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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(Great Characters in Literature)

Magarshack, David. Turgenev: A Life. London: Faber and Faber, 1954. An illustrated biography by Turgenev’s translator describing Turgenev’s life extensively and concentrating on the events shaping it, his relationships with Russian and foreign writers, and the factual circumstances surrounding his works, including Smoke.

Matlaw, R. E. “Turgenev’s Novels: Civic Responsibility and Literary Predilection.” Harvard Slavic Studies 4 (1957): 249-262. An interesting view of Turgenev’s novels, including Smoke. Matlaw concludes that Turgenev was a superlative writer of fiction but was not successful as a novelist, having difficulties integrating social background and the characters appearing against that background.

Seeley, Frank Friedeberg. Turgenev: A Reading of His Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Seeley analyzes Smoke both as a novel and as an episode in Turgenev’s fight with the critics and readers, seeing it as no less political than Fathers and Sons (1862). Through the novel’s main characters, Turgenev shows that personal and political life in Russia at that time were reduced to smoke.

Woodward, James B. Metaphysical Conflict: A Study of the Major Novels of Ivan Turgenev. Munich: Otto Sagner, 1990. A fine discussion of Smoke, especially of the ideas preoccupying Russians in the mid-nineteenth century as they are reflected in the relationships of the characters.

Yarmolinsky, Avrahm. Turgenev: The Man, His Art, and His Age. New York: Orion Press, 1959. Yarmolinsky sees Smoke primarily as a love story, but he does not neglect the nonliterary components and the impact the novel has had in Russian society, primarily among the intellectuals and social activists.