Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Baden-Baden. Popular spa in Germany’s Black Forest area in which the novel is set. A Russian student and the son of a civil servant, Grigóry Litvinov, visits Baden-Baden, as was the wont of well-to-do Russians. Baden is a typical European spa of the mid-nineteenth century; it is pleasant, festive, with luscious green trees, pastel-colored houses, and orchestras playing in its gardens. This festiveness contrasts with Litvinov’s sadness, as he tries to drown his sorrows in foreign travel (a typical refuge of Turgenev’s failing characters) after an unsuccessful love affair with Irina, a daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family Osinin. However, just when Litvinov is ready to marry his new fiancé, Tatyana, Irina appears in Baden-Baden with her husband and professes still to love Litvinov.

Turgenev uses Baden-Baden because he himself was a frequent visitor to it and other European localities and therefore quite familiar with Western European spas, but also because the deep split among the Russian intellectuals made it natural to set the novel in a Western European location. He probably chose a German location because German philosophers and writers had a considerable influence on Russian thinkers and writers in the nineteenth century.


*Russia. Russia is often alluded to through the presence of Russian characters in Baden-Baden and by way of their arguments. Inevitably, Russia...

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