On one level the novel is about the homecoming of Lavretsky, who, broken and disillusioned by a failed marriage, returns to his estate and finds love again - only to lose it. The sense of loss and of unfulfilled promise, beautifully captured by Turgenev, reflects his underlying theme that humanity is not destined to experience happiness except as something ephemeral and inevitably doomed. On another level Turgenev is presenting the homecoming of a whole generation of young Russians who have fallen under the spell of European ideas that have uprooted them from Russia, their 'home', but have proved ultimately superfluous. In tragic bewilderment, they attempt to find reconciliation with their land.
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born in 1818 in the Province of Orel, Russia. His series of six novels reflect a period of Russian life from 1830s to the 1870s: they are Rudin (1855), A House of Gentlefolk (1858), On the Eve (1859; a Penguin Classic), Fathers and Sons (1861), Smoke (1867) and Virgin Soil (1876). He also wrote plays, which include the comedy A Month in the Country; short stories and Sketches from a Hunter's Album (a Penguin Classic); and literary essays and memoirs. He died in Paris in 1883 after being ill for a year, and was buried in Russia. Richard Freeborn was an Oxford don for ten years. He was a Professor at UCLA and at Manchester, and then Professor of Russian Literature at the School of Slavonic & East European Studies in the Federal University of London from 1964 until his retirement in 1988. Author of books on Turgenev, the rise of the Russian novel and the Russian revolutionary novel as well as a history of Russia, translations of works by Turgenev and Dostoevsky, and four novels.