Realism and Russia’s Fate
By Jack Hanson
The Russian experience has always made for literature both emotionally moving and intellectually stimulating to an extraordinarily high degree.
It is no wonder (and certainly no secret) that the masters of Russian literature, particularly from the 19th century, make up so much of the Western canon.
And it is precisely the predisposition to universality that obscures the potential oddity of Russian literature’s place in Western culture, given the question of whether Russia is part of the West at all.
For a clear lens through which to view this demand, the beguilingly refined works of playwright and novelist Ivan Turgenev provide critique and admiration of both Russian tradition and the values founded in Western Europe’s Age of Reason.
His delicate, incisive play, A Month in the Country, which does just this, has found new life in the hands of renowned translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who continue their thirty-odd-volume streak of reminding English readers of the greatness—and relevance—of the best Russian literature.