since the fruit we have sown can ripen only after several centuries; let us suppose that our goal is very lofty, still this loftiness of goal affords very little comfort in everyday unpleasantnesses, It is doubtful whether an exhausted and worn-out man will become gay and contented from the thought that his great-great-grandson will enjoy his life. Comforting oneself in the hard moments of life with a lofty goal is, if you will, just the same as drinking unsweetened tea while gazing on a piece of sugar hung from the ceiling. For people without exceedingly vivid imaginations, these wistful upward looks do not make the tea any tastier. In precisely the same way, a life consisting exclusively of work is not to the taste and beyond the powers of contemporary man. Thus, with whatever viewpoint you regard life, you will still be brought up against the fact that pleasure is absolutely indispensable. Some regard pleasure as a final goal; others are compelled to acknowledge pleasure as a very important source of the strength necessary for work. This is the sole difference between the epicureans and stoics of our day.


Thus, Turgenev does not fully sympathize with anyone or anything in his novel. If you were to say to him: "Ivan Sergeevich, you do not like Bazarov, but what would you prefer?" he would not answer the question. He would not wish the younger generation to share their fathers' ideas and enthusiasms. Neither the fathers nor the sons satisfy him, and in this case, his repudiation is more profound and more serious than the repudiations of those people, who, having destroyed everything that existed before them, imagine that they are the salt of the earth and the purest expression of total humanity. These people are perhaps right in their destruction, but in their naive self-adoration or in their adoration of the type which they consider that represents, lies their limitation and one-sidedness. The forms and types with which we can be contented and feel no need to look further have not yet been and perhaps never will be created by life. People who give up their intellectual independence and substitute servile worship for criticism, by giving themselves over completely to one or another prevailing theory, reveal that they are narrow, impotent, and often harmful people. Arkady is capable of acting in this way, but it would be completely impossible for Bazarov, and it is precisely this trait of mind and character which produces the captivating power of Turgenev's hero. The author understands and acknowledges this captivating power, despite the fact that neither in temperament nor in the conditions of his development does he resemble his nihilist. Furthermore, Turgenev's general attitudes toward the phenomena of life which make up his novel are so calm and disinterested, so devoid of slavish worship of one or another theory, that Bazarov himself would not have found anything timid or false in these attitudes. Turgenev does not like ruthless negations, but, nevertheless, the personality of the ruthless negator appears as a powerful one- and commands the involuntary respect of every reader. Turgenev has a propensity for idealism, but, nevertheless, not one of the idealists in his novel can be compared to Bazarov either in strength of mind or in strength of character. I am certain that many of our journalistic critics will want, at all costs, to find in Turgenev's novel a repressed urge to debase the younger generation and prove that the children are worse than their parents, but I am just as certain that the readers' spontaneous feelings, unfettered by the necessity of supporting a theory, will approve Turgenev and will find in his work not a dissertation on a particular theme, but a true, deeply felt picture of contemporary life drawn without the slightest attempt at concealment of anything. If a writer belonging to our younger generation and profoundly sympathizing with the "Bazarov school" had happened upon Turgenev's theme, then, of course, the picture would have been drawn otherwise and the colors would have been applied differently. Bazarov would not have been portrayed as an awkward student dominating the people around him through the natural strength of his healthy mind; he, perhaps, would have been turned into the embodiment of the ideas which make up the essence of this type; he, perhaps, would have manifested in his personality the clear expression of the author's tendencies, but it is doubtful whether he would have been Bazarov's equal in faithfulness to life and roundness of characterization. My young artist would have said to his contemporaries of his work: "This, my friends, is what a fully developed man must be like! This is the final goal of our efforts!" But Turgenev just says calmly and simply: "This is the sort of young people there are nowadays!" and does not even try to conceal the fact that such young people are not completely to his taste. "How can this be?" many of our contemporary journalists and publicists will cry. 'This is obscurantism!" Gentlemen, we could answer, why should Turgenev's personal sensations concern you? Whether he likes such people or does not like them is a matter of taste; if, for instance, feeling no sympathy for the type, he were to slander it, then every honorable man would have the right to unmask him, but you will not find such slander in the novel: even Bazarov's awkwardnesses, to which I already alluded, are perfectly satisfactorily explained by the circumstances of his life and constitute, if not an essential requirement, at least a very frequently encountered trait of people of the Bazarov type. It would, of course, have been much more pleasant for us, the young people, if Turgenev had concealed and glossed over the graceless rough places in Bazarov, but I do not think that an artist who indulged our capricious desires could better capture the phenomena of reality. Both virtues and shortcomings are more clearly apparent when regarded from a detached point of view, and, for this reason, a detached, severely critical view of Bazarov proves, at present, to be much more fruitful than indiscriminate admiration or slavish worship. By regarding Bazarov detachedly as is possible only for a man who is "behind the times" and not involved in the contemporary movement of ideas; by examining him with the cold, probing gaze which is only engendered by long experience of life, Turgenev has justified his hero and valued him at his true worth. Bazarov has emerged from this examination as a pure and a strong man. Turgenev did not find one essential indictment against this type, and thus his voice, the voice of a man who finds himself in a camp which is inconsistent with his age and his views of life, has an especially important and decisive meaning. Turgenev did not grow fond of Bazarov, but he acknowledged his strength and his superiority and offered him a full tribute of respect.


