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Twilight of Love

Travels with Turgenev

List Price: $24.00

July 7, 2005 | Hardcover | 5.5 x 8.25, 208 Pages | ISBN 9781593760632
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"This is what Robert Dessaix does best: an amalgam of travel writing, anecdotes, reminiscences, cultural and literary commentary, with a dash or two of politics and history as well, all of it held together by a pleasingly discursive style. " —Sydney Morning Herald

Together with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Ivan Turgenev was one of the leading novelists of Russia’s Golden Age and the first Russian writer to capture a Western audience. In Russia works such as his A Hunter’s Notes and Fathers and Sons, were pivotal in transforming the Russian social landscape.

No less sensational than his novels was his personal life. For forty years, until the day he died, he was passionately devoted to the diva Pauline Viardot, following her and her husband around Europe and even living with them amicably at times as part of their household. What, then, did Turgenev mean by “love,” the word at the core of his life and work?

Robert Dessaix has had his own forty-year relationship with Turgenev, first as a student of Russian in both Australia and Russia, then as a teacher, and now as what he calls a close friend. In Twilight of Love, Dessaix has come to see Turgenev’s life and work as an expression of a turning point in the history of love —the moment the Romantic became rational, love unraveled into sentiment and erotic feelings, and eros became a mere commodity.

ROBERT DESSAIX is a widely known interviewer and commentator on Australian television and radio. He is the author of several books, including Turgenev: A Quest For Faith; A Mother’s Disgrace; and Night Letters.

Praise

“This is what Robert Dessaix does best: an amalgam of travel writing, anecdotes, reminiscences, cultural and literary commentary, with a dash or two of politics and history as well, all of it held together by a pleasingly discursive style. ” —Sydney Morning Herald

“Like Janet Malcolm in her recent book Reading Chekhov, Dessaix uses a spot of literary tourism as a jumping-off point for an accessible discussion of his subject’s life and work, one that takes liberties not available to a purely critical or biographical study.” —The Age

“The language is superb at capturing landscapes, atmospheres, human vagaries and Dessaix’s own finely tuned reactions to everything he encounters: for example the ‘new’ Russia, which he mostly hates. . . . Few books these days cause one to feel so provoked, fascinated, illuminated and mystified by what Dessaix calls ‘the superfluous things of Russian Literature’. They never were, really, as this beautifully produced, elegant book proves.” — Australian Book Review

“Dessaix, an Australian writer, scholar and radio presenter, may not be well known in America, but this enchanting memoir of his search for the soul of Russian writer Turgenev (1818–1883) could raise his profile… While the problem of irrational love in a world of reason is the dominant theme, Dessaix’s work explores much more: Russian theology, the experience of being far away and therefore barbarian in European eyes, the modern confusion of the erotic with the sexual, and of course, the problem of death.” —Publishers Weekly

“Dessaix explores the meaning of love as Turgenev experienced it, writing “his ideas about love were idiosyncratic, to say the least” and that “his life and work could be seen as an expression of a turning point in the history of love.” Dessaix presents much more than just a travel book; he offers new insights into Turgenev’s life.” —Booklist

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