- First Love (novella)
:seealso|First Love (1970 film) for the 1970 filminfobox Book |
name = First Love
title_orig = Первая любовь (Pervaya ljubov)
language = Russian
release_date = December,
First Love ( _ru. Первая любовь, "Pervaya ljubov") is a
novellaby Ivan Turgenev, first published in 1860. It is one of his best loved and most celebrated pieces of short fiction.
Vladimir Petrovich Voldemar, a 16-year-old, is staying in the country with his family and meets Zinaida Alexandrovna Zasyekina, a beautiful 21-year-old woman, staying with her mother, Princess Zasyekina, in a wing of the manor. This family, as with many of the Russian minor nobility with royal ties of that time, were only afforded a degree of respectability because of their titles; the Zasyekins, in the case of this story, are a very poor family. The young Vladimir falls irretrievably in love with Zinaida, who has a set of several other (socially more eligible) suitors whom he joins in their difficult and often fruitless search for the young lady's favour. Zinaida, as we find throughout the story, is a thoroughly capricious and somewhat playful mistress to a set of rather love-struck suitors. She fails to reciprocate Vladimir's love in a sensible and honest manner, often misleading him, mocking his comparative youth in contrast to her early adulthood. But eventually the true object of her affections and a rather tragic conclusion to the story are revealed.
Conclusion and outcome
Vladimir discovers that the true object of Zinaida's affection is his own father, Pyotr Vasilyevich Voldemar-. In the tragic and devastatingly succinct closing two chapters, Vladimir secretly observes a final meeting between Pyotr and Zinaida at the window of her house in which his father strikes her arm with a riding crop. Zinaida kisses the welt on her arm and Pyotr bounds into the house. Eight months later, Vladimir's father receives a distressing letter from Moscow and tearfully begs his wife for a favor. Pyotr dies of a stroke several days later, after which his wife sends a considerable sum of money to Moscow. Three or four years later, Vladimir learns of Zinaida's marriage to a Monsieur Dolsky and subsequent death during childbirth.
Vladimir Petrovich Voldemar
The storyteller, at the time of narration a 16-year old boy; the protagonist of the story.
Zinaida Alexandrovna Zasyekin
The object of Vladimir's affections. Capricious, mocking and difficult, she is inconsistent in her affections towards her suitors, of which Vladimir is the one to whom she shows (outwardly) the most affection. However, it is the affection of sister to brother rather than between lovers.
Pyotr Vasilyevich Voldemar
Vladimir's father, a stoic symbol of 19th century masculinity; very 'British' in outlook and apparently unreceptive to emotion.
The book has one introductory chapter followed by 22 chapters over a length of between 60 and 70 pages depending upon translation.
Vladimir is recounting the story to friends around the dinner table, many years after his encounter with Zinaida.
Other relevant works of Turgenev
The three stories, "
Torrents of Spring", "Asya", and "First Love" work well when read in combination; they are often found published together and deal with similar topics and take place in similar contexts.
The importance of "First Love"
The story "First Love" is a true Russian 'classic' (for want of a better phrase). It remains an important book for young Russians. The ending itself is of some interest - clearly designed as a surprise of sorts but, crucially, it encourages the reader to reassess what he thought of the characters and causes the reader to muse a little over the content. The text is regularly used in the teaching of Russian at schools and colleges.
*Turgenev, Ivan. "Turgenev's Novels", v. 11 ("The Torrents of Spring." "First Love." "Mumu."). Trans. Constance Garnett. London: Heinemann, 1897. Out of print.
*Turgenev, Ivan. "First Love". Trans. Isaiah Berlin. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1950. Out of print. Now available in Penguin Classics, 1978. ISBN 0-14-044335-5.:Penguin edition includes an introduction by V.S. Pritchett.
*Turgenev, Ivan. "First Love and Other Stories", Oxford World's Classics. Trans. Richard Freeborn. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-283689-7.:The translation is based on the text from I.S. Turgenev, "Polnoye sobraniye sochineniy i pisem". Moskva-Leningrad, Vol. IX, 1965, pp. 7-76. This edition also contains "The Diary of a Superfluous Man", "Mumu", "Asya", "King Lear of the Steppes", and "The Song of Triumpant Love".
*gutenberg|no=9911|name=Torrents of Spring Trans. Constance Garnett. Includes "First Love" along with two other Turgenev stories, "
Torrents of Spring" and "Mumu".
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