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Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) Kindle Edition

57 customer reviews

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Length: 257 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews Review

The era in which faith and reason conflicted in a profound manner seems far away, and perhaps even a bit incomprehensible, to citizens of the modern world. Most of us take for granted our right to choose the life of the mind over that of the spirit without feeling remorse. At the very least, we've learned that the two need not be mutually exclusive. But this is hard-won ease, born of a conflict that began with the Victorians. Edmund Gosse's Father and Son (1907) traces his own reckoning--as well as that of his father, the eminent British zoologist Philip Gosse--with the clash. His story is, as he declares, "The diagnosis of a dying Puritanism."

The only Puritanism that dies here, however, is the author's. His parents were Christian fundamentalists and as a result, young Edmund was denied interaction with other children as well as all variety of fictional tales. "Here was perfect purity," Gosse writes, "perfect intrepidity, perfect abnegation; yet there was also narrowness, isolation, and absence of perspective, let it boldly be admitted, an absence of humanity." Despite all of this, the child maintained his sense of humor, which adds much levity to a tale of such potentially grim proportions.

When Edmund was 8, his mother died of cancer, leaving him the care of a man in whom "sympathetic imagination ... was singularly absent." Philip Gosse held on to his faith in God above all else--so much so, in fact, that when evolutionary theory was announced to the world, he dismissed it entirely because it discounted the book of Genesis. Little by little, Edmund began to chafe against the traditions he had inherited. By the age of 11, he already saw himself "imprisoned for ever in the religious system which had caught me and would whurl my helpless spirit." At this point he believed his fate was sealed and went through the motions of piety. It is not until he goes off to boarding school, and discovers the Greeks and Romantic poetry, that he slowly chooses his own path. Eventually he comes to realize that he and his father "walked in opposite hemispheres of the soul." Their split encapsulates a particular moment in history but also embodies their destiny: "one was born to fly backward, the other could not help being carried forward." --Melanie Rehak


Autobiography by Edmund Gosse, published anonymously in 1907. Considered a minor masterpiece, Father and Son is a sensitive study of the clash between religious fundamentalism and intellectual curiosity. The book recounts Gosse's austere childhood, particularly his relationship to his father, the eminent zoologist Philip Henry Gosse. In the conflict between his rigid fundamentalism and mounting scientific knowledge, the elder Gosse rejected science for his faith. The younger Gosse, with his vast thirst for knowledge of the broader world, was finally unable to accept his father's beliefs. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

Product Details

  • File Size: 1375 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, UK (April 18, 1991)
  • Publication Date: April 18, 1991
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005RBUKK2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,445 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Staton on August 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
As Turgenev preceded Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, I always assumed that he belonged to a stuffier time; picking up "Fathers and Sons" in the bookstore, the first few pages seemed to confirm this assumption. Unlike Dostoevsky's prose, which I've always found compulsively readable, Turgenev's style seemed dense and somewhat stilted. Thankfully, the writing gets much more fluid and engaging as the story progresses.
Turgenev is in fact a wonderful stylist: economical, precise, lyrical when it befits his characters, yet never wordy. Whereas Dostoevsky's characters sometimes seem to be acting in a vacuum, and Tolstoy occassionally digresses into paeans on the wonders of nature, Turgenev straddles the happy medium. There are many brief but vivid descriptions of atmosphere, times of day--a horses hooves flashing at dusk, Arcady and Eugene reclining on recently mown hay--yet they are alway in service to the story and not overly symbolic.
Turgenev's approach to his characters is similarly nimble and balanced; sometimes he adopts a more distant tone, sometimes he's in a particular character's head, sometimes he gives a brief description of a character's backgound, at others a character will relate another's history from his point of view.
In fact everything in the novel testifies to Turgenev's faith in humanity, without ever seeming didactic or boring. All of the characters are sympathetic, and I could imagine actually traveling with them or engaging in conversation with them. Nobody beats Dostoevsky when it comes to penetrating psychological insight and dark humor, but his characters are always on some level types, intended to personify philosophical extremes. Tolstoy always seems to be hiding a profound but nonetheless conservative morality up his sleeve.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on April 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
There are multiple Fathers and Sons translations, and Richard Freeborn's is particularly controversial. It is certainly readable and does a remarkable job of conveying Turgenev's poetic prose. However, Freeborn tries to convey the character Bazarov's slangy speech by using Southern American dialect - a risky tactic that many will appreciate but some will loathe. Anyone looking for a worthy translation who is not bothered by this would do well to pick up Freeborn's version, but others are warned.

Now to the book itself. Though not Russian fiction's father in Nikolai Gogol's sense of adapting the language and producing its first notable fictional works, Ivan Turgenev is the direct antecedent of the psychological characterization and philosophical dramatization that is most closely associated with it and thus arguably its true father. Fathers and Sons, his most famous work and masterpiece, was the first Russian novel to attract Western praise, particularly winning over Henry James, who hailed it as a masterwork and championed Turgenev over the Russian writers who soon overshadowed him. One can debate Turgenev's merits relative to giants like Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy, but he certainly provides an interesting contrast, and Fathers and Sons has long had an indisputable place alongside their great works in the world canon.

The book is of course most famous for Evgeny Vasilevich Bazarov, its protagonist, who is both painstakingly realistic and thoroughly symbolic. He typifies the young, European-influenced, middle-class liberal that Turgenev rightly thought was a rising Russian power. A self-proclaimed nihilist, he rejects religion, conventional morality, and nearly every other traditional Russian virtue.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By SB on December 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Fathers and Sons" comes very close to perfection. At times, Turgenev's use of the language borders on poetry. The characters are intriguing and sympathetic. The novel deals beautifully with man's inability to live without holding something sacred, and its tragic "hero" goes to the grave realizing that he has been trying to fill that void with "straw" instead of something more meaningful--like faith, or family, or true love.

Some critics have said that Turgenev supported the "nihilists," the young men who scoffed at all things sacred. They say Bazarov is the hero of the novel, intended to be idolized. But I consider it impossible to read "Fathers and Sons" and not be moved by a deep need to hold something--anything--sacred.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Damian Kelleher on December 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
With Fathers and Sons, Turganev shocked the Russian literati with his portrayal of Bazarov, the self-described 'nihilist'. Rejecting everything and recognising no single authority, Bazarov was a kick in the teeth of the aristocracy's grand old men, a rebellion of the son against the father.

Evgeny Bazarov is a young man, with ideas that he believes are the only rational, reasonable way to live and behave. He is contemptuous of love, of sentimentality, of tradition and of the aristocracy. Yet he is intelligent and capable, and believes the way he does not through a sense of hostility and outrage, but because it seems right to him. His younger friend, Arkady, considers Bazarov his 'mentor', and though the two disagree with the depth of nihilism that is necessary for accurate living, they are for the most part in agreement.

Bazarov's nihilism is argued amongst the characters at several different stages of the novel. Turganev chose not to make the hero an unassailable target - both the negatives and the positives of such an outlook are admirably explained, discussed and dissected. The characters are intelligent in their own field or experiences, and all are willing to add to the argument. Obviously, the title should reveal to all that it is the father's of the two main characters, Arkady and Bazarov, who have problems with the younger generations ideas, though the 'fathers' of the story do try to understand Bazarov's thinking, rather than merely stamping him down with their experience and wisdom.

The characters are very well realised. Pavel Petrovich is the typical Russian aristocrat, unable to fully understand the scope of change that the emancipation of the serfs will bring.
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