Step nimbly into this short Russian novella by Ivan Turgenev.
The author admitted it was strongly autobiographical. His
family used to spend summers in the countryside near Moscow.
One year there was a new neighbor—a young girl, Zinaida, and
her mother who was a princess. The father had been wealthy,
but lost all his money and the family was penniless.
The young narrator, Vladimir, is sixteen and Zinaida is twenty-one.
He is smitten. She has other young suitors and plays one off another,
and teases and flirts as she plays parlor games with them.
Vladimir is a sensitive young man and we are treated to his innermost
thoughts and emotions as he tortures himself with falling in love and
wondering if Zinaida’s interest in him is returned.
Vladimir appears to be her favorite, but one day he senses a change
in Z. Something has happened. He begins to suspect that she has a
real lover and he feels young and foolish.
He plans an elaborate spying plan one night, and does find out
who the mysterious lover is. He is devastated. We are shocked. The
world, in 1860 when the book was published, was uneasy in admiration.
Vladimir’s feelings grow from innocent passion to a more adult under-
standing of love and romance. It is quite a trip in 107 pages.
Put some meat in your winter reading this year and select a Russian
novelist: Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Gorky, Pushkin, Tolstoy, or
——————Turgenev. They certainly can weave an interesting
yarn. This book might be a good introduction.