Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Turgenev regarded his fiction as being of two distinct types, differing in length and purpose. The longer major novels—Rudin (1856; English translation, 1873), Dvoryanskoye gnezdo (1859; A House of Gentlefolk, 1869), Nakanune (1860; On the Eve, 1871), Ottsy i deti (1862; Fathers and Sons, 1867), Smoke, and Nov (1877; Virgin Soil, 1877)—are set in carefully defined social contexts. Because they focus on specific social issues, Turgenev’s novels chronicle the social history of Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century. Turgenev’s novellas, however, are more personal, focusing on the universal themes of love and maturation. Of these novellas, Pervaya lyubov (1860; First Love, 1884) and The Torrents of Spring are the most enduring.

The Torrents of Spring was not received well by contemporary critics, and Turgenev himself seemed to want to disown the novella after its publication. He expressed regret that he had not rewritten the second half of the novella and made Sanin resist Maria’s seduction. Many commentators suggested that the novella’s apolitical story proved that the expatriate author was losing touch with his homeland. Nevertheless, The Torrents of Spring was very popular, particularly with women readers, and The Herald of Europe, the magazine in which the novella was originally published, took the unprecedented step of issuing a second printing.