Books | Cheat's guide to Fathers and Sons – A modern lesson in Russian Nihilism

Christmas is coming, and with it the usual familial inquisition of ‘what do you actually do at University?’ Fend them off with some high brow literature. This week: Russian Nihilism with Ivan Turgenev.


Yevgeney Bazarov: Nihilist, believes he’s outgrown the old ways of society’s traditions and morality. Basically Edgy Boy Leeds.

Arkady Kirsanov: Worships Bazarov. Although embarrassed to admit it to Bazarov, he respects and loves his father and uncle. A romantic at heart.

Anna Segeyevna Odintsova: Fickle, independent and stunning, but spoilt by solitude and luxury.

Nikolai Petrovich Kirsanov: Arkady’s liberal father, who sets his serfs. There may be hope after all.

Pavel Petrovich Kirsanov: Proud, pseudo-aristocratic and a total silver fox, Petrovich is both as different and as similar to Bazarov as they come.


After graduating, best friends Bazarov and Arkady, fuelled by their modern philosophy (although as ‘nihilists’ they don’t believe in philosophy) travel to Arkady’s father’s estate. But soon Bazarov’s outspoken rejection of authority and social conventions cause quarrels, misunderstandings, and romantic entanglements that utterly transform the lives of the two friends and all those they meet, deftly reflecting the social upheaval of the time.


– No matter how much the upper classes try and befriend those beneath them, the two will never truly understand one another.

– Keeping up the appearance of a nonchalant and progressive student whilst your mother fusses over your tea and loss of weight is a strife we must all face.

– Love is (unfortunately) unavoidable in some form, whether familial or romantic and whether it causes you shame or joy.

Anastasia Kennedy

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