Sketches from a Hunter's Album

BOOK: Sketches from a Hunter's Album
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, Russian novelist, was born in Oryol in 1818, and was the first Russian writer to enjoy an international reputation. Born into the gentry himself, and dominated in his boyhood by a tyrannical mother, he swore a ‘Hannibal's oath' against serfdom. After studying in Moscow, St Petersburg and Berlin (1838–41), where he was influenced by German Idealism, he returned to Russia an ardent liberal and Westernist. He gained fame as an author with a series of brilliant, sensitive pictures of peasant life. Although he had also written poetry, plays and short stories, it was as a novelist that his greatest work was to be done. His novels are noted for the poetic ‘atmosphere' of their country settings, the contrast between hero and heroine, and for the objective portrayal of heroes representative of stages in the development of the Russian intelligentsia during the period 1840–70. Exiled to his estate of Spasskoye (1852–5) because of his
, he later wrote
Home of the Gentry
On the Eve
(1860) and
Fathers and Sons
(1862), but was so disillusioned by the obtuse criticism which greeted this last work that he spent the rest of his life abroad at Baden-Baden (1862–70) and in Paris (1871–83). His last novels,
(1867) and
Virgin Soil
(1877), lacked the balance and topicality of his earlier work. He died in Bougival, near Paris, in 1883.

, Emeritus Professor of Russian Literature at the University of London, was previously Professor of Russian Studies at Manchester University, a visiting Professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, and for ten years Hulme Lecturer in Russian at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he graduated. He has published widely on Russian literature including
Turgenev, A Study, The Rise of the Russian Novel
The Russian Revolutionary Novel
, and was awarded a D.Lit. in 1984 by the University of London for his scholarly contributions to his subject. More recently he has completed a study of the famous Russian critic, Vissarion Belinskii. His other translations of Turgenev include
Home of the Gentry
(Penguin Classics),
(Penguin Classics),
First Love and Other Stories, A Month in the Country
Fathers and Sons
. He has also translated Dostoevsky's
An Accidental Family





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, England
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London
, England

The following stories were first published, in this translation, in
1967, under the same title: ‘Khor and Kalinych', ‘Yermolay and the
Miller's Wife', ‘Bezhin Lea', ‘Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands',
‘Bailiff', ‘Two Landowners', ‘Death', ‘Singers', ‘Meeting', ‘Hamlet
of the Shchigrovsky District', ‘Living Relic', ‘Clatter of Wheels',
‘Forest and Steppe', ‘The Russian German' and ‘The Reformer and the
Russian German'.
Translation, Introduction and Notes copyright © Richard Freeborn, 1967

The following stories are first published in this translation,
1990: ‘Raspberry Water', ‘District Doctor', ‘My Neighbour Radilov', ‘Farmer
Ovsyanikov', ‘Lgov', ‘The Office', ‘Loner', ‘Lebedyan', ‘Tatyana
Borisovna and her Nephew', ‘Pyotr Petrovich Karataev', ‘Chertopkhanov
and Nedopyuskin' and ‘The End of Chertopkhanov'.
Translation, Introduction and Notes copyright © Richard Freeborn, 1990

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject
to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

EISBN: 9781101491423


were originally published in the Russian journal
The Contemporary
between 1847 and 1851. In 1852 they were published for the first time in a separate edition – a circumstance that led to Turgenev's arrest, followed by exile to his estate of Spasskoye. Much later, during the last decade of his life, he added further
to those already published, with the result that the total number of such
reached twenty-five.

This full translation has been given the title
Sketches from a Hunter's Album
, rather than the slightly more usual – and perhaps slightly less accurate – title
A Sportsman's Sketches
A Sportsman's Notebook
, etc., because Turgenev's work, although usually transliterated as
Zapiski okhotnika
and literally meaning
Notes of a Hunter
, is not so much about hunting as about the rural world of Russia that he knew so well. It is essentially an album of pictures drawn from Russian country life in the period prior to the Emancipation of the serfs in 1861. The manner and spirit of the original work are, to my mind, most appropriately conveyed by emphasizing the compact, pictorial quality which the word ‘Album' can suggest. This translation has aimed at completeness, both by including all the
omitted from the first edition published under this title (Penguin Classics, 1967) and by including in an Appendix the fragments which are now generally regarded as forming part of the work as a whole.

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born in Oryol, some two hundred or so miles south of Moscow, in 1818. He spent his boyhood on his mother's estate of Spasskoye. Here he naturally learned about the injustices of the serf system as well as experiencing its brutalities through the frequent beatings meted out to him by his mother. He survived such domestic tyranny, concealed though it may have been behind a façade of civilized values, but the experience taught him to
detest all tyrannies, especially the tyranny of serfdom and the political tyranny of Tsarist absolutism. Apart from some indifferent home teaching and schooling, he received a higher education at the universities of Moscow and St Petersburg and then went abroad, to Berlin University, at the end of the 1830s. The experience of western Europe turned him into a convinced advocate of European civilization. He returned to Russia in 1841 as a Westernizer or Westernist (
) and remained true to that conviction for the rest of his life. Westernists, it should be explained, were those members of the Russian intelligentsia who were committed to the belief that Russia should be westernized, following the initiative already taken in this respect by Peter the Great at the beginning of the eighteenth century. They were opposed by the Slavophiles, who wished to reject western influences and based their hopes for Russia on the Orthodox Church and the presumed spiritual and social superiority of things Russian.

Although Turgenev had been writing poems and articles since the middle of the 1830s, it was not until 1843 that he published his first successful work, a long narrative poem entitled
. He was praised for this work by the critic Vissarion Belinsky, and it was partly due to Belinsky's influence that Turgenev began to devote himself to realistic depiction of the inadequacies in Russian society. Thus he became not only a chronicler of his own generation and his own society, but also a critic of his own generation's Hamletism and of the fundamental injustice of serfdom on which Russian society was based. In some respects, Turgenev's assumption of such roles was accidental. Intending to be a poet, he had by the latter part of the 1840s begun to demonstrate that he had remarkable talents as a writer of prose; intending to write a series of ‘physiological' sketches of urban life on the lines of Gogol's
St Petersburg Stories
or Dostoevsky's
Poor Folk
, he found himself writing about the Russian countryside in which he had grown up; intending, in a moment of despair, to abandon literature for good, he left a short work entitled ‘Khor and Kalinych' in the editorial offices of the newly resuscitated journal
The Contemporary
, and the success of the work when it was first published early in 1847 (with an editorial subtitle describing it as ‘from the Notes of a Hunter') persuaded Turgenev to return to literature and marked the beginning of the
, which were to bring him lasting fame.

A representative of the new Russian intelligentsia, as much at home in Paris or Berlin as in Moscow or St Petersburg, of noble birth, liberal political inclinations and cosmopolitan culture, extraordinarily gifted and well-read, Turgenev possessed an urbane charm that made him excellent company in any society. Though he admired women, he never married. His emotional life was dominated by the attachment which he formed for the famous singer Pauline Viardot, whom he met during her first visit to St Petersburg in the 1843–4 opera season and with whom he was to remain on terms of close intimacy until his death in 1883. Whether or not he was her lover has led to a great deal of speculation, but it is characteristic of a certain contrariness in his nature that he should also have been on very amicable terms with Pauline's husband, Louis Viardot. For the provenance of the
this second relationship is more important, because Louis Viardot and Turgenev were not only in love with the same woman, but they were also in love with hunting, and it is very likely that a little collection of hunting memoirs entitled
Souvenirs de chasses
which Louis Viardot published in 1846 gave Turgenev the idea for his own work.

