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First Love

First Love by Ivan S. Turgenev
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The title of the novella is almost an adequate summary in itself. The “boy-meets-girl-then-loses-her” story is universal but not, I think, banal – despite a surprise ending which notoriously turns out to be very little of a surprise. “First Love” is given its originality and poignancy by Turgenev’s mastery of the piercing turning-point (akin to Joyce’s “epiphanies”) that transforms the character’s whole being, making a tragic outcome inevitable. Even the nature symbolism is rescued from triteness by lovely poetic similes – e.g. “but at that point my attention was arrested by the appearance of a speckled woodpecker who busily climbed up the slender stem of a birch-tree and peeped out uneasily from behind it, first to the right, then to the left, like a musician behind the bass-viol.” (Summary by Martin Geeson)

First Page:

THE TORRENTS OF SPRING

BY IVAN TURGENEV

Translated from the Russian

BY CONSTANCE GARNETT

1897

CONTENTS

THE TORRENTS OF SPRING

FIRST LOVE

MUMU

THE TORRENTS OF SPRING

'Years of gladness, Days of joy, Like the torrents of spring They hurried away.'

From an Old Ballad .

... At two o'clock in the night he had gone back to his study. He had dismissed the servant after the candles were lighted, and throwing himself into a low chair by the hearth, he hid his face in both hands.

Never had he felt such weariness of body and of spirit. He had passed the whole evening in the company of charming ladies and cultivated men; some of the ladies were beautiful, almost all the men were distinguished by intellect or talent; he himself had talked with great success, even with brilliance ... and, for all that, never yet had the taedium vitae of which the Romans talked of old, the 'disgust for life,' taken hold of him with such irresistible, such suffocating force. Had he been a little younger, he would have cried with misery, weariness, and exasperation: a biting, burning bitterness, like the bitter of wormwood, filled his whole soul... Continue reading book >>


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