Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Islaev estate

Islaev estate (ees-LA-ev). Country estate of a rich landowner, Arkady Islaev, located in an unspecified part of Russia. Ivan Turgenev uses a tranquil country setting because he is familiar with it, despite his frequent world travels, and also because he wants to contrast it with the emotional turmoil within practically all the characters. Although the play is subtitled a comedy, it depicts serious conflicts of several love relationships, mostly unrequited, that belie the quiet and beautiful settings of nature. Drawing rooms, a card table, the ballroom, the gardens, a shady pavilion—all point to a leisurely life in the country.

It is ironic that, when love’s passions reach a boiling point, “like a sudden storm on a fine day,” several characters leave for Moscow, as if fleeing from rustic country life. This seems to confirm the critic Georg Brandes’s seeing nature in Turgenev’s works as la grande indifférente. After several characters leave the estate, the quiet life returns. Those that remain, especially Islaev’s wife Natalia Petrovna, who had caused most of the turmoil with her infatuation with the young student Belaev, her jealousy and her desire to break the monotony of her life, are forced to find a rapport with nature again. With its lyrical mood and scarcity of action, A Month in the Country is a forerunner of Anton Chekhov’s plays.