This is more than sufficient to absolve Turgenev's novel from the powerful charge of being behind the times; it is even sufficient to compel us to acknowledge his novel as practically useful for the present age.


Bazarov's relations with his comrade throw a bright streak of light on his character: Bazarov has no friends, since he has not yet met a man "who could hold his own" with him; Bazarov stands alone at the cold heights of sober thought and he is not oppressed by his isolation, he is completely engrossed in himself and in his work; observations and experiments on living nature, observations and experiments on living people fill for him the emptiness of his life and insure him against boredom. He does not feel the need to look for sympathy and understanding in another person; when some thought occurs to him, he simply expresses it, paying no attention whether his listeners agree with his opinion, or whether his ideas please them. Most frequently he does not even feel the need to express himself; he thinks to himself and, from time to time, lets drop a cursory remark, which is usually seized upon with respectful eagerness by his proselytes and pupils like Arkady. Bazarov's personality is self-contained and reserved, since it finds practically no kindred elements either outside or around itself. This reserve of Bazarov’s has a dampening effect on the people who would like to see tenderness and communicativeness from him, but there is nothing artificial or premeditated in this reserve. The people who surround Bazarov are insignificant intellectually and can in no way move him, thus he is either silent or speaks in abrupt aphorisms, or breaks off an argument he has begun because he recognizes its ludicrous uselessness. If you put an adult in the same room with a dozen children, you will probably feel no surprise if the adult does not begin to converse with his roommates about his humanistic, social, and scientific convictions. Bazarov does not put on airs before other people, he does not consider himself a man of genius misunderstood by his contemporaries; he is merely obliged to regard his acquaintances from above because these acquaintances only come up to his knees; what else can he do? Is he to sit on the floor so that he will be the same height as they? He cannot pretend to be a child just so that the children will share their immature ideas with him. He involuntarily remains in isolation, and this isolation does not oppress him because he is young and strong and occupied with the seething activity of his own thoughts. The process of these thoughts remains in the shadows; I doubt whether Turgenev was in a position to render the description of this process; in order to portray it, he would have had to live through it in his own head, he would have had to himself become Bazarov, but we can be sure that this did not happen to Turgenev, because anyone who had even once, even for a few minutes, looked at things through Bazarov's eyes would have remained a nihilist for the rest of his life. In Turgenev, we see only the results at which Bazarov arrived, we see the external side of the phenomena; that is, we hear what Bazarov says and we know how he acts in life, how he treats various people. But we do not find a psychological analysis or a coherent compendium of Bazarov's thoughts; we can only guess what he thought and how he formulated his convictions to himself. By not initiating the reader into the secret of Bazarov's intellectual life, Turgenev may cause bewilderment among the segment of the public which is not used to filling in through their own mental efforts what is not stated or written in the works of a writer. The inattentive reader may come to the conclusion that Bazarov has no internal substance and that his entire nihilism consists of an interweaving of daring phrases snatched from the air and not created by independent thought. It is possible to say positively that Turgenev himself does not fully understand his hero, and does not trace the gradual development and maturation of his ideas only because he cannot and does not want to render Bazarov's thoughts as they would have arisen in his hero's mind. Bazarov's thoughts are expressed in his deeds, in his treatment of people; they shine through and it is not difficult to make them out, if only the reader carefully organizes the facts and is aware of their causes. Two episodes fill in the details of this remarkable personality: first, his treatment of the woman who attracts him; secondly, his death. I will consider both of these, but first I consider it not out of place to turn mv attention to other, secondary details.

Bazarov’s treatment of his parents will predispose some readers against the character, and others against the author. The former, becoming carried away by sentimental feelings, will reproach Bazarov for callousness; the latter, becoming carried away by their attachment to the Bazarov type, will reproach Turgenev for injustice to his hero and for a desire to show him in a disadvantageous light. Both sides, in my opinion, would be completely wrong. Bazarov really does not afford his parents the pleasures which the good old people were expecting from his visit to them, but between him and his parents there is not one thing in common. •••••••••••••••••  


In town, at the governor's ball, Arkady becomes acquainted with a young widow, Anna Sergeyevna Odintsov; while dancing the mazurka with her, he happens to mention his friend Bazarov and excites her interest with his rapturous description of his friend's daring intellect and decisive character. She invites him to visit her and asks him to bring Bazarov. Bazarov, who had noticed her the instant she appeared at the ball, speaks to Arkady about her, involuntarily intensifying the usual cynicism of his tone, partially in order to conceal both from himself and from Arkady the impression that this woman has made on him. He willingly agrees to visit Odintsov with Arkady and explains his pleasure to himself and to Arkady by his hope of beginning a pleasant intrigue. Arkady, who has not failed to succumb to Odintsov's charms, takes offense at Bazarov's jocular tone, but, of course, Bazarov pays not the slightest attention and keeps on talking about Odintsov's beautiful shoulders, he asks Arkady whether this lady is really "ooh la la"; he says that still waters run deep and that a cold woman is just like ice cream. As he approaches Odintsov's apartments Bazarov feels a certain agitation and, wanting to overcome it, at the beginning of the visit behaves unnaturally informally and, according to Turgenev, sprawls in his chair just like Sitnikov. Odintsov notices Bazarov's agitation and, partially guessing its cause, calms our hero down with the gentle affability of her manner, and the young people's unhurried, diverse, and lively conversation continues for three hours. Bazarov treats her with special respect; it is evident that he is not indifferent to what she thinks of him, to the impression he is making; contrary to his usual habit, he speaks quite a lot, tries to interest his listener, does not make cutting remarks and even, carefully avoiding topics of general concern, discusses botany, medicine, and other subjects he is well-versed in. As the young men take their leave, Odintsov invites them to visit her in the country. Bazarov bows silently to indicate his acceptance and flushes. Arkady notices all this and is astonished by it. After this first meeting with Odintsov, Bazarov endeavors to speak of her in his former jocular tone, but the very cynicism of his expressions belies an involuntary, repressed respect. It is evident that he admires this woman and wishes to come into friendship with her; he jokes about her because he does not want to speak seriously with Arkady, either about this woman or about the new sensations which he notices in himself. Bazarov could not fall in love with Odintsov at first sight or after their first meeting; such things only happen to very shallow people in very bad novels. He was simply taken by her beautiful, or as he himself puts it, splendid body;  her conversation did not destroy the general harmony of impressions, and this was enough at first to reinforce his desire to know her better. Bazarov has not yet formulated a theory about love. His student years, about which Turgenev does not say a word, probably did not pass without some affair of the heart; Bazarov, as we shall see later on, proves to be an experienced man, but, in all probability, he has had to do with women who were completely uneducated and far from refined and, consequently, incapable of strongly interesting his intellect or stirring his nerves; when he meets Odintsov he sees that it is possible to speak to her as an equal and senses that she possesses the versatile mind and firm character which he is conscious of and likes in himself. When Bazarov and Odintsov speak to each other they are able, intellectually speaking, to look each other in the eye over the fledgling Arkady's head and this instinctive mutual understanding affords them both pleasant sensations. Bazarov sees an elegant figure and involuntarily admires it; beyond this figure he discerns innate strength and unconsciously begins to respect this strength. As a pure empiricist, he enjoys the pleasant sensation and gradually becomes so accustomed to it, that when the time comes to tear himself away, it is difficult and painful for him to do so. Bazarov does not subject love to an analysis because he feels no mistrust in himself. He goes to the country to see Odintsov, with curiosity and without the slightest fear, because he wants to have a closer look at this pretty woman, wants to be with her and to spend a few days pleasantly. In the country, fifteen days pass imperceptibly; Bazarov talks with Anna Sergeyevna a lot, argues with her, expresses himself fully, and finally