Russian Life

Ivan TURGENEV   |   Ivan TOURGHENIEFF

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"NUMBERS AMONG THE GREATEST WORKS OF WORLD LITERATURE": LANDMARK FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF TURGENEV'S RUSSIAN LIFE IN THE INTERIOR (SPORTSMAN'S SKETCHES), 1855, THE FIRST PUBLICATION OF HIS FIRST COMPLETE WORK IN ENGLISH, IN ORIGINAL GILT-STAMPED CLOTH

(TURGENEV, Ivan) TOURGHENIEFF, Ivan. Russian Life in the Interior, or The Experiences of a Sportsman. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1855. Octavo, original brown cloth, gilt- and blind-stamped pictorial boards and spine, uncut and partially unopened.

First edition in English of Turgenev's first major work, Russian Life (aka Sportsman's Sketches), first issued in Russian in 1852, the pivotal translation of a groundbreaking masterpiece by the writer who "introduced Russian literature to Europe and America" and would spend most of his life in exile. Uncut and partially unopened in original cloth.

"Turgenev was the first of the great Russian novelists to become known in the West." To Edmund Wilson, he "perfected the modern genre of fiction" (New York Times). Virginia Woolf. as well, had deep praise for "his complex but delicately communicated understanding of human psychology… the art of a 'seer who tries to understand'" (Costlow, Virginia Woolf). It was Turgenev who "introduced Russian literature to Europe and America which, through him, discovered and admired the originality of Russian genius" (Turgenev in English: A Checklist). While he spent much of his life in exile, Turgenev was still living in Russia in 1852 when he was arrested for writing an obituary praising Gogol. "In fact, the official reason was a pretext. Turgenev had already displeased the tsarist authorities with his series of sketches of rural Russian life, published in the journal The Contemporary between 1847 and 1851" (Guardian).

To writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, this volume of 22 tales, first issued in book form in Russian in 1852 as Zapiski okhotnika, is a deceptively modest "collection of simple stories about a hunter's encounters as he wanders around the wood… A man strolls through the forest with a shotgun over his shoulder, he exchanges a few words with someone he happens to meet, possibly shoots a bird or two, possibly spends the night in a barn on the way home—-and that's it, that's the whole story. And yet the book numbers among the greatest works of world literature, largely because Turgenev gets so close to the world he is describing, the Russian society of the 1840s… this was by no means a political statement, yet it had great political impact in Russia in the 1850s, possibly precisely because, lacking a political or literary agenda, it showed life for what it was and not for what it symbolized… his book did much to stoke the fast-growing criticism of serfdom, which was abolished nine years later, in 1861." Considered by many to be his masterpiece, it "still holds its own as a work of singular freshness and charm; Turgenev's mother said its prose reminded her of the scent of wild strawberries" (New York Times). Turgenev, "who coined the term 'superfluous man'… wrote with passion about the marginal figures in his society." To English-speaking readers and writers, this "first translation, 'edited' by J.D. Meiklejohn, of Zapiski okhotnika (1852, A Sportsman's Sketches)… made a considerable impression. The title it was given, Russian Life in the Interior, or the Experiences of a Sportsman, betrays an emphasis… on the documentary or truth value of the writing, a simple sales strategy perhaps, but also a revelation of the sense that Russia was very far away" (France, 586). Published in Edinburgh, this is the first publication of a complete work in English by Turgenev. It is based on E. Charriere's French translation of 1854 (LEG 18). Precedes the 1885 first American and first London editions, and the 1896 Garnett translation. As issued without dust jacket. Four rear leaves of publisher's advertisements, with one advertisement printed on the rear pastedown as issued. Zekulin B5. Bookseller ticket.

Text block expertly reinforced, with front endpapers renewed. Interior generally fresh with two leaves roughly opened not affecting text, rear ad leaf with small loss, trace of edge-wear, faintest soiling to cloth. A very good copy, scarce uncut and partially unopened.

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