Other Russian writers had, of course, written about the peasantry – Radishchev, Pushkin, Gogol – and there were also such European writers as George Sand and Maria Edgeworth whom Turgenev could have taken as models. Strictly speaking, however, his
are not modelled on anything save his own experience. He wrote most of them while he was outside Russia between 1847 and 1851, either while travelling in Europe or during a period spent on the Viardot estate of Courtavenel in the French countryside. The fact that he was drawing on memory may account for the brilliant lustre, so evocative and even nostalgic, that surrounds the best of them. Equally, perhaps, it may be that some of the luxuriance of the countryside about Courtavenel shines through the richness of the nature descriptions. In any case, a degree of trial and error accompanied their composition. They grew out of the success of ‘Khor and Kalinych' and the fact that his mother failed to provide him with adequate means. While writing them he was also busy pursuing a career as a dramatist – a career that culminated in 1850 with the writing of his only important play, the five-act comedy
A Month in the Country
, after which he abandoned the theatre for good. These
, therefore, are not all of a piece. In some respects they are occasional pieces, experiments in a particular kind of portraiture, tracts for the times cast in the mould of literature, trial sketches for his future work as a novelist. The order that he finally chose for them (the order followed in this translation) does not observe a strict chronology and can be considered evidence for supposing that he never regarded them as truly completed. Despite this, they have a certain stylistic cohesion as well as common ground for their content and they acquired soon after their first appearance their reputation as masterpieces which occupy a very special place in Russian literature.

‘Khor and Kalinych' illustrates many of their most characteristic features. It introduces the author in the role that he is to assume throughout his work – the role, that is, of intelligent, interested but uncommitted observer. The observation has two discernible aspects to it: there is the lucid, clear-cut, pictorial aspect contributed by Turgenev the writer and artist; and there is what might be called the sociological aspect, which involves a Turgenev who cannot help being a member of the nobility, of the landowning class, and who to that extent is both a stranger in the world of the peasants and a frankly curious observer anxious to describe this world to his readers. For fear of censorship and no doubt for reasons of taste Turgenev does not attempt to lay undue emphasis on the fact of serfdom, but the propagandist element in his portraits of the two peasants, Khor (the polecat) and Kalinych, is clearly discernible. They can be said to represent differing types both of personality and, loosely speaking, of literary portraiture. Such differentiation serves not only to emphasize the individual human qualities in the two peasants but also anticipates Turgenev's later interest in the division of human beings into those who are by nature predominantly Hamlet-like and those who are predominantly Quixotic (in his lecture of 1860). Apart, though, from laying stress on the intelligence of both the peasants, on their individuality as well as their ‘typical' differences, this first
also illustrates what is, in general, Turgenev's common attitude – so far, at least, as these
are concerned – towards the nobility. On these grounds alone there is good reason for supposing that the tendentiousness in these
is rather more antiestablishment than overtly pro-peasantry.

‘Khor and Kalinych' also sheds light on such common features of
peasant life as the ‘eagles' who exploit the peasant women, the itinerant scythe traders and the strict hierarchy that governs the relationship between Khor and his family, despite the good-natured bantering between Khor and his son Fedya. Naturally Turgenev's interest in Khor's character and family life is matched by an equivalent curiosity on Khor's part; their mutual ignorance is sufficient comment in itself on the division which exists between master and peasant. Such comments as Turgenev's about the conviction, derived from his talk with Khor, ‘that Peter the Great was predominantly Russian in his national characteristics', or Khor's caginess when Turgenev taxes him on the subject of purchasing his freedom are further reminders of the divisive half-truths, even illusions, which make communication and understanding between the classes so difficult. In other words, Turgenev's conviction that the Russian peasantry can be used as an argument in favour of Westernism seems to be as much special pleading based on ignorance or first impressions as is Khor's apprehension that he would tend to lose his individuality when he became free. It is rare, in fact, for Turgenev to attempt to argue or, in a strict sense, converse with the peasants; he is content to prompt them into speaking about themselves, framing the encounter and recorded speech with passages of commentary or nature description. The fact that most of the
are offered as brief, summery episodes tends to set in relief the ephemeral, not to say fleeting, manner of Turgenev's encounter with the peasants and to make of them creations of a particular moment, with little identity beyond a nickname; their patronymics, like their parentage, have been obliterated in the anonymity of their servile condition. The framework of the peasant encounters, then, tends to objectivize and simultaneously to distance. It is a distancing, of course, which usually has the effect of making the encounter doubly significant, as though a lyric poem had been born of an anecdote, a work of art from a snapshot. But the difference, let it not be forgotten, is really due to ignorance.

