For forty years, until the day he died, Ivan Turgenev, one of the greatest novelists of Russia’s Golden Age, was passionately devoted to the diva Pauline Viardot. He followed her and her husband around Europe, even living with them amicably at times as part of their household. Yet as far as we know, the relationship with Pauline was chaste. What then did Turgenev mean by ‘love’, the word at the core of his life and work?
In a remarkable work of memoir, literary biography and travel writing, Robert Dessaix has found the pulse that still quickened Turgenev’s age, but has failed in ours.