Turgenev’s final novel, Virgin Soil traces the destinies of several middle-class revolutionaries who seek to “go to the people” by working on the land and instilling democratic ideas in the countryside’s locals. They include the daydreaming impoverished young tutor Nezhdanov – employed by the liberal councillor Sipyagin and his vain and beautiful wife Valentina – the naive young radical Maryanna and the progressive factory manager Solomin.
Their liaisons, intrigues and conspiracies, set against the backdrop of Tsarist Russia, form the matter of Turgenev’s most ambitious and elaborate work, which cemented the author’s place in the West as Russia’s foremost novelist while at the same time proving controversial at home – culminating in the arrest of fifty-two real-life revolutionaries barely a month after it was published.
Turgenev to me is the greatest writer there ever was.
Ivan Turgenev (1818–83) was a novelist, poet and dramatist, and now ranks as one of the towering figures of Russian literature. His masterpiece, Fathers and Children, is considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century.