OTC 5: "Spring Torrents" -- Russia
This is my fifth book for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2009.
Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev, published 1872; translated by Leonard Schapiro, 1972.
Dimitry Sanin is a 23 year old Russian who has been touring Italy for several months in 1840, preparatory to settling down and assuming the responsibilities of public service employment and management of the small estate he has inherited. Passing through Germany on his way home, he has a chance encounter with the Rosellis, an Italian family which had settled in Frankfurt and runs a small bakery and sweet shop; taken with the beauty of the 19 year old Gemma, he remains in Frankfurt and spends time with the family, even though he knows she is engaged to an up-and-coming young merchant. Complications arise which lead to Sanin's fighting a duel with a young German officer in defense of Gemma's honor, Gemma's breaking her engagement with the merchant, and Sanin and Gemma's becoming engaged. However, in order to finance his marriage, Sanin decides to sell his Russian estate, and another chance encounter with Polozov, an old school acquaintance, provides him with the opportunity to do so, as Polozov's wife is wealthy and owns the adjacent estate to Sanin's. Sanin has a series of meetings with Maria Nikolaevna Polozov to negotiate the sale, and those encounters lead to a devastating conclusion that shatters Sanin's life. The extent to which his life is altered is revealed in part by brief opening and closing passages which show us Sanin some 30 years later.
The novel explores the nature of obsession and its consequences and is partially autobiographical, because Turgenev himself as a young man developed a lifelong attachment to Pauline Garcia - Viardot, a Spanish singer, and remained in close association with her and her husband for much of the rest of his life. I recommend it.