Places: A Month in the Country

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Mesyats v derevne, 1855 (English translation, 1924)

First produced: 1872

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: 1840’s

Places DiscussedIslaev estate

Islaev Month in the Country, Aestate (ees-LA-ev). Country estate of a rich landowner, Arkady Islaev, located in an unspecified part of Russia. Ivan Turgenev uses a tranquil country setting because he is familiar with it, despite his frequent world travels, and also because he wants to contrast it with the emotional turmoil within practically all the characters. Although the play is subtitled a comedy, it depicts serious conflicts of several love relationships, mostly unrequited, that belie the quiet and beautiful settings of nature. Drawing rooms, a card table, the ballroom, the gardens, a shady pavilion–all point to a leisurely life in the country.

It is ironic that, when love’s passions reach a boiling point, “like a sudden storm on a fine day,” several characters leave for Moscow, as if fleeing from rustic country life. This seems to confirm the critic Georg Brandes’s seeing nature in Turgenev’s works as la grande indifférente. After several characters leave the estate, the quiet life returns. Those that remain, especially Islaev’s wife Natalia Petrovna, who had caused most of the turmoil with her infatuation with the young student Belaev, her jealousy and her desire to break the monotony of her life, are forced to find a rapport with nature again. With its lyrical mood and scarcity of action, A Month in the Country is a forerunner of Anton Chekhov’s plays.

BibliographyFitzlyon, April. A Month in the Country: An Exhibition Presented by the Theatre Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983. A useful illustrated presentation of Turgenev’s work for theater, with a bibliography of translations of his plays into English and of their productions in Great Britain. Various aspects of A Month in the Country are treated in an uncluttered way.Freeborn, Richard. “Turgenev the Dramatist.” In Critical Essays on Ivan Turgenev, edited by David A. Lowe. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989. An excellent survey of Turgenev’s dramatic works. Freeborn considers Turgenev’s work for the theater a part of his apprenticeship for future works. In A Month in the Country, he added a dimension of forceful psychological insight, reinforced by a sharp edge of social criticism.Magarshack, David. Turgenev: A Life. London: Faber and Faber, 1954. An illustrated biography by Turgenev’s translator, concentrating on the events shaping his life, his relationships with Russian and foreign writers, and the circumstances surrounding his works, including A Month in the Country.Seeley, Frank Friedeberg. “Poetry, Plays, Criticism.” In Turgenev: A Reading of His Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. In this survey of Turgenev’s poetry and plays, Seeley finds A Month in the Country to be a combination of two subtle psychological portraits, that of a woman in crisis and of a Hamlet-type hero. The play marks the full development of the Russian psychological drama a generation before Chekhov.
Categories: Places