CC Spin #34: First Love and Other Stories

 First Love and Other Stories, by Ivan Turgenev

Wow, Turgenev sure could write.  Here we have short stories written over 20 years of his writing career.  Most of them illuminate a short episode and its meaning for a whole life, or a zeitgeist.

"The Diary of a Superfluous Man" is the final diary of a dying man -- though he is only about 30, he has just days to live, and decides to set down the one significant thing that has ever happened to him, and in which he was utterly futile, as he believes his whole life to have been.  He got to know a local family, and fell in love with the daughter (age 17), but Liza never noticed him at all.  She fell instead for a visiting nobleman, and at the end of a romantic summer, he of course left without proposing.  Our narrator wanted to warn her, to help her, to marry her afterwards, but she never wanted any of his warnings or help and married another man.

"Mumu" concerns a well-to-do widow living in St. Petersburg -- really, the household around her.  She gives arbitrary orders, knowing nothing of the people whose lives she controls, and they rush to do her bidding, though it invariably goes badly.   She decides that one Kapiton's drinking is getting to be too much trouble, so he had better marry Tatyana, the laundress -- though Tatyana fears and loathes him.  Gerasim, the strongest man around and a mute, adores Tatyana, and also his dog, Mumu.  Mumu is highly intelligent and the widow first takes a fancy to her, and then hates her, ordering her destroyed....

"Asya" is told by a young man traveling through Germany.  He meets a fellow Russian and his sister, and the three become fast friends.  Asya is a slightly odd young woman, at first very standoffish, and he's not sure what to make of her, but learning her story and getting to know her, he becomes very fond of her....

In "First Love," a boy of just sixteen develops a crush on the lovely young lady next door, who is 21 and quite a coquette with her crowd.  She sort of adopts this young man, and both delights and torments him by letting him visit along with her other suitors.  What will be the end of this flirtation?  Certainly not what I expected.

"King Lear of the Steppes" is told by a man relating an incident from his youth, in which the incredibly strong and forceful man Martin Petrovich Harlov decides that he will probably die soon, and so he divides his property between his daughters, stipulating that they give him an allowance, room and board until he dies.  They take over his house, squeezing the poor man into the attic and never letting him have a kopeck,  But when Martin goes mad, he does not just wander over the steppes.

Finally, "The Song of Triumphant Love" is a short romantic fantasy of Renaissance Italy, very much like an Isak Dinesen story rather than a Turgenev tale!  

This was an excellent Spin pick.  I got lucky this time!  Can't wait for the next time.   Oh, and this is #14 for Books of Summer!



  1. These sound very interesting - I've never read any Turgenev. Looks like you got lucky in the spin!


Post a Comment

I'd love to know what you think, so please comment!

Popular posts from this blog

The Four Ages of Poetry

Ozathon #1: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz