Author. He was the first Russian writer to achieve wide recognition outside his country. Born in Oryol to a wealthy landowning family, he was raised by his mother, who was strict and often abused him. After a teenage fling with a servant girl that produced an illegitimate daughter, Turgenev was sent to Germany to study at the University of Berlin. While there he became convinced of the need for Westernization in Russia, and his subsequent ideas and polished writing style show a marked Western European influence. Returning to St. Petersburg in 1842, he worked for the Ministry of Interior before deciding to devote himself to literature and travel. In 1844 he met opera singer Pauline Viardot and developed an infatuation with her that lasted the rest of his life; they became devoted friends but not, it seems, lovers. Turgenev would never marry. He enjoyed his first success with the plays "A Month in the Country" (1850) and "A Provincial Lady" (1851), but it was the short story cycle "A Sportsman's Sketches", published in book form in 1852, that made his name. It includes the famous tale "Bezhin Meadow". These sympathetic portraits of Russian peasant life were said to have influenced Czar Alexander II's decision to free the serfs in 1861, but their immediate impact was less happy for the author. The Imperial Censor judged the stories subversive and Turgenev was given 30 days in jail and placed under house arrest for 18 months. He then launched his great series of novels: "Rudin" (1856), "A Nest of Gentlefolk" (1859), "On the Eve" (1860), "Fathers and Sons" (1862), "Smoke" (1867), and "Virgin Soil" (1877). They dealt mainly with the Russian gentry and intelligentsia and their heroes were often frustrated liberals, the so-called "superfluous men" of the time. "Fathers and Sons", considered Turgenev's masterwork, explores the gulf between conservative elders (the "Fathers") resistant to change, and impatient, idealistic youth (the "Sons"). Turgenev invented the term "nihilist" to describe the novel's main character, Bazarov, a young, ineffectual would-be radical. The book was received with considerable hostility and Turgenev decided to leave Russia in 1863. After living in Germany and England he settled in Paris with Pauline Viardot and her obliging husband in 1871, though he continued to make frequent trips to his homeland. He died of cancer in Bougival, France, and his body was brought back to St. Petersburg with great ceremony. Once ranked with Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky as one of Russia's three greatest novelists, Turgenev's standing has slipped somewhat but he remains a major figure in 19th Century Russian Literature.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards