Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Hunter's Pantheism

Turgenev’s A Hunter’s Sketches is a classic of Russian (and world) literature, and has been on my “to read list” since my teens.  Hemingway constantly mentions it in his works, especially when he is young.  The narrator of A Movable Feast reads it.  I believe David Bourne reads it in The Garden of Eden.  That said, it is not very Hemingwayesque in any outward way.

There is none of the Hemingway minimalism, the iceberg approach to writing, and all that.  Turgenev writes a large,  nineteenth century novel that is not averse to going off on long tangents, to exploring every aspects of the subject matter.  And, most importantly, telling its reader’s what to think and feel.

What Hemingway saw in A Hunter’s Sketches is the absolute mastery of the writer using the form, the novel.  And the premise is so simple: a Russian nobleman wanders about the countryside, giving his impressions of the land and the people.  It is a great device, a conceit, and enables the narrator to show us a wide swatch of Russian society, often from a critical stance, with humor pathos, compassion.

There is also a deep and abiding sense of the divinity of nature.  This book is known for its splendid descriptions of the natural world.  Turgenev’s pantheism is deep, and he is able to couch it in glowing terms, giving the reader a place in his world of nature’s abundant beauty and charm.

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