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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev

Book Review
Spring Torrents
 by Ivan Turgenev
p. 1872
The Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading
Translated by Constance Garnett
with an Introduction by Mary Albon

   Really, the history of the reception of Russian literature in the English speaking world begins and ends with a single person, translator Constance Garnett.  Between the 1890s and 1930s Garnett translated dozens of Russian novels into English.  The list of Garnett translated works includes all of the hits of Russian lit:  Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Fathers and Sons, The Possessed etc., etc.  Thus, when you rsead a Russian novel in English today, you are most likely reading a public domain edition of a Constance Garnett translation.  It's a testament both to her skill and the market for public domain translations of foreign language novels that her versions are still read today.

  Spring Torrents is yet another Russian novella from the 1870s.  Turgenev wrote Torrents about a love affair between a young Russian nobleman and the daughter of an Italian confectioner living in Germany.  The Russian seeks a buyer who his estate- to finance his marriage- and is seduced by the prospective buyer- a decadent and wealthy Russian noblewoman of peasant parentage.  Unlike the bigger hits of 19th century Russian lit, Spring Torrents is a mere one hundred and fifty pages, and the breezy tone is closer to an English novel from the middle part of the 19th century then other heavy Russian novels in the same time period.

 It's nice to read a breezy Russian novel from the 1870s because, let's face it, War & Peace, Anna Karenina,  Crime & Punishment and the Brothers Karamozov are some heavy fucking lifting, from a readers perspective.

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