The first Russian authors mentioned in this list can be found here.
Mikhail Lermontov – 1814 – 1841
Mikhail Lermontov, the poet of the Caucasus, was considered by many to be the heir of Pushkin and the founder of the tradition of the Russian psychological novel. Strongly influenced by Lord Byron, Lermontov’s creation is recognizable for its pessimism, melancholy, and characters who rebel against the norms.
Fascinated by the wild nature and driven by pure patriotism, the Russian author recreated the folkloric poem uniquely and became the voice of the Russian people. In Death of the Poet, a poem written after Pushkin’s death, Lermontov uses simple language and manages to express the thoughts and feelings of the whole nation, which amplifies his popularity among readers and differentiates him from other Russian authors of the time.
The characters Lermontov creates are also representative of the author’s style, as he chooses to present exceptional, misunderstood heroes, who feel captive in a world where they don’t belong. In the poem Mtsyri we have literal imprisonment, as the monk’s only desire is to escape the space of the monastery and reach the places where he used to play when he was a child. The humans’ thirst for freedom in spite of possible danger is emphasized, as well as the desire of returning to origins and to the natural space.
In the poem Demon and the novel A Hero of Our Time, the protagonists are not only unable to find their peace and happiness among the others but also become a source of misery and destruction. As the Byronic heroes, they are condemned to solitude and remain eternal outcasts. The recurrent themes of loneliness, suffering, defeat, the longing for freedom and the nostalgic tone of the writings make Lermontov a representative figure for the authentic Russian spleen.
Ivan Turgenev – 1818 – 1883
Turgenev is one of the most representative realist Russian authors. Many of his works present the life of the Russian peasants with authenticity and do not refrain from portraying the more controversial aspects. His evocations of nature are truly remarkable, with many renowned authors, such as Tolstoy, considering them unsurpassable. When presenting the difficulties faced by the Russian peasants, Turgenev focuses on the lack of culture and the inaccessibility to knowledge. Other themes of interest consist of the women’s position in the patriarchal society and the peasants’ reaction in the face of death, which is best emphasized in the short story How Russians Meet Death.
In one of his most famous creations, the novel Fathers and Sons, Turgenev presents the discrepancy between the beliefs of two different generations of Russians in the 1860s. The opposing views of the liberals of the 1830s/1840s, who wanted gradual change for the Russian society, and the nihilists, who militated for an instant revolution, is presented by the conflict between fathers and sons. Bazarov, the protagonist of the novel, is the incarnation of both the positive and the negative aspects of the nihilistic mentality and represents the prototype of the young nihilists of the time.
Other works of Turgenev that are worth mentioning include the essay Hamlet and Don Quixote, where he presents the opposition between pensive individuals and those who are centered on action, and the novella First Love, in which he exploits the theme of imitation by creating a controversial love story.
Afanasy Fet – 1820 – 1892
Another well-known Russian author, Afanasy Fet, is one of the most famous Russian poets and a source of inspiration for many of his renowned predecessors, such as Aleksandr Blok, being best known for lyrics that express vivid and intense sensations. He attributes significant importance to the role nature plays in the lives of humans, as it becomes a passage to their soul and a means of finding peace and inner harmony.
Nature can either function as a mirror for the poet’s feelings and ideas or become an invitation to meditation and introspection. In some of his poems, Fet offers a static image of nature, where the poet struggles to reconnect with the inner self, while other poems are filled with dynamism, inducing a feeling of incertitude. Some recurrent themes in his poems are the beauty of nature, love, the imminence of death, or the passage of time. These themes are expressed through lyrics that have a high degree of musicality, leading to Fet being named by many a poet-musician.