Chapter 7: Smoke
So far we have seen that the typical Turgenevan novel opens with a small number of characters in a rural Russian setting Smoke marks a change of direction. The setting is a town in a foreign country and the emphasis is on many people: On the 10th of August 1862, at four oclock in the afternoon there was a great throng of people in front of the "Conversation" in Baden-Baden [9, 143]. Nature, however, makes its presence felt, and its smile communicates itself to people. Nevertheless, people predominate and somehow seem to vie with nature itself: their gaudy clothing, we are told, forcibly reminds one of the dazzle and movement of spring flowers and rainbow-hued wings, even though the guttural sounds of French cannot replace the chirping of the birds or even compare to it. [9, 143].
This is a German town with a French accent, to which Russians are also drawn, but the phrase used by Bambaev to explain this They all crawl here like cockroaches [9, 151] is again a natural image with a critical edge. At the same time the Russians in Baden do have a natural object as their very own meeting place LArbre Russe (The Russian Tree) an actual landmark. It is near this national tree at the opening of Chapter 2 that we first meet the novels hero, Litvinov, who seems so out of place in this setting that the author asks the repeated question: But why is he in Baden? [9, 149], attributing a similar perplexity to his readers: But why is he in Baden, you will ask again? [9, 150].
Litvinov is, indeed, untypical of the Russians who are drawn here: they are divided into two quite distinct camps. The opening chapter, forewarning us of a great throng of people, introduces us to the first of these with a roll call of names and little vignettes of Russians from the higher echelons of society, few of whom will have any part to play in the ensuing action.
Later in Chapter 4, Litvinov will meet the second group of Russians would-be political activists and emigrés, and again the accent is on a plethora of names, so that Litvinovs head (like that of the reader) will begin to swim from this scrambled omelet of names unfamiliar to him [9, 160]. Such a cast of minor figures is untypical of Turgenevs usual procedures, and, it could be argued, sits more comfortably in the longer novel, as practised by his two main rivals Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In the povest , shorterlength, novels of Turgenev, however, such a kaleidoscope of minor figures appears cumbersome. Nevertheless, Turgenevs chief aim is satirical, and his emphasis on people, in effect, detracts from the human. These are people not to be taken seriously mere cockroaches. The chief protagonists are far fewer, and of these only three may be said to be truly prominent: Litvinov, Irina and Potugin. The first two are the centre of the love intrigue (which some critics see as forming almost a separate povest in itself 1). The last, Potugin, is the principal figure of the ideological strand of the novel, its pamphlet aspect. At the same time, Potugin links the two social worlds the milieu of the political emigrés (Litvinov first meets him at Gubarevs) and the upper-class milieu of the Ratmirovs - he is the confidant and messenger of Irina, and in this latter role he also links the love plot to the strand of political and social satire.
For all that we have entered a world of beetling people, natural imagery does play a significant, if reduced, role in the novel. It is in the love plot, as we might expect, that such symbolism comes into its own. Irinas surname, like that of earlier figures in Turgenevs fiction links her to a tree: she is Osinina (osina is an aspen) and the torrid relationship between her and the hero is symbolised by the heavily scented flower the heliotrope. During their first romance in Moscow Litvinov gives her a bouquet of these flowers at a very significant moment in their relationship: she is about to leave for a high-society ball, but will, in fact, depart from his life, it seems, for ever. As though aware of this herself, she seizes the spray that already adorns her hair, and says, if he wants, she will pull everything off and stay at home [9, 189]. Litvinov refuses to restrict her freedom in this matter, because he thinks he knows her heart. She agrees to go the ball with his bouquet, saying:
The ambiguity of Irinas response is obvious. She does not appear on the following day, and her father makes her excuses she has a headache, and he adds She asked me to pay her respects and to thank you for the bouquet, quon a trouvé charmant. It is rather Irina herself who has been found charmante by the pillars of high society, and she will depart for St Petersburg without seeing Litvinov again.
Much later, in Baden-Baden the bouquet of heliotropes is re-presented as a memento, and a jog to Litvinovs own memory. A strange woman leaves a bouquet of these flowers in his room [9, 176], and during the night their heavy scent disturbs his sleep and he wakes from a nightmarish dream with the words: Surely not her, it cannot be! It is, of course, Irina, but when he attempts to thank her for the flowers, her ambiguity of response is again to the fore, denying, not that she brought them, but her knowledge of them:
As elsewhere in Turgenevs writing the vicissitudes of love are expressed through the language of flowers. If Litvinovs new relationship with Irina is to come to anything, they must run away together and for this he needs to borrow money. But such hopes wilt when he tentatively approaches the bankers of Baden, who: in response to such circumlocutions immediately assume a declining, drooping look, exactly like a wild flower whose stem has been cut by a scythe [9, 305].
When natural description, as such, enters the novel, it does so in the love plot as an antidote to the emotional upheavals of Litvinov. After his disturbed night spent in a room heavy with the scent of heliotrope, in chapter 10 he seeks the freshness of nature in the surrounding hills:
Alone in nature he already begins to breathe more freely, he feels younger. When suddenly he is confronted by people two boring characters from the political plot Voroshilov and Bambaev. Yet he is saved by nature: he manages to hide behind a bush and only leaves his refuge when they have passed [9, 197]. He is now free to wander, think and dream in the natural setting, until again he will be confronted by people representatives of the other Russian community: the young generals. It is here, against the natural setting of a picnic-scene at the Old Castle, that Litvinov has his first encounter with Irina after so many years.
There are other familiar images drawn from nature. In Chapter 16 Litvinov has decided to leave Baden and join his fiancée in Heidelberg, but in trying to communicate this decision to Irina, his resolve is obviously faltering, and his state of mind is symbolised by the futile fluttering of a trapped butterfly. Intending to tell Irina that he is leaving, Litvinov begins by blurting out that he loves her:
Litvinov explains that he is telling her all this in order to end this tragicomedy as soon as possible. He falls silent again, and the butterfly struggles and flutters as before. Irina remains with her hands covering her face [9, 254].
Later, after his declaration of love in this scene with the struggling butterfly, the solace of nature again comes to the fore. In his confused state Litvinov does not return home, but goes off into the mountains, where, in a forest thicket, he falls down, burying his head in the ground, lying there for almost an hour. He firmly believes that he will leave Baden, but although we are told that he remains unmoved, his subconscious indecision is given physical expression through the wavering motion of a fern: He raised himself finally, and with his head leaning against a tree, remained motionless, except that, without himself being aware of it, he had seized the upper leaf of a tall fern with one hand, and was rhythmically rocking it to and fro [9, 258].
But people once more break into his reverie. He hears the footsteps of charcoal burners (who as figures redolent of smoke may be seen as symbolic guides, given the novels central imagery). He follows them back down into the town.
In the earlier novels, as we have seen, intellectual discussion had been set against the background of nature. In Smoke this is no longer the case. Admittedly, reactionary views of the young generals are expressed during the picnic scene, but the true function of the natural setting here is as a romantic backdrop for the first meeting abroad of Litvinov and Irina. Significantly, actual natural description is absent from the ensuing political discussions of the young generals themselves.2 Indeed, its absence is highlighted when one of them calls attention to the incongruity of these conversations in such a setting [9, 203]. It is only after these discussions that Insarov can find relief in the fresh air, which he breathes in deeply. He almost runs down the road to Baden, and this quick pace calms his nerves [9, 208].
Even the more serious intellectual discussions with Potugin take place mostly indoors At Werbers restaurant or in Litvinovs own room. Although the important discussion in Chapter 14 takes place outside, on the Lichtenthaler Allee, it is shorn of natural description. The two chief scenes of political discussion in the novel, which serve to characterise the intellectual poverty of each group of Russians in Baden (the political emigrés and the aristocrats) take place indoors and in air that is far from fresh. In Chapter 4 the atmosphere, in which the arguments in Gubarevs room are conducted, seems symbolic: Smoke from cigars hung stiflingly in the air; everyone felt hot and heavy, everyone was hoarse, everyones eyes had grown drowsy, sweat poured in beads from every face [9, 164].
When Litvinov is invited to the evening gathering at the Ratmirovs (where further reactionary views are expressed and a foolish attempt is made to hypnotise a crayfish) the author himself draws a parallel with the earlier confusion at Gubarevs: In a word, almost the same absurd din arose, as at Gubarevs; with, perhaps, the only difference that there was no beer, and the tobacco smoke, as well as everyones clothing, was a bit better [9, 246]. The same society at picnic, however, has its beer [9, 202] and is certainly not without its hint of smoke: All these warriors were excellently scrubbed, shaved and perfumed through and through with a sort of scent that was genuinely noble and guardsman-like, a mixture of the finest cigar smoke and patchouli of truly amazing quality [9, 198].
If, in the political strand of the novel, smoke characterises the discussions of both emigrés and aristocrats, this title-theme of the novel is not without significance for the love plot too. In Chapter 23 Litvinov writes a long letter to Irina, in which, in spite of the past, he attempts to hang on to his love for her: Irina! I only wanted to tell you, that out of all this dead past, out of all these initiatives and hopes, which have turned into smoke and ashes, there has remained one living indestructible thing: my love for you [9, 299].
When this love has finally failed and an embittered Litvinov sets out on his journey back to Russia, the smoke billowing around his train comes to symbolise his own disillusionment with everything he has experienced in Baden particularly everything Russian disillusionment, too, with the great reforms recently introduced there:
As we have already seen, nature, so omnipresent in Turgenevs presentations of intellectual discussion, is either totally absent or suppressed in similar passages of Smoke. Indeed, the smoke Litvinov observes from his train window shrouds and deforms the natural landscape. It is this very point which the poet Tiutchev makes in his reaction to the novel, in a poem bearing Turgenevs own title Smoke:
Tiutchevs first reaction to the novel had been an epigram: Even the smoke of the native land is sweet and pleasant to us, in which he clearly contrasts Turgenevs use of the image with that of the eighteenth-century poet Derzhavin, whose evocation of an idyllic rural youth in his poem The Harp (Arfa) ends with the line: Of the fatherland even the smoke is sweet and pleasant to us3 Although Tiutchev clearly has Derzhavin in mind, his formulation of the phrase is actually that of Griboedov, who made the quotation famous in his play Woe from Wit.4 Its ironical use by Chatsky in the play and his withering criticism of contemporary Russian society must surely have been in Turgenevs mind in his own use of the image of smoke.
There is, however, a strange postscript, not only to the novel itself, but to the further significance of Turgenevs title. Some three pages from the end the author appears to bring his work to a conclusion: However, it is time to finish; and there is even nothing to add, but then he proceeds to invite his reader to meet yet more people: Reader, would you not like to come over with us to St Petersburg for a few moments, into one of the foremost of its edifices? [9, 326]. Ostensibly the reader is asked once again to meet people in order to learn of societys judgement of Irina: She has an embittered mind elle na pas la foi. [9, 327]. The issue of faith (la foi) is in reality the subtext of this postscript. The author warns his readers: Know that: you have entered a shrine, a shrine devoted to utmost propriety, to virtue abounding in love, in a word, to that which is not of this earth. Here the hushed conversation is of spiritual or patriotic matters, and the author reinforces his image: It is a shrine! It is a shrine!. Yet here, too, there is that stuffiness of atmosphere encountered earlier in the novel, in the circles of the emigrés and the aristocrats, but there is a difference; for we are told: a decorous smell permeates the stuffy air [9, 326]. The decorous smell is ostensibly that of propriety, but a suggestion of incense is clearly suggested in the way the mistress of this establishment expresses her judgement of Irina: "Elle na pas la foi, the voice of the lady of the house trailed off into thin air, like smoke from a thurible (kadilnyi dym) [9, 327]. The shrines of the national faith, the churches of Orthodoxy, are also filled with smoke the decorous smell of incense. Thus, obliquely and in a way which manages to sidestep the censor, Turgenev has contrived to add yet another national institution to the smoke - those swirling clouds of obfuscation which Litvinov sees as constituting Russian life.
Of Turgenevs many portraits of the femme fatale, Irina is perhaps the most passionate and the most enigmatic. There is a deep-seated ambivalence in her behaviour, not only in respect of Litvinov, but also in her attitude to her own circle. This inconsistency of attitude may have its origin in the circumstances of her upbringing. Although belonging to an ancient princely family, she is acutely aware of her poverty. At home there is the humiliation of tradesmen announcing the familys debts to the world in general, and at school the personal affront of being replaced at the last moment by the daughter of a rich tax-farmer, when it was she, who had originally been chosen to read out French verses in honour of a visiting dignitary:
Irina is torn between her view of what she could be and what she is. The contradictoriness of he character is thrown into relief by two quite opposite assessments of her, expressed by her teachers: One teacher prophesied that her passions would lead to her ruin "Vos passions vous perdront"; on the other hand, another teacher persecuted her for her coldness and lack of feeling, and called her "une jeune fille sans coeur" [9, 180-81].
As her suitor in Moscow, Litvinov suffers from her coldness and apparent indifference, only to be swept up by her sudden passion. He feels as though he is in some sort of enchanted circle [9, 182]. Yet when he breaks away and leaves Moscow for a week, he is tormented on his return, by a month or two of her coldness: Then in one day everything changed. It was as though a fire broke out in her, as though love had come on her like a thundercloud [9, 182]. She apologises for not having properly appreciated Litvinov before, and astounds him with a sudden republican outburst (he himself was going through such a phase at that time) [9, 183]. For all her aristocratic background, she appears to share his more democratic values, so that when he talks of the need to work, she appears to agree, but adds, significantly: but the chief thing is to travel [9, 184].
Nevertheless, aristocratic values are near the surface and they erupt over a minor matter. She takes sudden exception to the fact that Litvinov is not wearing gloves indeed he has none: "You are an absolute student", she repeated, "Vous nêtes pas distingué" [9, 185]. Although she later begs his forgiveness, we are told: Only, it was a strange thing! Frequently, and almost crying, she would accuse herself of bad motives, which she did not have, and would stubbornly deny her real failings [9, 185]. The rebuke that her supposed fiancé is not distinguished does not augur well for the relationship. Her parents, too, are unhappy about Litvinovs lack of breeding, but they fear to thwart their daughters wishes. Her father argues: But the chief thing is Irina will not obey us. Has there ever been a time that she has not done what she wanted? Vous connaissez sa violence! [9, 184].
When the Imperial Court comes to Moscow and Irina is invited to a ball given by the highest in the land, she has, as it were, the chance to redeem the social rebuff she had suffered as a schoolgirl, an opportunity, not only to make all Moscow talk about her, but perhaps St Petersburg as well. At the same time she is tormented by the state of her dress, and exclaims: Oh, this poverty, poverty and obscurity! How can one rid oneself of this poverty! How can one emerge, emerge from this obscurity! [9, 186]. Subconsciously she realises that she is at a watershed: she has a choice between a more serious life, which is nevertheless pas distingué , and the realisation of her own aristocratic potential a choice between Litvinov and high society.
On the one hand, she safeguards her own freedom of action at the ball by making Litvinov promise not to go; on the other, she attempts, after Litvinovs gift of the heliotropes, to allow him to make the decision for her: Do you want this? Just say the word, and I will pull all this off and remain at home [9, 189]. Litvinov, of course, is placed in an invidious position, but refuses to restrict her freedom.
In Baden-Baden, as a married women, she gives herself to Litvinov (at least so much is hinted at the end of Chapter 17 [9, .262]), but later explains this as the repayment of a debt: You do not know how I love you. But yesterday I only repaid my debt, I made amends for past guilt [9, 273]. Then, as Litvinov had done to her in Moscow, she now offers him freedom: Do as you want, you are as free as the air, you are not bound by anything. You have to know this [9, 273]. Sadly, Litvinov cannot attain to knowledge of such freedom.
In repaying her debt, Irina, whether consciously or no, has indulged in an oblique and perverse form of self-vindication. She has forced Litvinov to abandon his fiancée in peremptory fashion, and inculpated him in a guilt that had been her own. He now experiences what she, too, must have felt in Moscow, but it is a burden which he alone must bear: It was not she who was guilty in respect to Tatiana, it was he, he alone, Litvinov, and he had no right to try to shake off the responsibility which his guilt had placed on him as an iron yoke [9, 309].
Irinas repayment of her debt shows that same contradiction of passion and heartlessness, revealed in the contrasting assessments of her character as a schoolgirl: it will characterise her further dealings with Litvinov. The slate now being clean, she can take on again the old guilt of the former relationship. The letter, in which she refuses to run away with him, makes it plain that she is playing the same trick on him that she played in Moscow: I feel that I am guilty before you; my second guilt is even greater than the first. I despise myself and my cowardice. I shower myself with reproaches, but I cannot change myself [9, 306].
In all these expressions of guilt, she appears to have little concern, either for her own husband, or for her other victim Tatiana, whose feelings she lightly dismisses: I confess, I have thought little of her I cannot think of two people at the same time [9, 290]. Nevertheless, when she senses that Tatiana is still a rival, still has a hold over Litvinov, she is scathing in her dismissal of her: If I decide. If I do run away, then I will run away with a man, who does this for me, and not in order to avoid losing the esteem of a phlegmatic young lady, in whose veins there is milk and water instead of blood, du lait coupé! [9, 291].
The Irina that Litvinov encounters in Baden is apparently a changed woman. Certainly her personal and social circumstances have changed. The poverty, of which she complained before the fateful ball, has been dramatically reversed. Tatianas aunt, Kapitolina Markovna, is impressed by her outward show of wealth, and exclaims: You could feed ten families for a whole year on the cost of her lace alone! [9, 267] a comparison which appears to put Irinas earlier republican outburst into its true context.
Yet, as Potugin warns Litvinov, people do not change: Does the character of people really change? (he asks) They are the same in the grave as they were in the cradle [9, 238]. Irina is still torn in contrary directions. The aristocratic life she has at last attained both attracts and repels her. She is very critical of the society in which she moves, yet at the end of Chapter 13, we see her fawning on a royal personage, with what the author describes as an ingratiating voice (vkradchivyi golos) [9, 229].
In Baden it is she who makes all the moves to renew the old Moscow relationship; it is she who leaves the heliotropes (although she denies it); it is she who sends Potugin to bring Litvinov to her hotel room for their first talk alone together, and during this tête-à-tête she plays with her wedding ring, turning it round on her finger [9, 219]. When Litvinov next meets her (by chance?) on the Lichtenthaler Allee, she accuses him of avoiding him:
His attempt to avoid her, and hers to pursue him, is thus given visual expression. Litvinov explains that his reluctance to renew their contact stems from what happened in Moscow, and he can only ascribe her insistence to her desire to know what power she still has over him. But, although he claims our paths have diverged far apart [9, 225], when it is her turn to step off the path - literally (though ostensibly to avoid other people) we read that: Litvinov, in his turn, followed her. Past events cloud their new relationship and when he tells Irina that perhaps he is unable to forget what happened in Moscow, it evokes an ambiguity of response reminiscent of the old Irina: A blissful smile flashed across Irinas face, and vanished immediately, replaced by a thoughtful, almost frightened expression [9, 228]. The old Moscow Irina still lurks in this married society lady. In Chapter 16 she manages to undermine Litvinovs firm resolve to leave Baden, but concludes their interview by suggesting that she herself cannot believe she is in Baden she has the sense of being in Moscow [9, 257]. This in itself seems ominous, and in Chapter 23, when it is her turn to make the decision to leave Baden, Litvinov is disturbed by a bitter reminder: Your answer will decide everything. Only do not look at me with those eyes they remind me of those former Moscow eyes [9, 302].
Although in Baden Irina appears to be playing much the same game that she had played with Litvinov in Moscow, nevertheless, the more passionate side of her nature has come to the fore. In the early stages of their new relationship Litvinov wonders whether she is genuine, but Potugin thinks he can give him an answer: When she gets carried away she is genuine, like all passionate women. Pride also sometimes prevents her from lying [9, 238]. Litvinov questions Irinas pride, considering it more a matter of caprice, but Potugin insists: She is as proud as a devil [9, 238]. In a sense both are right: Irinas pride does not prevent her from lying about bringing the heliotropes to Litvinovs room, on the contrary it is pride which prevents her from acknowledging the fact. It was pride, in another sense, that made her choose society life instead of life with the undistinguished Litvinov. To Litvinov, himself such behaviour can seem like cruel caprice, Nevertheless, there was something genuine in her regret at the time: It was not easy for her to break her ties with Litvinov. She loved him and having sent him her note, she almost took to her bed. She cried ceaselessly, grew sallow and thinner [9, 195-6].
When in Chapter 23 Litvinov comes to her for her final answer, dramatically phrasing the decision as one of life or death [9, 302], she seems genuinely upset, but the fact that she weeps as she sorts out rich lace to go to a society ball (lace that would feed ten families [9, 267]), while at the same time professing her love for him, clearly shows the conflicting pull of her emotions. She seeks a compromise: why should they seek chains? she asks, they can still be free and love one another [9, 303].
Her torments last to the final moment. She is on the platform as he gets into the train to leave forever. Her eyes seem to say: Return, return. I have come for you. She is motionless, unable to add a word, and everything about her, even the disarray of her dress, seems to beg for mercy. Litvinov is clearly moved, but restrains himself from rushing towards her. He gets into his carriage and points to the seat next to his own: She understood him. There was still time. Just one step, one movement, and two lives, joined for ever, would fly away into the unknown distance...As she hesitated there was a loud whistle, and the train began to move [9, 303].
Yet the enigma of her true emotions remains. Turgenev undercuts the pathos of this dramatic scene with an ending verging on the comic. As Litvinovs train departs, Irina totters on to a bench, in what appears to be a faint. A man in the diplomatic corps, wishing to perform the duty dun galant chevalier comes up to help her:
In the farewell scene with Litvinov, Irinas pride appeared to conquer love, but now pride itself has taken a comic turn, and she disappears into a German version of a gloom, which will haunt Litvinovs journey all the way back to Russia.
We have seen the figure of the femme fatale before in Turgenevs writing. Irina reminds us of Varvara Pavlovna in A Nest of Gentlefolk; she has strong similarities with Princess R., who so torments Pavel Petrovich in Fathers and Children; she has features in common with Odintsova but the portrait of Irina is a much more sustained exploration of the psychological and emotional contradictions of this type of heroine, and she is ultimately more sympathetic.
In A Nest of Gentlefolk the emotional entanglement, in which Lavretsky finds himself, is the very reverse of Litvinovs situation. There, it is Lavretsky who is married and on these grounds has to renounce the young, fresh girl with whom he is in love. Unlike Smoke there is no hint of adultery in the actions of the central positive figures: adultery in A Nest of Gentlefolk is a moral issue in Smoke it has become merely an emotional one. In the relationship between Bazarov and Odintsova in Fathers and Children the obstacle is not a married partner as, indeed, it is not really an issue in Smoke, but in both novels a similar question of the nature of understanding arises between the plebeian suitor and the more aristocratic lady. (Thus in Chapter 13 of Smoke Litvinov says Yes..but all the same I refuse to understand you, to which Irina replies: Its not necessary but, wait, you will understand me [9, 228]). Irina, like Odintsova, appears to play with the heros affections, and will ultimately sacrifice him in favour of the life she knows.
Behind all these heroines, but perhaps more clearly in the case of Irina, one senses the figure of Pauline Viardot. Irina, ultimately, will not leave her husband and a world in which she is acclaimed. She believes that she can have both her lover and her position, but, unlike Turgenev himself, Litvinov will not accept the role of hanger on. Yet such a suggestion is plainly made in Irinas final letter:
Litvinov is incensed by the insensitivity of this letter, particularly at its suggestion that he will be patronised by Irina and her husband. And who is this we? [9, 308], he exclaims bitterly.
As we have seen in Chapter 14, Potugin insists on the fact that Irina is genuine. He repeats this with a further proviso: All the same she is genuine. But speaking generally, from whom do you expect truth? The best of these ladies are spoilt to the marrow of their bones [9, 238]. After Potugins abrupt departure, Litvinov ponders his words: "Spoilt to the marrow of her bones", he thought a short while afterwards, "but proud as a devil. She, this woman proud? She who is almost on her knees to me proud, and not capricious? [9, 239]. Later, struggling with his emotions, as well as with his conscience, Litvinov asks himself how he could again fall in love with this spoilt, society creature [9, 252]. The word spoilt is also used by Irina about herself, when, after her outburst against Tatiana in Chapter 21, she seeks to apologise, saying: You see how spoilt I am, how vile I am, jealous and spiteful! [9, 291]. The use of the word spoilt (isporchena) in all these cases is understandable and clear, but the concept is first presented to us in another context, and with the taint of witchcraft.
When, in Chapter 6, Litvinov returns to his room, he finds, not only the bouquet of heliotropes, but also a letter from his father, in which he relates the strange tale of his coachman, Nikanor, who has been spoilt (isportili). But a remedy has been found in a priest in Riazan, who is a well known master at dealing with spoiling (izvestnyi master protiv porchi) [9, 177] and has managed to cure him. As evidence, Litvinovs father includes the priests own letter outlining the nature of the disease:
The priests letter evokes the backward, superstitious life of the Russian steppes, and it seems strange to Litvinov that he should be reading it in, of all places, Baden. Nevertheless there is much in it that relates to his Baden experiences.
That night his sleep is troubled by the heavy scent of the heliotropes, which he finally has to remove from his room. Even then the scent persists, and he falls into a feverish sleep and dreams of the well known master at dealing with spoiling in the shape of a hare which twice crosses his path. He wakes from his dream, as we have seen, with the exclamation Surely not her, It cannot be! [9, 178]. In Russian folk-belief a hare crossing ones path is an omen of bad luck. It is obviously prophetic of what happens in the novel itself, where twice a lovers promise is broken with disastrous results, and where the figure, who is the resolution of his dream, Irina, plays a central role: through her actions, she not only reveals herself as spoilt, but spoils the love of Litvinov as well as that of Tatiana too.
We may recall that during his first encounter with Irina in Moscow, Litvinov had felt as though he were in some sort of enchanted circle [9, 182]. Perhaps witchcraft is in Irinas very blood; for at the opening of chapter 7 we learn that the Osinin family had been accused of sorcery in ancient times [9, 179]. The idea of some sort of witchcraft is in Litvinovs mind at the beginning of Chapter 16, when after another sleepless night, he asks himself in amazement: How could he again again, begin to love this spoilt, society creature?:
Kapitolina Markovna reacts to the change in her nephew with the words Have you been bewitched, is that it? [9, 297] and urges him to leave this hateful Baden-Baden with her and his fiancée only come out from under this spell [9, 297].
Nevertheless, the treatment of love, not as a supernatural phenomenon, but as a natural force is also present throughout the novel. It is conveyed through the conventionally romantic images of the storm and the whirlwind, which also serve to illustrate the torments of unrequited love. In Moscow, after receiving the letter from Irina, which puts an end to their relationship, Litvinov tries to console himself with the view that her love was a gust of passion which suddenly blew in, and now, equally suddenly, has blown out: As it blew in, so it blew away. All this is natural. I always expected it [9, 194]. In Chapter 17, after Irinas new declaration of love, he tries to focus on this earlier experience: He remembered Moscow, he remembered how "it" had blown in then in a sudden storm [9, 260]. There was, indeed, something sudden and unpredictable about Irinas first access of love for Litvinov, and, as we have already seen, it is described in terms of a fire breaking out and the onrush of a thunder cloud [9, 182]. Such images are ominous: they suggest that love can also be a destructive force it can bear within it contradictory elements.
At the breakup of the first relationship in Moscow, Litvinov experiences such mixed emotions himself:
Later, while waiting for the arrival of Tatiana in Baden, and knowing that he will face a bitter scene, when he rejects her, Litvinov is once again prey to mixed emotions:
Such elements of frenzied pleasure in the midst of grief, and feelings that are sweet yet far from good, and at the same time generate both cowardice and boldness suggest a Dostoevskian note in Turgenevs writing (often more present than is usually acknowledged).5
The banal nature of the romantic view of loves complexity is brought out, when in a list of clichés Potugin ends with the phrase: love inseparable from hate [9, 174]. Admittedly, here he is talking about love for ones country, but Litvinov puts it in its romantic context by dismissing it as Byronism the romanticism of the 1830s, only to be capped by Potugin himself, who traces it back to a classical poet of love - Catullus [9, 174; 552].
The novel provides us with other clichés on the subject of love. At Irinas social gathering in Chapter 15 a fat general recounts how during a party game he was asked: Quest ce que lamour? to which he had replied: Une colique remontée au coeur [9, 247] a formula that might well apply to Litvinov himself. Potugin has his own cynical view of what is involved in love:
Potugins view of the national image of love, as depicted in the poetry of the folk epics (Byliny) is even more negative. Apart from the fact that love there is usually depicted as the result of witchcraft [9, 236] (a theme already present in the novel itself), and that, alone among European and Asiatic epics, the byliny do not describe a single pair of conventional lovers, he points to the fact that the typical knight of folk literature always begins his relationship with the beloved by beating her [9, 236-7].
A more contemporary Russian view of the relationship between the sexes is to be seen in the younger generations dismissal of the institution of marriage. Potugin recounts an argument he had with a young wriggler6 on this subject, in which he tried to prove that such monogamous pairings were natural in the animal kingdom [9, 235]. His efforts were unsuccessful, because the intellectual authorities of the younger generation (notably Chernyshevsky in his novel What is to be done?) had condemned the tyranny of marriage. Sukhanchikova, the chief proponent of female emancipation, and mouthpiece for the ideas of Chernyshevsky in Smoke, regards the abolition of the institution of marriage as inevitable. Indeed, Turgenevs novel itself raises the question of the sanctity of marriage, and on this issue he fell foul of his friend Fet, who considered that the author had proposed a resolution of the love tangle in his novel, based on the moral principles of the progressives.7 Whatever the truth of this, Litvinov is certainly out of his depth, as the author himself comments: Positive people like Litvinov ought not to get carried away by passion; it destroys the very sense of their lives [9, 287-8].
The love, which he declares for Irina in his letter (Chapter 13), is one which consumes him entirely, leaving no place for anything else: The whole of me is in this love, this love is all of me; in it is my future, my vocation, my object of worship, my native land! [9, 299-300]. This last statement not only seems significant, in view of Litvinovs apparent rejection of his native land later in the novel, but it also evokes a literary echo: My native land is you (otchizna moia ty!)8 the words of Andrii, in Gogols Taras Bulba, who, once he has fallen under the spell of the Polish enchantress, becomes a turncoat and traitor to his native land.
Irina herself finds such total self-abdication difficult to understand, and questions: Can a man live by love alone? [9, 302]. Later, when Litvinov has made his decision to leave, the full impact of Irinas words are borne in on him: At times it seemed incomprehensible to him how a man a man! Could allow himself to be so influenced by a woman, and by love "a shameful weakness!", he whispered [9, 315].
Litvinovs anger and disillusionment recall Bazarovs assertion of masculinity after his first defeat at the hands of Odintsova: A man hasnt the time to engage in such frivolities; a man must be fierce, says an excellent Spanish proverb [8, 307]. In background Litvinov shares certain features in common with Bazarov. Although his father was a rough, unpolished civil servant, his mother was of the gentry class, with an estate, which Litvinov himself inherits. He may be more secure financially than Bazarov, but still, if ironically, thinks of himself as a plebeian. The behaviour of the young generals, whom he encounters at their picnic, reinforces the pride he feels in his own social status:
Similar considerations colour his rejection of the St Petersburg life, which Irina offers in her letter. It will be entirely false and only last until the caprice passes and the plebeian-friend loses his piquancy [9, 308].
Irinas circle is quite clearly not his own. Her husband thinks Litvinov is a republican [9, 249], and certainly as a student he had flirted with republican ideas [9, 183]. There is a basic social seriousness in his attitude to life. In Moscow he had thought of his marriage to Irina as one in which they would devote themselves to work [9, 184]. The failure of this relationship temporarily unsettles him; he leaves the university, but later spends over four years abroad studying agronomy and technology (he laboured conscientiously, and acquired knowledge [9, 149]) and now, contemplating marriage to Tatiana: he offered her, as the woman he loved, as a comrade and friend, the union of her life with his, in joy and grief, in labour and in rest [9, 150].
The search for a positive hero characterises much of nineteenth century Russian literature, and, it seems, Turgenev, may have found such a figure in Litvinov. We have already seen that he ascribes his hero to the category of positive people [9, 287], and as he struggles with his conscience at the beginning of Chapter 16, we are told of his honesty: As an honest and just man, he understood the importance of obligations, the holy quality of duty, and would have considered it shameful to deceive himself, dissembling his weakness and his mistake [9, 251]. Yet he has already practised self-deception, albeit unconsciously. At the opening of Chapter 14 we find him attempting to dismiss the passionate words of Irina as mere whims of a society lady, corrupted by the milieu in which she lives, but the author provides his own comment: Really, he did not think this at all, but merely repeated these well-worn phrases mechanically, as though wishing through this to rid himself of other, more frightening, thoughts [9, 229].
