I finished reading Turgenev's Rudin (trans. David McDuff) some time around Christmas- confused and busy, I didn't know what to write. Even now I don't know how to approach this novel and how to feel about it.
The image of a superfluous man, an intelligent, sensitive man without a will, without determination, without a purpose, is more vivid and lively in Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time and Flaubert's Sentimental Education, but this comparison is probably unfair for Rudin. To dismiss it as a 1st novel, as something seems to be lacking, is perhaps also unfair for Turgenev. The fault is apparently mine, I don't get Rudin, and shouldn't write about it.
1 of the issues I have is with the character of Rudin, who is meant to be an intelligent, well-educated, eloquent man, whose chief flaw is inaction, idleness. He lives off other people's money, achieves nothing and doesn't make use of his abilities. His intelligence and knowledge are seen very clearly in his discussions with the empty-headed Pigasov, especially when Rudin 1st appears in the novel, but lots of times, for me, he doesn't sound intellectual, but empty, pretentious, banal, mostly when he talks to Natalya. Or is that how Turgenev wants readers to see Rudin? What bothers me more: it's implied that Rudin with his passive, inactive tendency is set against Natalya, who is stronger in will. She urges him to work, to be useful. However, their last conversation, after the mother knows about their relationship, produces a different effect- because I see Rudin as not only inactive and idle but also pretentious and unreliable (he's not even certain of his feelings for Natalya), she's mistaken to expect much from him, and her surprise at his decision to submit shows naivete and something like an immature rebellion rather than a strong will or anything admirable. Her mother indeed underestimates her and fails to understand her, but she's not entirely wrong about Rudin. What does Natalya expect him to do?
In any case, I should stop here. This post only proves what I already wrote at the beginning: I don't get Rudin.