The simple, almost anecdotal charm of the first
is followed by the more explicitly condemnatory tone of ‘Yermolay and the Miller's Wife' (
The Contemporary
, No. 5, 1847). Zverkov's attitude towards the peasantry, especially in regard to Arina, is the nub of this episode. The reader is not explicitly asked to contrast Turgenev's attitude to Yermolay with Zverkov's treatment of Arina, but this is
the most likely moral to be drawn: it lays bare at one stroke the inhumanity of the system. Arina seems to have been based on fact, for Turgenev's mother apparently treated one of her maidservants in a similar fashion. Yermolay, Turgenev's frequent hunting companion, is also drawn from life – a serf, Afanasy Alifanov, belonging to one of Turgenev's neighbours. Turgenev purchased his freedom and later gave material help to his family (though Yermolay is not endowed with a family in this
). Descendants of Alifanov were reported as still living at Spasskoye in 1955.

‘Raspberry Water' (
The Contemporary
, No. 2, 1848) is a fine example of the distancing manner which Turgenev as observer-narrator employs in describing his encounters with the peasantry. An episode, no more, it illustrates through the story of Stepushka, the reminiscences of Foggy and the fragmentary dialogue passages devoted to Vlas, the extremes of deprivation and extravagance co-existing in the serf system. In the end, of course, the tragedy of such injustice is what reverberates throughout the heat of the afternoon as well as in the laconic shorthand of the exchanges between Foggy and the luckless Vlas. The silence of the wretched Stepushka is the most terrible of mute reproaches to serfdom's inhumanity. But ‘District Doctor' (
The Contemporary
, No. 2, 1848), albeit so different in its extended internal narrative and sentimental manner, can be said to articulate just as strongly the inherent injustice of the social divide. As an essay in first-person narration, it introduces the reader, if only tentatively, into the milieu of the genteel, impoverished nobility which is to figure quite prominently in later
. Here the character of the district doctor with the improbably awful name is too thin and close to caricature for the story to have any of the tragicomic impact of the Shchigrovsky Hamlet's tale.

Radilov's dilemma, though similarly emotional, has in ‘My Neighbour Radilov' (
The Contemporary
, No. 5, 1847) a more complex ethical meaning. Inexplicit as an issue in the story but essential for its understanding is the fact that the Orthodox Church proscribed marriage between a husband and his sister-in-law, which in Radilov's case meant that he was not permitted to marry Olga. The complication of her supposed envy towards her sister and Radilov's secretive, if outwardly, bland character (totally devoid of the trivial passions that commonly beset Russian landowners, as Turgenev
amusingly enumerates them) suggests some of the hidden tensions and tragedies present in the life of the poorer nobility. They scarcely compare, however, with the more explicit problems raised by Farmer Ovsyanikov (
The Contemporary
, No. 5, 1847), a figure who by social standing and inclination has a role roughly similar to Turgenev's in his observation of the life around him. Pithy, strong-minded and wise, Ovsyanikov is an ideal channel for conveying critical attitudes towards serfdom without courting the danger of censorship. An eighteenth-century personality who admires the past while remaining clear-eyed about the beneficial and negative aspects of the present, he is, in terms of characterization, among the most fully drawn and vivid of the types depicted in the
, even though he does no more than sit and talk. ‘Lgov' (
The Contemporary
, No. 5, 1847) offers two equally vivid portraits, those of the pretentious hunter Vladimir with his injured chin and forefinger and Old Knot (Suchok), the peasant who had been given a range of fatuous employments and names at the whims of his various masters and mistresses. As a whole, this story is a brilliant account of a disastrous duck-shooting expedition that simultaneously exposes the disastrous effects of arbitrary power, whether of man over man or man over nature.

BOOK: Sketches from a Hunter's Album
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