There is a similar lack of openness with Tatiana when she arrives in Baden. He attempts to compensate for his silence by weakly squeezing her hand, and again the author tells us: There was falseness in such contact [lit.squeezing], to which she did not respond, and Litvinov was aware of the falseness [9, 270]. Indeed, commenting on his heros mixed feelings as he waited for Tatiana at the station, the author had himself already posed the question: What had happened to his honour? [9, 263].
To outsiders Litvinov may seem a man of firm purpose. At the end of Chapter 14 Bambaev points out the figure of Litvinov to his friends with the words: Do you see that man? He is stone! He is a rock! He is granite!!! [9, 240], and as Litvinov leaves Baden forever in Chapter 26, Bambaev again refers to him as a man of stone [9, 317].9 Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. In Chapter 16, this man of honour mentioned at the chapters opening, has taken a decision to leave Baden to meet his fiancée and finish with Irina forever [9, 252]. Yet after meeting Irina to tell her of his decision, all firmness of purpose has gone, so that by the next chapter, resorting to maritime imagery, he feels as though a cable has snapped and he has been swept up by something cold and unknown [9, 257]. Yet, in spite of this ominous image, he still feels his decision to be a firm anchor, and he dismisses the disturbing words of Irina: But what then? These words, for all that, were just incapable of changing the decision he had taken. As before, it did not falter and stood firm like an anchor that had been cast out [9, 261].
This anchor, of course, does not hold, and the decision he now comes to is the reverse of the original: he will break off his engagement to Tatiana. In Chapter 23 he makes another decision it is an ultimatum to Irina to leave her husband and flee with him (Only know, that my decision is beyond doubt: either all or nothing [9, 301]). Yet, by the next chapter, he is pondering, not so much on the means of their flight, as on whether the decision, on which he had so stubbornly insisted, was indeed beyond doubt? [9, 304]. We are told that his resolve was strong, without the slightest wavering [9, 305], but at the same time the comic aspects of such lovers flights haunt him against his will, as though such things only happened in novels and comedies, or, if in real life, then only in the depths of provincial Russia. His doubts seem well-founded, and his hopes are finally dashed, when he receives a letter from Irina, swearing eternal love, but declining to run away with him [9, 307]. It is only when she offers him the role of hanger-on in her household in St Petersburg that the last firm decision comes to him:
This image of the blade is apt in another sense: his decision is to cut all his ties, all his anchors; from now on he will commit himself to the wave which is sweeping him along: It was as though he had given himself up to a wave. It had seized him carried him off, and he firmly decided not to resist its pull He had renounced all other expressions of his will [9, 313]. Even when Irina unexpectedly appears on the platform, the wave is stronger than any ties, which might have power to drag him back (but the wave, to which he had surrendered, took its own [9, 313]). He jumps into the carriage, points to the seat next to him, but, while it is now her turn to show indecision, the whistle blows, and the train pulls out. The decision has been made for him.
The first decision he had made, back in Chapter 17, to leave Baden, and escape the spell of Irina, (One thing alone was certain: he would not go back "Even if it meant death", he repeated for the tenth time [9, 261] this decision has now actually been taken, and a kind of death does appear to be its consequence; for as he sits in the railway carriage, we are told: Sometimes he had the impression that he was travelling along with his own corpse, and only bitter spasms of incurable, spiritual anguish reminded him that he was still carrying on with life [9, 314].
Litvinovs parting, like that of Bazarov, is symbolised by his suitcase, but it marks indecision rather than emptiness. In Chapter 17, in spite of Litvinovs resolve to leave, his suitcase is still open, for by now he has fallen irrevocably for Irina, and has received Tatianas letter, telling him of her imminent arrival [9, 262]. The suitcase is only finally packed in Chapter 25, when he does actually leave Baden. Similarly, in Chapter 20, a lack of openness and a sense of finality is communicated before his final scene with Tatiana through the ritual of locking up: He drank a glass of cold water, and, without knowing why, locked all the drawers in the furniture, and went to see Tatiana [9, 284]. What he has to tell her evokes a reciprocal locking away on her part, as she tells him: "I have to collect my strength a bit leave me spare my pride. We shall see one another again", and with these words, Tatiana quickly moved away and locked the door behind her with a key [9, 287].
Compared with the decisiveness of Insarov, the indecison of Litvinov makes him a poor candidate for consideration as a positive man, even though the author himself appears to give him this accolade. The one decisive moment in his relationship with the femme fatale comes when he balks at her suggestion that he should be a mere hanger-on of the married couple in St Petersburg. In the eyes of an author, who had condemned himself to a similar situation, perhaps, through this alone Litvinov could be seen as a positive figure.
* * * * *
The most negative figure in the novel is Potugin, whose name, derived from potugi, suggests unsuccessful attempts, straining, or even birth pangs (rodovye potugi). Unlike earlier Turgenevan heroes he lacks the quality of self-respect (samoliubie), he is a man, in whom life has already managed to destroy self-respect bit by bit [9, 167]. He is a warning of what Litvinov could become he has sacrificed his own self-interests for an idealised love of Irina, but he is embittered, and his is the most consistently critical voice in the novel.
He must be seen, in some sense, as a vehicle for the authors own sense of frustration, both on a personal and an ideological level.10 It seems significant that Potugin has been endowed with certain of Turgenevs own physical characteristics he is broad shouldered, with an ample body on short legs [9, 165]. Like Turgenev, he enjoys shooting [9, 234] and the incident he describes in Chapter 14 (how he was deceived about the sporting qualities of a bog, when out with dog and gun in the forest)) could have come out of A Sportsmans Sketches.11 In Baden, Potugin is Irinas hanger-on and obedient servant. Although unmarried himself he has the care of a young girl in his hands (Turgenev had an illegitimate daughter by a peasant woman in his own care). More importantly, it has been shown, that ideas expressed by Potugin reflect the views advanced by Turgenev himself in arguments with Herzen and his circle.12 Potugins social background is, of course, entirely different. By attributing to him distinctly clerical origins [9, 170; 174), Turgenev has attempted to strengthen the polemical ground on which his rebel stands. He is a raznochinets (a déclassé intellectual), a man with the same background as the younger generation of radicals of the 1860s; at the same time there is more than a hint in him of Turgenevs mentor, Belinsky.13 When Potugin refers to that outspoken leader of the seventeenth-century schism in the Russian church as ..my estimable colleague, the arch priest Avvakum, burned at the stake [9, 170], he is identifying himself, both as irreconcilable rebel, and as a martyr. Potugins views appeal to neither of the two Russian factions resident in Baden. Ratmirov dismissively brands him a republican [9, 249] and his Westernism is at odds with the teachings of Gubarevs circle. It is for them that Potugin has his most damning criticism. He states his own position:
One of the central issues in the arguments between Westernisers and Slavophiles was the role of the eighteenth-century reforming tsar, Peter the Great. Potugin, as a Westerniser, wholeheartedly welcomes the Western introductions of Peter, but rather than stressing the more material aspects of his reforms, puts forward an original, though no less telling, argument: the enrichment of the Russian language through the forcible introduction of a multitude of western words and concepts: Peter poured these words whole into our stomachs in tubs and barrels. At first it turned out like something monstrous, but later there began that very process of digestion, of which I spoke to you [9, 171-2].
Potugin backs his argument by entering into the so-called Norman debate on the foundation of the Russian state. The Russian Primary Chronicle had attributed the origins of Russia itself to a mythical, or semi-mythical, event: the Slavonic tribes of the area, unable to govern themselves, had asked the Scandinavian prince, Rurik, to come and rule over them. The arch-nationalist Pogodin had pointed to this event as a mark of the peaceful, unwarlike nature of the Russians, arguing that whereas other nations had been born through strife, the Russian state had been formed by friendly invitation.14 Such controversial views led to much discussion as to the nature, and even the historical accuracy of the summoning of Rurik. Potugin sees the truth of the myth to lie in its psychological significance:
Potugin welcomes the announcement of legal reforms in Russia, because he sees their formulation as entirely Western, and unlike the Liberation of the Serfs, which has already taken place, they contain no concession to Slavophile concerns about safeguarding existing Russian institutions. Both Slavophiles and peasant-oriented socialists, such as Herzen, had argued for the retention of the peasant community, and its common ownership of land to be reflected in the terms under which the peasants were to be liberated. In Potugins view: One concession in peasant affairs is enough. Come on, be done with common ownership! [9, 230].
Yet, defective as it may be in Potugins eyes, the Emancipation is still to be welcomed, even though the lot of the peasants themselves might actually have worsened: It only befits blockheads or scoundrels to point triumphantly at the poverty of the peasants after Emancipation, at the increase in their drunkenness after the abolition of the tax-farming concessions in alcohol The worst is the road to the good! [9, 173]. Potugin claims that he passionately loves Russia and passionately hates her [9, 173]. His tirades, however, reveal little love, whereas his hatred for many of his fellow countrymen is only too apparent.
He has an entrée into the circles of the political emigrés, and although he criticises the aristocrats (of Prince Koko, for example, he says that in quarter of an hour at roulette he has perhaps lost the quit-rent, which 150 peasant families had earned by hard toil, and can then console himself by reading a Catholic tract [9, 175]). Nevertheless, it is against the radicals that Potugins main ire is directed. Whenever ten Russians are gathered together, he says, they will immediately talk, and talk incessantly, about the significance and future of Russia, but in absurdly general terms, like children chewing a piece of India rubber [9, 167]. At the same time they will talk of the West in decline, that the West is rotting,15 when, in fact, it is only the opinion of the West which they themselves value. Potugin explains Gubarevs dominance over the other political emigrés as a failing in the Russian character itself: the need for a master a barin: The government has freed us from serf dependency, may it be thanked; but the habits of slavery have been rooted too deeply in us; we shall not be able to rid ourselves of them quickly. In everything and everywhere we need a master [9, 168]. He goes on to explain that such a master might be a person, or it might be an idea, an intellectual movement, as for example, what Potugin sees as the younger generations current enslavement to the natural sciences: Pure serfs! Their pride is servile and servile too is their disparagement. A new master has arisen away with the old! [9, 168].
In a strange turn of events, the new master for the Russian intellectual is the peasant himself. In their incessant talk of the future, the radicals can only think of it as linked to the Russian peasant: "We, educated people", they say, "are rubbish; but the people Oh this is a great people! Do you see this peasant coat [armiak]?16 This is where everything will come from. All other idols have been destroyed; let us then believe in the peasant coat" [9, 170]. There are clear echoes here of Turgenevs own accusation that Herzen was bowing down to the peasant, sheep-skin coat, and Potugin continues:
Such veneration of home-bred, intuitive values is also seen by Potugin as characterising the Russian intellectuals attitude to art the idea of the self-taught genius samorodok . It is time, he says, to consign this parading of the concept of the instinctive genius to the archives, along with other empty phrases, such as nobody in Russia dies from hunger, and journeys on our roads are the quickest and that we can show everybody a thing or two [9, 231].17
The novel itself provides us with an example of such a would-be genius. In the opening chapter the author had introduced us to Count X:
During the attempt to hypnotise the crayfish in Chapter 15, this intuitive genius had been playing chords in a minor key, but then plays his invariable waltz, and having received general acclaim proceeds to tell his own chansonette, stolen entirely from Offenbach, to which his society audience responds with Charmant all except Irina who manages to exchange mocking glances with Litvinov [9, 245].
A similar lack of artistic discrimination is also apparent at that other gathering the political emigrés. Bambaev proceeds from the usual platitudes about Russias greatness to praise of national art:
In his general condemnation of Russian artistic endeavour, Potugin is forced to concede that Glinka has some merit as a composer, but that he is over-praised, and that other so-called home-bred geniuses merely copy second rate composers of the West [9, 232]. As for Russian painting and fine art, in Potugins words, it does not exist: "Russian art" he began again, "Russian art! The Russian art of damming streams I know, and I also know Russian impotence, but Russian art, I am sorry, I have not met it" [9, 231-2].
He is particularly scathing about the painter Briullov, whom he dismisses as a puffy nonentity. Russian art! It just makes him laugh.
By implication Potugin also condemns Russian literature. But here is a ticklish matter for Turgenev himself. At the gathering of the political emigrés he allows a little officer (odin ofitserchik) to vilify Russian literature on the quiet (pod shumok) [9, 163-4], but the only literature quoted at the gathering are verses from the satirical journal The Spark (Iskra), which are followed by the far from clear statement of Bindasov, that the teeth should be knocked out of all these rogues, and that would be an end of it [9, 164]. By putting criticisms of literature into the mouths of such obviously foolish figures, Turgenev can distance himself from any real calumny of his fellow writers. Even Potugin limits such censure to the third-rate authoress, Kokhanovskaia, with her idealised portrayal of peasant life, designed to appeal to the sentimentalism of the upper classes, and in rejecting the products of folk literature itself, the Byliny, (I repeat, without civilisation there is no poetry either [9, 236]), he is on safer ground: he is echoing the views of the critic Belinsky.18
Nevertheless, Potugin is obviously well acquainted with the Byliny, and quotes from one of these folk epics of the Novgorod cycle about Vaska Buslaev, who, treating the dead with contempt, came to grief himself. Potugin interprets this as an allegory, warning those who despise the rotting West, that they, too, might have a spectacular fall [9, 311-12].19
Potugin cites two examples of Russian intuitive genius apparently capable of putting the West in its place: the self-taught watchmaker Kulibin: who without any knowledge of mechanics, fashioned some really hideous watches [9, 231] and Teplushkin, who mended the ship on the Admiralty spire, without the aid of scaffolding. However, as Potugin says, in words that appear to look forward to Leskovs story Lefty (Levsha):20 One shouldnt shout about how foolish he has made architects look! [9, 231]; for his work had to be redone, and with the aid of scaffolding. In fact, Potugin reserves his most devastating criticism for Russian achievements in technology and science. Russia, he claims, has invented nothing; even her famous products: the samovar, bast shoes, the shaft-bow (duga) and the knout were not invented by Russians [9, 233].21 In fact, if Russia were to disappear from the face of the earth, the Universal Exhibition of world inventiveness in London, that encyclopaedia of mankind, would suffer not the slightest diminution. The same could not be said, if the same fate were to befall even the Sandwich Islands [9, 233].
Even the raw goods which Russia exports: bristles, leather and tallow, only achieve their quality, because of the primitive conditions in which they are produced. Yet Russians boast of a lack of famine, good roads and showing everybody else a thing or two [9, 231]. This proclivity to talk nonsense, even to lie, is brought out in Potugins anecdote of the dried up swamp, which he was assured held game. Potugin sees this as emblematic of a basic weakness in his fellow countrymen, and asks: But tell me, please, why do Russians lie? Why do political economists lie, and also about absurd birds? [9, 234].22
Potugins role in the novel is not entirely negative. His philosophy is expressed in his aphorism: the worst is the road to the good [9, 173], and as Litivinov finally leaves for Russia, Potugin suddenly reappears as a mentor giving him directions on how he should act once he is home:
If this advice is the road to the good, the novel itself, nevertheless, abounds in much that is bad. The author presents his fellow Russians in a far from flattering light. At the novels opening he gives us the vignette of the dandyish figure from the depths of the Russian provinces the landowner from Tambov,23 who does not appear to know the rules of roulette, and evokes the cold sneers of the croupiers [9, 143-4]. Another such episodic figure is the bel-homme encountered by Litvinov in a restaurant, who spoils his impressive appearance by hiccuping and blaming the melon he has eaten [9, 223].
The Russians abroad are comic. Even Russians of high society make fools of themselves trying to hypnotise a crayfish. The waiter who carries back the unresponsive crustacean scarcely conceals his smile. He can be heard snorting on the other side of the door, and the author tells us: Later, in the kitchen, they laughed a great deal über diese Russen [9, 245]. During this incident these members of high society are presented as laughing in a caricatured way (kha, kha, kha,! and khe, khe, khe!) at a weak pun, and the author cannot refrain from his own comment: Russians are always the first to laugh at their own wit, adding in a further parenthesis, which implicates his readers: (We beg the reader not be amazed and indignant: who can answer for himself: sitting in the stalls of the Aleksandriinskii Theatre and carried away by its atmosphere, has he not applauded a pun that was even worse?) [9, 244].
The satirical authorial tone is set in the first chapter, which introduces us to the fashionable society frequenting Baden. Here the reader is presented with a list of names of minimal importance for the plot of the novel, but which, in some cases, evoke literary echoes. Princess Zizi and Princess Zozo recall the society tales of Odoevsky, and the permanently absent M. Verdier, who is in such vogue, recalls the non-appearing little Frenchman from Bordeau (frantsuzik iz Bordo) in Woe from Wit, and with him, of course, Griboedovs own devastating critique of Russian society.24 In Chapter 1 we also meet Prince Koko, with his ringing phrase: Madame, le principe de la propriété est profondément ébranlé en Russie [9, 144]. He is described as one of the well-known leaders of the gentry opposition (i.e. to government reforms). The upper classes have been financially affected by the liberation of the serfs, and concession of land to the peasants. Yet, as we later learn, Prince Koko is quite capable of losing in quarter of an hour at roulette the equivalent of the quit rent paid by 150 peasant families [9, 175].
The question of gentry property and the difficulty now of selling estates is raised during the picnic at the Old Castle. One of the generals is particularly pessimistic: We are ruined fine; we are humiliated one cannot dispute that; but we, large landowners, all the same represent a principle un principe. To uphold this principle that is our duty [9, 203]. Such a duty, he claims is to point the way back, and, as he tells Ratmirov - all the way back: Right, right back, mon très cher, the further back the better [9, 204]. He goes on to claim that he is no enemy of progress, but that the development of universities, seminaries and peoples schools has gone far enough, asserting that students, seminarists and déclassé intellectuals (raznochintsy) are worse than the proletariat (tout ce fond du sac, la petite propriété, pire que le prolétariat [9, 205]). No one, he claims, has asked for self-government, and, moreover, democracy itself is a two-edged weapon. It has been suggested that his words echo those of a well-known, liberal writer on legal reforms, B.N. Chicherin.25 In portraying the reactionary general who is not against progress or democracy (though it is a two-edged weapon) Turgenev appears to be parodying the reactions of those Russian liberals, who took fright at the results of the reforms.
His more irascible colleague is even stronger in his denunciations. He points to the recent fires in St Petersburg, which were widely blamed on the nihilists: They have burned St Petersburg from every quarter, thats progress for you! [9, 206], and the fat general ventures the opinion: avec Orphée aux enfers le progres a dit son dernier mot [9, 206], concluding: De la poigne, - de la poigne surtout [9, 206].
In itself there is something incongruous about these French-speaking Russians in a German town pronouncing on the ills of their native land, but the topics of conversation at the evening gathering at the Ratmirovs are merely frivolous. The author himself sums them up in a long descriptive passage, almost Dickensian in its tone:
The political emigrés are more clearly differentiated. Chief among them is Gubarev a caricature portrait of Herzens friend, and second lieutenant, Ogarev. At the same time this is clearly a composite portrait. When Potugin describes Gubarev as a Slavophile, we should realise that Turgenev, through his mouthpiece Potugin, is making a wounding polemical point. Herzen, Ogarev and Bakunin were in fact the ideological opponents of the Slavophiles. Herzen and Ogarev, like Turgenev himself, had been ardent Westernisers until the European revolutions of 1848, when they began to turn away from Europe and look instead towards Russia and to the Russian peasant. This appeared to bring them closer to their former opponents, but they could not in any real sense be called Slavophiles they were revolutionaries, who based their hopes for change in Russia on what they saw as a basic peasant instinct for socialism, pointing to the peasant commune as an embryonic socialist institution. The Slavophiles were also enamoured of the idea of the peasant and the peasant communes, but their perspective was religious, nationalistic and patriarchal. They were backward-looking, and saw an idealised Russia, as existing before the Westernising reforms of Peter I. To the Westerniser, Turgenev - Herzen and Ogarev were renegades. They had turned their backs on the West, and, as he put it: bowed down before the peasant sheepskin coat.
During the conversations and disputes in Chapter 4, the question of workers associations and cooperatives had been raised. Gubarev appears to be less interested in Western theorists on the subject (Lassalle and Schultz von Delitzsch), suggesting that for the Russians the native, peasant workers cooperative the artel is the nub of the problem [9, 161]. He goes on to extol the peasant commune itself:
Gubarevs linking of the obshchina to the political disturbances of 1862-3, and his further suggestion of revolution (Do you not see, where all this is leading?) is light years away from any Slavophile view of the role of the obshchina in Russian life. Indeed, his proposal that there is a need to fuse with the people and find out their opinions, links Gubarevs ideas to those of the anarchist thinker, Bakunin.27
A similar hint at the need for revolution lies behind Gubarevs response to the fact that Litvinov has been abroad to study. He apparently confuses Litvinovs purely practical interest with the vogue for the natural sciences among the radical youth: Ah! Of course, the natural sciences. It is useful as a school; as a school, not as an end in itself. The end now must be mm must be something else [9, 160]. Although Gubarev may have some of the mannerisms of Ogarev, it is Herzen who is more clearly in Turgenevs sights (perhaps with a side glance at Bakunin).
It was obviously more diplomatic for Turgenev not to make identification too clear. Yet, when Potugin talks of the Slavophiles view of Russias past, he is certainly not alluding to the real Slavophiles, but to Herzens well-known theory that Russia was a tabula rasa on which anything could be written: There is nothing actually in evidence, and Rus for century after century has not produced anything that is its own, not in government, the judiciary, the sciences or art, not even in handicrafts But wait, have patience: everything will come [9, 170]. These views, which Potugin ascribes to the Slavophiles seem, strangely, to echo his own opinion of Russian achievements.
Gubarev is working on an article, whose contents he describes in rather vague terms: About everything, my dear lad, you know, like Buckle only a bit more profound, a bit more profound Everything will be decided in it and made plain [9, 152]. The English historian, Henry Thomas Buckle, with his History of Civilisation in England, was one of the cult figures of the Russian left, but scholars have also pointed out that Gubarevs words contain a literary echo of another parody of Russian radical activity: Repetilovs generalised description of another such article in Griboedovs play Woe from Wit.28 Later Potugin parodies the content of articles, written by Ogarev himself [9, 234].29
In the radical circle at Baden Gubarev enjoys a prestige amounting to veneration, and, as we have already seen, Potugin explains this phenomenon as a residue of the Russian serf-mentality: the need to have a master a barin. In its strict sense barin means landowner, lord of the manor. Both Herzen and Ogarev had been rich landowners in Russia, possessing estates with large numbers of peasants. Turgenevs cruellest thrust against Gubarev is to have him return to Russia (something which neither Herzen nor Ogarev was able to do) and become a typical barin of the old school, like his brother the dantist.30
At the end of the novel Litvinov meets both Gubarev brothers on their estate and witnesses their true attitude to the peasants:
Although these are the words of the brother, the cry of Ro-ogues is immediately echoed by Gubarev himself. The caricatured nature of these portraits, already suggested by the epithet wolfish (volchii), is reinforced when they are both described as walking away from Litvinov (whom Gubarev himself may have recognised) with a gait like that of a bear (po medvezhi) a clear allusion to the figure of the grasping, kulak, landowner Sobakevich, in Gogols Dead Souls [9, 322].31
In yet a second way Turgenev seeks to reinforce the barin qualities of Gubarev. He has now fully subjugated and enslaved his ideological hanger-on, Bambaev, turning him (rather improbably) into a butler at his beck and call, and putting Westernism in its place, by choosing to call him by the French name of Monsieur Roston. Moreover, as a barin of some note, Gubarev has been able to return to Russia in the new political climate, but not so his erstwhile colleagues and disciples. As Bambaev puts it in a gambling image: The others have been "trumped", but he got off [9, 323].
