The Weirdos of Russian Literature

Viv Groskop in Literary Hub:

Ivan Turgenev, everybody’s favorite wacky uncle

The author of Fathers and Sons and A Month in the Country was easily the most colorful and hedonistic figure in Russian literary history. He had a longtime mistress who was an opera singer he followed around Europe. He was grumpy, volatile, and camp. He threw an inkwell at his mistress when she annoyed him and told the actress Sarah Bernhardt that she reminded him of a toad. One time, when he forgot to turn up to a tea party he wrote in his letter of apology that he couldn’t come because his thumbs were too small.

He had a love-hate friendship with Tolstoy. When they were on good terms he was well-known amongst Tolstoy’s children for being the fun uncle. He would entertain them by dancing jigs for them and by impersonating a chicken whilst he was eating soup. (I say this but I am also in the throes of a violent argument with the Russian translator of my book about whether Turgenev was impersonating the chicken whilst he was eating the soup or whether he liked to do impressions of soup-eating chickens. Either way, Turgenev could be fun.)

More here.