Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Fathers and Children" by Turgenev : A Novel That Presents the Life of Two Generations in 1850s, still true for us in 2012 . . .

Turgenev was one of the writers among many writers in the Russia in 1850s. That was the time when these writers were presenting a different world view before people, who were portraying a new way of living in the canvas of life before youths. Work of these authors, philosophers and literary critics was the initiative, which successfully leaded to the creation of an entire new generation of people in the Russia, and played a progressive role on the world level. These writers has cultivated the seeds of thoughts on the soil of whole world, which would be going to influence many people in the coming years. Thoughts of these writers has created many revolutionaries and writers who leaded the first successful proletarian revolution of October 1917 and set an example of an entirely new society before whole world.
Among these writers, I recently read two novels by Turgenev. Turgenev had done his artistic work in the time when there was feudalism in the Russia, and oppression of the people was at height; and most of the (so called) "educated" people were passive thinkers. In that time (around 1940s) many youths were searching for new options; but, there was not any well formed scientific world outlook which can give people some theoretical understanding to changes the present order of things. In that condition work of Turgenev had played a major role in influencing people that can be seen after reading him. Among his work we all must at least read Turgenev's novel "Fathers and Children". We can see its overview from few quotations from this novel in following paragraphs.
A basic question of 1850, but still not clear to the many people of our society:
". . . this country is far from rich, and the people seem neither contented nor industrious; we just can't let things go on like this; reforms are indispensable . . . but how are we to execute them, how should we begin?"
Turgenev on the "so-called advanced people and reformers" (like we see today in our own society, many elites who rest in air conditioned rooms and talk in foreign languages, travel in luxury vehicles and lives in multi-floor houses with a lot of people working for their comfort. I don't want to mention the names of these people here, but all of us must know their names):
". . . you respect yourself and you sit with folded hands; what sort of benefit is that to the bien public? If you didn't respect yourself, you'd do just the same.
". . . You don't need logic, I suppose, to put a piece of bread in your mouth when you're hungry. For what do we need those abstractions?
"Then we suspected that talk and only talk about our social diseases was not worth while, that it led to nothing but hypocrisy and pedantry; we saw that our leading men, our so-called advanced people and reformers, are worthless; that we busy ourselves with rubbish, talk nonsense about art, about unconscious creation, parliamentarianism, trial by jury, and the devil knows what--when the real question is daily bread, when the grossest superstitions are stifling us, when all our business enterprises crash simply because there aren't enough honest men to carry them on, while the very emancipation which our government is struggling to organize will hardly come to any good, because our peasant is happy to rob even himself so long as he can get drunk at the pub."
Turgenev's basic views on the present order of the society and its people (It is about 1960s and we should compare it with present):
"I assure you the study of separate individuals is not worth the trouble it involves. All people resemble each other, in soul as well as in body; each of us has a brain, spleen, heart and lungs of similar construction; the so-called moral qualities are the same in all of us; the slight variations are insignificant. It is enough to have one single human specimen in order to judge all the others.
"We know more or less what causes physical diseases; but moral diseases are caused by bad education, by all the rubbish with which people's heads are stuffed from childhood onwards, in short, by the disordered state of society. Reform society, and there will be no diseases.
". . . show me a single institution in our present mode of life, in the family or in society, which does not call for complete and ruthless destruction."
Turgenev's view about life and consciousness of the existence of individual human being:
"While I think; here I lie under a haystack . . . The tiny narrow space I occupy is so minutely small in comparison with the rest of space where I am not and which has nothing to do with me; and the portion of time in which it is my lot to live is so insignificant beside the eternity where I have not been and will not be . . . And in this atom, in this mathematical point, the blood circulates, the brain works and wants something . . . how disgusting! how petty!
". . . man is a strange animal. When one gets a side view from a distance of the dumb life our 'fathers' lead here, one thinks: what could be better? You eat and drink and know you are acting in the most righteous and sensible way. If not, you're devoured by the deadliness of it. One wants to have dealings with people even if it's only to abuse them."
How strongly Turgenev represented his views against lifestyle of the people, and how strongly he hated that way of life, which go through a straight line, in a predefined way, without any progress and creativity, without any social consciousness:
". . . it's useless to deceive ourselves; we are parting forever, and you know it yourself . . . you acted sensibly; you were not made for our bitter, rough, lonely existence. There's no daring in you, no hatred, though you've got youthful dash and youthful fervor; that's not enough for our business. Your sort, the nobility, can never go farther than noble resignation or noble indignation, but those things are trifles. For instance, you won't fight--and yet you fancy yourselves as brave fellows--but we want to fight. So there! Our dust would get into your eyes, our mud would soil you, but you're not up to our standard, you unconsciously admire yourselves and you enjoy finding fault with yourselves; but we're fed up with all that--we want something else! We want to smash people!"
At the end Turgenev represented his views on the conclusion of his novel, how he portrayed a way of life, that demands the reason, a "new way" of living, a life with higher consciousness of its existence, a life which did not accept the present order of unreasonable things. These last words seems as he is addressing to the people to rebel against all nonsense present around them,
"However passionate, sinful or rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers growing over it glance at us serenely with their innocent eyes; they tell us not only of eternal peace, of that great peace of "indifferent" nature; they tell us also of eternal reconciliation and of life without end."

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