Bambaev himself, the naïve enthusiast, who knew Litvinov in his Moscow days, is the means by which Litvinov had gained entry to the Gubarev circle. His enthusiasm is characterised by Potugin as devoid of practical outcome, like that of the poet Iazykov. The comparison does suggest more genuinely Slavophile-type leanings - Iazykov in his poetry was a great defender of Rus32 a concept which is perhaps the greatest of Bambaevs enthusiasms. Indeed, at the end of the novel, even in the guise of Monsieur Roston, he can break off from discussing the fate of former Baden colleagues with the words: Yes, yes, difficult times have come to us! But all the same I will say: Rus what a Rus this is! You have only to look at this pair of geese: theres nothing like them in the whole of Europe. Real Arzamas ones [9. 322].33 The ironic significance of such geese only becomes fully apparent, when the reader recalls Bambaevs words about another pair identified as Rus in Chapter 3:
Voroshilov, as well as Pishchalkin, are lightly sketched in, but Bindasov, the gambler who insolently borrows money from Litvinov for roulette, yet curses him, when he refuses to leave the train at Heidelberg, is given more polemical substance. He ends his life, as Bambaev tells us, killed in a tavern brawl. The one female member of Gubarevs circle, Sukhanchikova, is much concerned with the so-called female question, and, as a follower of Chernyshevsky, does not believe in the institution of marriage. Following her mentor, she promotes the idea of young women setting themselves up in communes and working at sewing machines [9, 159-60; 271]. She is obviously close to the political activity of Gubarev; for in Chapter 18 we are told that she is returning to Baden from Heidelberg with instructions from him [9, 264]. Turgenev cannot refrain from pointing up her hypocrisy. At the gathering at Gubarevs, she denounces a certain Evseev as a rogue, but when he arrives with other guests she talks to him in a most amicable fashion, and asks him to walk home with her [9, 162]. At the end of the novel we learn that she has formed her own political party and gone off to Portugal [9, 323].
As a follower of Chernyshevsky, Sukhanchikova could not have been an admirer of Ogarev and Herzen, and the students in Heidelberg, with their enthusiasm for the natural sciences, would have been more likely to be followers of Chernyshevsky or the even more radical Pisarev,34 but such is the pot-pourri of political strands, which Turgenev presents in his novel with the polemical intent of stressing the absurdity, the smoke-like nature, of all these radical Russian ideologues abroad.
Smoke, as one may imagine, was not well received by Turgenevs fellow countrymen. In his next novel, Spring Torrents, although he would return to the theme of the Russians abroad, it would be a novel devoted to love and personal relationships, and would be without political edge.
1 E.g. L.V Pumianskii, as cited in commentary [9,508].
2 With the possible exception of the negative reference to one of their number alone not resembling a rose [9, 200].
3 See: F.I Tiutchev, Polnoe sobranie stikhotvorenii, (Biblioteka poeta), Leningrad, 1957, pp. 232-3 and 282; 386. See also: G.R. Derzhavin, Stikhotvoreniia, Moscow, 1958, pp.370-71.
4 A.S. Griboedov, Gore ot uma, Act 1, sc.7, l.386.
5 See: The Cambridge History of Russian Literature (Revised edition), ed. C.A. Moser, Cambridge, 1992, pp.212-13. Litvinovs relationship with Tania may well have autobiographical elements. Seeley relates it to Turgenevs own abortive love affair in 1845 with a kinswoman, Olga Turgeneva, who was also chaperoned by an aunt. See: Seeley, p.251.
6 Viunosha the word is a non-standard form of iunosha (a youth), but it suggests viun a restless, mobile person.
7 In a letter to Tolstoy. L.N. Tolstoy, Perepiska s russkimi pisateliami, Moscow, 1962, p.268. Cited in [9, 540].
8 Gogol, PSS, vol. 2, p.106.
9 Litvinov is a man of stone in as much as his name derives from litvin Lithuanian. The Lithuanians were so called because they were considered to be stone people.
10 Nevertheless, in conversation with V.V. Stasov Turgenev sought to distance himself from his hero [9, 526]. Freeborn considers Potugins place in the novel to be motivated superficially, and confesses himself astonished at Turgenevs lack of artistic sense. See: Freeborn, Turgenev, pp.147-8. Nevertheless, Seeley sees Potugin as part of a plan to cover imperial indiscretions, which hints at the well-known liaison between Alexander II and Princess Dolgorukaia. He has been pressed into service as guardian of their child, by another of the emperors mistresses Irina herself. As such, he may be seen as providing a commentary on her own marriage. See: Seeley, pp.243-4.
11 The source of this anecdote, however, appears to be a letter from I.P. Borisov [9, 528]. See: A Batiuto, I.S. Turgenev v rabote nad romanom Dym, Russkaia literatura, 1960, No.3, pp.156-160
12 Iu. G. Oksman relates the ideological charge of the novel to the discussions Turgenev had with Herzen, Ogarev and Bakunin in London at the beginning of May 1862 [9, 507].
13 They share a similar clerical background, and the editors of PSS point to similarities between the Westerniser views of Potugin and Belinsky [9, 527], particularly ideas ascribed to Belinsky in Turgenevs own reminiscences of the critic (Vospominaniia o Belinskom). See: [14, 42].
14 See: P.K. Christoff, An Introduction to Nineteenth Century Slavophilism: A Study in Ideas: Vol. 2, I.V.Kireevskij, The Hague, 1972, p.209.
15 This is the view of the arch conservatives of Russian thought, the so-called official nationalists, M.P. Pogodin and S. P. Shevyrev. The notion of a rotting West was an idea launched by Shevyrev. See: Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From The Enlightenment to Marxism, (Trans. Hilda Andrews-Rusiecka, Stanford, 1979, p.110.
16 Male outer clothing with tucks at the waist. After the reforms of Peter I this type of clothing was in use only among peasants and petty tradesmen [9, 552].
17 Similar claims would be made a century later in the Soviet Union. See also: Freeborn, Turgenev, p.152.
18 Cf. Berlin, p.164 .
19 In this account Vasilii Buslaev kicks aside a skull lying in his path, but the skull speaks, censuring him, and prophesying that his own skull will also lie in the same place. Turgenev had already used this analogy in a letter to K.S. Aksakov as a parable of the Slavophiles dismissive attitude to the West. [2, L., 108; 471]. See also: [9, 557].
20 The story (1882) recounts how a left-handed, cross-eyed blacksmith from Tula confounded the English by fitting minuscule legs to a tiny steel flea, which they had presented to the emperor Alexander I.
21 Similar ideas about the lack of Russian inventiveness had been voiced by Lavretsky in A Nest of Gentlefolk [7, 231]. The shaft bow is a typical Russian feature in the harnessing of horses.
22 There is a pun here on the non-standard form of dikii (dikoi) meaning wild (but also strange, absurd).
23 Cf. Gogols episodic figure - the second lieutenant from Tambov, tangentially mentioned at the end of chapter 6 of Dead Souls, and appearing briefly at the end of chapter 7.
24 See: Act 3, sc.22 of Woe from Wit.
25 By the editors of PSS [9,554].
26 The reluctance of the peasants to sign statutory documents reflects their unhappiness about the terms of the Act of Emancipation of 1861. After the fires which broke out in St Petersburg in May 1862, the government closed down the Sunday Schools in June. These were schools organised by private initiative, on the analogy of a similar phenomenon in England, but devoted to the teaching of literacy rather than religion. Reading rooms also established to this end were also closed down and the radical journals The Contemporary (Sovremennik) and The Russian Word (Russkoe slovo) were suspended. Such measures created sympathy for the radical cause, but when the Poles revolted in the following year, more nationalistic feelings came to the fore.
27 See note in PSS., [9. 550]
28 Cf. Woe from Wit, Act 4, sc.4, ll.146-8; also [9, 547].
29 A series of articles which Ogarev published in The Bell (Kolokol) in 1866 tracing the history of socialist ideas in the West up to St Simon and Fourier (Personal Letters on a General Question) (Chastnye pisma o obshchem voprose). See: [9, 555].
30 A comic term, implying not an expert on Dante, but rather a dentist in the sense of someone who knocks out teeth.
31 Cf. Dead Souls, Part 1, chapter 5. Chichikov calls Sobakevich: A bear! A complete bear! (Gogol, PSS, vol.6, p.95).
32 Rus is the strongly emotive word for (old) Russia. N.M. Iazykov was in the camp of the Slavophiles as his poem: K nenashim (To Those Who Are Not Of Our Camp): Oh you, who wish/ to transform, and ruin us/ and Germanize Rus, pay heed clearly shows, as do his poems addressed to Konstantin Aksakov (1844) and to S.P. Shevyrev (1845). See: N.M. Iazykov, Sochineniia. Leningrad, 1982, pp.200-04.
33 Arzamas is a town traditionally seen as the epitome of backward rural Russia. Cf. the earlier ironic reference to the society lady speaking Arzamas French [9, 202].
34 Cf. the Russian students in Heidelberg, with whom Kukshina associates at the end of Fathers and Children [8, 400-01].