Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev is a coryphaeus of Russian prose, author of long and short stories, novels, plays that entered the Golden fund not only of Russian but also of the world literature.
Turgenev himself dated the beginning of his literature career with publication in 1843 of his long poem «Parasha» that was highly praised by V.G.Belinsky. The name of the critic, whom Turgenev listed among the «central characters», had been for long years the dominant influence in the writer’s career, of his formative Petersburg’s period of life.
Turgenev was born in Orel and spent his early years in the village Spasskoe-Lutovinovo in a rich manor-house, surrounded by numerous servants, tutors and home teachers. The future writer received thorough home education and in 1827 was sent to a private boarding school in Moscow. At the age of fifteen Turgenev entered Moscow University, but soon moved to Petersburg University where among his professors there were P.A.Pletnev, N.V.Gogol, A.V.Nikitenko and others. After graduation in 1836 Turgenev, as many people of his age, to complete his education in 1838 went abroad, to Berlin, where he attended lectures of famous professors. There he became close with N.V.Stankevich, M.A.Bakunin and other public figures of Russian culture.
On return from abroad he was going to devote himself to the professorial career, but bending to insistence of his mother Varvara Petrovna Turgeneva, a masterful and despotic woman who was cautious about her son’s literature inclinations, in 1843 he entered the Special Office of L.A.Petrovsky where he had served in the position of a clerk for special errands till spring 1845.
Throughout his life the writer considered himself to belong to generation of «the forties» – a «remarkable decade» as it was labeled by the writer’s close friend P.V.Annenkov.
In the early 1840s Turgenev composed short and long poems, dramatic pieces, reviews and critical essays. Only in 1847 when the renovated magazine «Contemporary» published his story «Khor and Kalinych» it became obvious that a new original writer was born in Russian literature. In quick succession Turgenev wrote several stories that were soon collected into the famous «A Sportsman’s Sketches». The major part of the stories of «The Sketches» was written not in Russia, but in France, in Courtavenel, the estate of the famous opera singer Polina Viardo-Garcia. Friendly relations with her and her family were maintained throughout Turgenev’s life.
Now leaving abroad for long periods, now returning to Russia he continued his literature career with growing success.
After the publication in 1852 of «Memoirs of a Sportsman» there followed long stories «The Inn», «The Two Friends», story «Mumu» and at last in 1856 «Contemporary» published Turgenev’s first novel – «Rudin».
The second half of the 1850s – early 1860s was the most intensive period of Turgenev’s creative activity (in close succession there followed three novels – «A Nest of Gentlefolk», «On the Eve», «Fathers and Sons») and the most complicated period of the author’s private life. Returning to the family circle of the Viardot family he decided to settle in Baden-Baden where his friends had moved from France in 1863. There he wrote a number of long stories, a novel «Smoke», libretti to operas on Pauline Viardot’s music, a cycle of «Literary and Social Memoirs». As before Turgenev devoted a lot of time to translations into French (of Lermontov’s, Pushkin’s works), contributed introductions to different books, edited his own and other people’s works. However, the Franco-Prussian War that broke in 1870 forced him to leave Germany and after a relatively short stay in England he again returned to France.
In 1874 Turgenev finally settled in Bougival, near Paris, where he wrote his last works – «Klara Milich», «Poems in Prose» and others. Now in the house where the Russian writer died there is a wonderful museum created by A. and T.Zvigilsky that organizes scientific conferences, exhibitions and concerts.
The archive of the writer that had been left abroad (according to Turgenev’s testament P.Viardot became his only heir-at-law) was subsequently divided – among the heirs to the singer – and is only partially available to researches. However, with the help of French colleagues and, first of all, academician Andre Mason, Pushkinsky Dom managed to receive in 1950s a large part of Turgenev’s Paris manuscripts in microfilms that made it possible to publish in 1960s the writer’s first Complete Works and Letters edited by academician M.P.Alekseev. Later the publication of a substantial number of letters newly found abroad was the reason to start working on a new academic edition.
The Manuscript Department of Pushkinsky Dom possesses a large amount of Turgenev-related materials due to the fact that they are found within archives of different other people – P.V.Annenkov, the writer’s closest friend; M.M.Stasyulevich, the editor of «Messenger of Europe» magazine; A.N.Pypin, Y.P.Polonsky, A.I. and I.N.Turgenev brothers, A.F.Onegin, S.A.Vengerov, P.Y.Dashkov and many others. Most part of the manuscript materials is constituted by the writer’s epistolary legacy. In 1990s the few autographs of Turgenev’s works were supplemented with the draft manuscript of the novel «Fathers and Sons» that was acquired by the USSR government at Christie auction.
The Literature Museum preserves sculptural portraits of Turgenev made by A.N.Belyaev (a copy), M.M.Antokolsky, Z.A.Polonskaya and others; numerous photos of the writer including some with inscriptions; views of Spasskoe-Lutovinovo made from nature by Y. P.Polonsky; some personal things.