begins to feel for her a kind of malicious, tormenting passion. Such passion is most frequently engendered in energetic men by women who are beautiful, intelligent, and cold. The beauty of the woman stirs the blood of her admirer; her mind allows her to understand and to subject to subtle psychological analysis the feelings which she does not share or even sympathize with; her coldness insures her against getting carried away, and by increasing the obstacles, increases the man's desire to overcome them. Looking at such a woman, a man involuntarily thinks: she is so beautiful, she speaks so well about emotion, at times she becomes so animated when she expresses her subtle psychological analysis or listens to my deeply felt speeches. Why are her feelings so obstinately silent? How can I touch her to the quick? Can it be that her whole being is concentrated in her brain? Can it be that she is only amusing herself with impressions and is not capable of becoming carried away by them? Time passes in strenuous efforts to puzzle out the vital enigma; the intellect labors alongside the passions; heavy, torturous sensations appear; the whole romance of the relationship between a man and a woman takes on the strange character of a struggle. Becoming acquainted with Odintsov, Bazarov thought to amuse himself with a pleasant intrigue; knowing her better, he felt respect for her but began to see that he had little hope of success; if he had not managed to become strongly attached to Odintsov, he simply would have dismissed her with a shrug and immediately have occupied himself with the practical observation that the world is very large and there are many women in it who are easier to handle; he tried to act in such a way but he did not have the strength to shrug off Odintsov. Common sense advised him to abandon the whole affair and go away so as not to torment himself in vain, but his craving for pleasure spoke more loudly than his common sense and Bazarov remained He was angry and he was conscious of the fact that he was committing a folly but, nevertheless, went on committing it, because his desire to live for his pleasure was stronger than his desire to be consistent. This capacity consciously to behave stupidly is an enviable virtue of strong and intelligent people. A dispassionate and dried-up person always acts according to logical calculations; a timid and weak person tries to deceive himself with sophistry and assure himself of the rightness of his desires and actions; but Bazarov has no need for such trickery; he says to himself straightforwardly: this is stupid, but nevertheless, I will do what I want, and I do not want to torment myself over it. When it becomes necessary I will have the time and strength to do what I must. A wholehearted, strong nature is manifested in this capacity to become completely carried away: a healthy, incorruptible mind is expressed in this capability to recognize as folly the passion which has consumed the whole organism. Bazarov's relationship with Odintsov is brought to an end by a strange scene which takes place between them. She draws him into a discussion about happiness and love; with the curiosity peculiar to cold and intelligent women she questions him about what is taking place within him, she extracts a confession of love from him, with a trace of involuntary tenderness she utters his name; then, when stunned by the sudden onslaught of sensation, and new hopes, he rushes to her and clasps her to his breast, she jumps away in fear to the other end of the room and assures him that he had misunderstood her, that he was mistaken. Bazarov leaves the room and with this their relationship comes to an end. He leaves her house the day after this incident; afterward, he sees Anna Sergeyevna twice, even visits her in the company of Arkady, but for both of them past events prove to be irrevocably past, and they regard each other calmly and speak together in the tones of reasonable and sedate people. Nevertheless, it saddens Bazarov to look on his relationship with Odintsov as on an episode from his past; he loves her and, while he does not allow himself to complain, suffer, or play the rejected lover, he becomes irregular in his way of life, now throwing himself into his work, now falling into idleness, now merely becoming bored and grumbling at the people around him. He does not want to talk about it to anyone, he does not even acknowledge to himself that he feels something resembling anguish and yearning. He becomes angry and sour because of his failure, it annoys him to think that happiness beckoned to him but then passed on and it annoys him to feel that this event has made an impression on him. All this would have worked itself out in his organism, he would again have taken up his work and cursed in the most energetic manner damnable romanticism and the inaccessible lady who had led him by the nose, and would have lived as he had before, occupied with the dissection of frogs and the courting of less unconquerable beauties. But Turgenev did not bring Bazarov out of his gloomy mood. Bazarov suddenly dies, not from grief, of course, and the novel comes to an end, or, more precisely, sharply and unexpectedly breaks off. •••••••• •••••••••  


