Turgenev: “A passion for art”



In the “The Russian Point of View” (1925), Virginia Woolf does not mention the writer to whom she refers elsewhere, in implicit comparison to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, as “the least great of the Russian trinity” (”English Prose,” E 3: 174). However, she read and admired the fiction of Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev during the decade between 1910 and 1920 when she first read the major Russian writers. Her sole review of his fiction, “A Glance at Turgenev,” appeared in 1921; she reviewed a new biography of the writer in 1927. Six years later, she gave Turgenev considerably more than a “glance”: she read or reread eleven volumes of his fiction in English as well as a biography, a memoir, and a volume of his collected letters in French. During the late summer and early fall ofthat year, she recorded passages from her reading along with her observations about the novels and their author in preparation for a projected essay focusing exclusively on Turgenev. Her reading notes on his fiction comprise her most extensive series of notes on any single writer; the resulting essay, “The Novels of Turgenev,” is Woolf’s only essay to focus on a Russian writer by himself. The essay was published in December 1933 in the Times Literary Supplement and the Yale Review. During the same year, Woolf began to compose a novel first titled The Pargiters. Ultimately published as The Years in 1937, the novel reflects the influence of Turgenev on Woolf’s ideas about the relationship between scene and feeling and between vision and form.


Diary Entry Virgin Soil Russian Literature Common Reader Reading Note 
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© Roberta Rubenstein 2009

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