Novelist, poet, and playwright Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born October 28, 1818, in the province of Oryol in Russia, about 100 miles south of Moscow. During his childhood, he suffered from his tyrannical mother, who beat him. He never married, but he had a lifelong affair with Pauline Garcia-Viardot, a young Spanish singer, with whom he had an illegitimate daughter, whom he named after her mother.
Turgenev’s major work, Sketches from a Hunter’s Album, is credited for revolutionizing the serfdom system in Russia. He freed his own serfs and was persecuted for his writings. He was exiled to his estate for a year and a half in 1852 for his obituary of Gogol and for implicit social criticism in his Sketches from a Hunter’s Album. After the poor reception of Fathers and Sons (1862), Turgenev left Russia and lived in Germany, England, and France. He had a close relationship with Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstoy, and Vissarion Belinsky (professional critic).
His six novels include Rudin (1856), Home of the Gentry (1859), On the Eve (1860), Fathers and Sons (1862), Smoke (1867), and Virgin Soil (1877). He also wrote the novel Spring Torrents (1872). Among his plays was A Month in the Country. Short fiction included First Love (1860) and Faust (1855). Turgenev wrote about Russian weaknesses with absolute candor and extreme gentility. He loved his country. He always began his novels by creating characters before plot. He actually kept a diary in the name of Bazarov, so he could imagine the character’s reactions to various contemporary issues. His writing is directed against the nobility as the leading class.
Turgenev died of cancer of the spinal cord on September 3, 1883.