When the down-at-heel Princess Zasyekin moves next door to the country estate of Vladimir Petrovich's parents, he instantly and overwhelmingly falls in love with his new neighbour's daughter, Zinaida. But the capricious young woman already has many admirers and as she plays her suitors against each other, Vladimir's unrequited youthful passion soon turns to torment and despair - although he remains unaware of his true rival for Zinaida's affections. Set in the world of nineteenth-century Russia's fading aristocracy, Turgenev's story depicts a boy's growth of knowledge and mastery over his own heart as he awakens to the complex nature of adult love.
Turgenev (1818-83) studied philosophy at Petersburg University, Russia. When he was nineteen he began to publish poems before moving to study in Berlin. In 1843 he fell in love with a young Spanish singer, whose influence remained throughout his life. He followed her round Europe, and was accepted by her and her husband as a friend. He had one daughter with a sempstress. After 1856 he lived mainly abroad and was well-known in Paris, where he was a friend of Flaubert. He wrotes six novels, all after 1855. Isaiah Berlin was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford and the first President of Wolfson College, Oxford. He received many honours and awards throughout his lifetime. On his death in 1997, he was described by The Times as 'one of the most influential figures in the intellectual life of the country.' V.S. Pritchett was Visiting Professor at several American universities and President of the Society of Authors. He wrote critical works, novels and short stories throughout his lifetime. When he died in 1991 he was described by The Guardian as 'one of the towering English literary figures of the century.'