The description of Bazarov's death is one of the best passages in Turgenev's novel; indeed, I doubt whether anything more remarkable can be found in the whole body of his work. It would be impossible for me to quote an excerpt from this magnificent episode; it would destroy the integrity of the effect; I should really quote the whole ten pages, but I do not have the space; furthermore, I hope that all my readers have read or will read Turgenev's novel. Thus, without quoting a single line, I shall endeavor to trace and explicate Bazarov's mental state from the beginning to the end of his illness. Bazarov cuts his finger while dissecting a corpse and does not have the opportunity to cauterize the cut immediately with a caustic stone or iron. Only after four hours does Bazarov come to his father's room and cauterize the sore spot, without concealing either from himself or from Vassily Ivanovich that this measure is useless if the infected matter from the corpse has entered the blood. Vassily Ivanovich knows as a doctor how great the danger is, but he cannot bring himself to look it in the face and tries to deceive himself. Two days pass, Bazarov steels himself, he does not go to bed, but he has fever and chills, loses his appetite, and suffers from a severe headache. His father's sympathy and questions irritate him because he knows that all this will not help and that the old man is pampering himself and diverting himself with empty illusions. It vexes him to see a man, and a doctor besides, not daring to view the matter in its proper light. Bazarov spares Arina Vlasyevna; he tells her that he has caught cold; on the third day he goes to bed and asks for lime tea. On the fourth day he turns to his father and straightforwardly and seriously tells him that he will die soon, shows him the red spots on his body which are a sign of infection, gives him the medical term for his illness, and coldly refutes the timid objections of the broken old man. Nevertheless, he wants to live, he is sorry to give up his self-awareness, his thoughts, his strong personality, but this pain at parting with his young life and untried power expresses itself not in a gentle melancholy but in a bitter, ironic vexation, in his scornful attitude toward himself, an impotent being, and toward the crude, meaningless accident which has trampled and crushed him. The nihilist remains true to himself to the last moment.

As a doctor, he has seen that infected people always die and he does not doubt the immutability of this law, despite the fact that it condemns him to death. In precisely the same way, he does not replace his gloomy world view by another more comforting one in a crucial moment: neither as a doctor nor as a man does he comfort himself with mirages. •••••••• •••••••••


The author sees that Bazarov loves no one, because around him all is petty, stupid, and flabby, while he himself is fresh, intelligent, and strong; the author sees this and, in his mind, relieves his hero of the last undeserved reproach. Turgenev has studied Bazarov's character, he has pondered its elements and the conditions of its development, and he has come to see that for him there can be neither occupation nor happiness. He lives as an isolated figure and dies an isolated figure, and a useless isolated figure besides, dies as a hero who has nowhere to turn, nothing to draw breath on, nothing to do with his mighty powers, no one to love with a powerful love. As there is no reason for him to live, we must observe how he dies. The whole interest, the whole meaning of the novel is contained in the death of Bazarov. If he had turned coward, if he had been untrue to himself, it would have shed a completely different light on his whole character; he would have appeared to have been an empty braggart from whom it would be impossible to expect fortitude or decisiveness in a time of need; the whole novel would have been turned into a slander on the younger generation, an undeserved reproach; with such a novel, Turgenev would have been saying: look here, young people, here is an example: even the best of you is no good. But Turgenev, as an honorable man and a true artist, could not have brought himself to tell such a grievous lie. Bazarov did not become abased, and the meaning of the novel emerged as follows: today's young people become carried away and go to extremes; but this very tendency to get carried away points to fresh strength and incorruptible intellect; this strength and this intellect, without any outside assistance or influence, will lead these young people on to the right road and will support them in life.


Whoever has found this splendid thought in Turgenev's novel could not help but express his deep and warm gratitude to this great artist and honorable citizen of Russia.


But all the same, the Bazarovs have a bad time of it in this life, although they make a point of humming and whistling. There is no occupation, no love-consequently, there is no pleasure either.


They do not know how to suffer, they will not complain, but at times they feel only that all is empty, boring, drab, and meaningless.


But what is to be done? Is it possible to infect ourselves on purpose just in order to have the satisfaction of dying beautifully and tranquilly? No! What is to be done? We must live while we are alive, eat dry bread if there is no roast beef, know many women if it is not possible to love a woman, and, in general, we must not dream about orange trees and palms, when under foot are snowdrifts and the cold tundra.