This second tale in the Folio Society’s selection of Ivan Turgenev’s stories of Love and Death tells of serfdom, of a clumsily arranged marriage, of rivalry; of unrequited love, of a submissive and fearful young lady; of love between a handicapped giant and a small spaniel; and of the ultimate sacrifice of a man obeying orders.

“He took a strong dislike to his new way of life at first. From childhood he had been used to working in the fields and to country life. Alienated by his misfortune from other people’s company, he grew up dumb and powerful like a tree growing in fertile soil … Transported to the city, he couldn’t understand what was happening to him, and he grew homesick and perplexed like a young and healthy bull that has just been taken from the pasture where the succulent grass grows as high as his stomach – has been and put in a railway wagon, his full round body being at the mercy of spark-filled smoke and waves of steam, and is being rushed along with a great clanking and whistling, rushed along – God knows where!”

The quotation above gives examples of the author’s descriptive style, packed with simile. The isolation of a man born deaf and the powerlessness of of a serf, however physically strong, to do other than obey his owner, is narrated with insightful empathy – understanding totally lacking in this woman who expects to be obeyed in the question of the arranged marriage bound to create conflict among those bound to her beck and call at any time of the day or night.

We have two more of Elisa Trimby’s lithographs faithfully capturing characters’ expressions.


  1. The lithographs are excellent, but the story, yet another required reading, had entrenched in my childish perception as a tragedy of Gerasim and the dog. Serfdom and the rest of the social injustice, as drummed into our heads by the teacher, registered not even as a bleep on the radar.

      1. You are very welcome, Derrick. You probably don’t want to know my opinion of ‘Anna Karenina’ formed at the age of eight by swiping it from my mother’s bookshelf and reading it under the table. I still cannot figure out what my mother loved about it.

        1. That is fascinating, Dolly. It is so long since I read it that I don’t remember much about it.

          1. To condense Tolstoy’s endless sentences, Anna falls in love with a dashing young officer, leaves her much older and quite highly positioned husband, as well as her little son, and moves in with her lover who quickly diches her which causes her to jump under a train. There: one sentence!

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