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The Russian realist writer Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev was born on November 9, 1818. In honor of his 199th birthday, read about his life and ten of his most famous quotes in Russian and English!
Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev (Ива́н Серге́евич Турге́нев)
The Russian realist writer, poet, playwright, and translator Ivan Turgenev was born on November 9, 1818 to a wealthy family in the central Russian town of Oryol. As a child, he was educated by European governesses and learned English, French and German. His family later moved to Moscow so he and his two brothers could have a better education.
After one year at the University of Moscow, Turgenev studied classics, Russian literature and philology at the University of Saint Petersburg between 1834-37. He later studied philosophy and history at the University of Berlin and returned to Saint Petersburg.
Turgenev never married, but had a life-long affair with the French opera singer Pauline Viardot, as well as several affairs with his serfs. He spent much of his adult life in Europe, and was accused by some of his Slavophile contemporaries of having sold out to the West.
His writings dealt with many similar themes to those of his contemporaries Tolstoy and Dostaevsky, but unlike them, his works were not motivated by religion. Turgenev was opposed to serfdom and many of his works, particularly his collection of short stories, A Sportsman’s Sketches (Записки охотника, 1852), portray the serfs as nobler than their masters and added to the anti-serfdom sentiment of the times. His most famous work was the novel Fathers and Sons (Отцы и дети, 1862).
He died of cancer in 1883 in Paris and was buried in Saint Petersburg.
Commemorate Turgenev’s birthday and practice your Russian by reading ten of his most famous quotes.
1. Берегите чистоту языка, как святыню! Никогда не употребляйте иностранных слов. Русский язык так богат и гибок, что нам нечего брать у тех, кто беднее нас.
Take care of the purity of the tongue, as a shrine! Never use foreign words. The Russian language is so rich and flexible that we have nothing to take from those who are poorer than us.
2. Если ждать минуты, когда все, решительно все будет готово, — никогда не придется начинать.
If you wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything, is ready, you will never begin.
3. Счастье — как здоровье: когда его не замечаешь, значит, оно есть.
Happiness is like health: when you don’t notice it, it means you have it.
4. Хочешь быть счастливым ? Выучись сперва страдать.
Do you want to be happy? First learn to suffer.
5. Любовь, думал я, сильнее смерти и страха смерти. Только ею, только любовью держится и движется жизнь.
Love, I thought, is stronger than death and the fear of death. Only it, only love, keeps and moves life.
6. Чрезмерная гордость – вывеска ничтожной души.
Excessive pride is the sign of an insignificant soul.
7. Слово «завтра» придумано для людей нерешительных и для детей.
The word “tomorrow” was invented for people who are indecisive and for children.
8. О молодость! Молодость!.. Может быть, вся тайна твоей прелести состоит не в возможности всё сделать, а в возможности думать, что всё сделаешь.
Youth! Youth! .. Maybe the whole secret of your charm is not in the ability to do everything, but the ability to think that you will do everything.
9. Спорь с человеком умнее тебя: он тебя победит, но из самого твоего поражения ты можешь извлечь пользу для себя. Спорь с человеком ума равного: за кем бы ни оставалась победа, ты по крайней мере испытаешь удовольствие от борьбы. Спорь с человеком ума слабейшего: спорь не из желания победы, но ты можешь быть ему полезным. Спорь даже с глупцом! Ни славы ни выгоды ты не добудешь… Но отчего иногда не позабавиться!
Argue with a man smarter than you: he will defeat you, but from your very defeat you can profit for yourself. Argue with a man of equal mind: for whomever victory remains, at least you will enjoy the fight. Argue with the weakest person: argue not from the desire to win, but so that you can be useful to him. Argue even with a fool! No fame or benefit you will get … But why not have some fun sometimes!
10. Старая шутка смерть, а каждому внове.
Death’s an old joke, but each individual encounters it anew.
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