First published in 1870, Turgenev’s story of a young Tsarist officer endowed with an unerring sense of “destiny” remains troubling today. It is precisely this belief in the transcendant, with all its attending dangers to body and spirit, that goes into making the “Russian soul”, on which Turgenev was something of an expert. But he was anything but a fantasist himself, and his works are endowed with a solid sense of both the real and the absurd. As he wrote in his novel Fathers and Sons,
What I’m thinking is: here I am, lying under a haystack … The tiny little place I occupy is so small in relation to the rest of space where I am not and where it’s none of my business; and the amount of time which I’ll succeed in living is so insignificant by comparison with the eternity where I haven’t been and never will be … And yet in this atom, in this mathematical point, the blood circulates, the brain works and even desires something as well .. What sheer ugliness! What sheer nonsense!
Knock, Knock, Knock, by Ivan S. Turgenev [1:00:31]