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    "superfluous man " (Russian : Lishny Chelovek) : a character type whose frequent recurrence in
    19th-century Russian literature is sufficiently striking to make him a national archetype. He is
    usually an aristocrat, intelligent, well-educated, and informed by idealism and goodwill but
    incapable, for reasons as complex as Hamlet's, of engaging in effective action.
        -Encyclopaedia Britannica

In his great autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Albert Jay Nock meant that he was superfluous because his ideas, particularly his belief in freedom, had become so outmoded at the time he was writing--the 1940s.  But the original superfluous men were Russian nobles, who led utterly meaningless lives of leisure, while peasants worked their land, servants took care of them, and autocratic government mostly ignored them.  They were felt to be superfluous because they had so little to do and made so little contribution to Russian culture.  For the most part though, they were treated, in literature anyway, as kind of tragic heroes, as Russian Hamlets.

Thus, in Ivan Turgenev's novella, The Diary of a Superfluous Man, the young protagonist, Tchulkaturin, humiliates himself in a romantic entanglement and a resulting duel, all the while conveying the sense that there's nothing else really left for him to do with himself.  Turgenev's portrayal of this hopeless character combines tragicomedy with social criticism, but it is certainly more sympathetic than not.

As always, Turgenev is the most accessible of Russian authors; the Constance Garnett translation is very readable; and it is blessedly short.  Even if you're, understandably, intimidated by Russian novelists, you'll enjoy it.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Ivan Turgenev (2 books reviewed)
Russian Literature
Ivan Turgenev Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Ivan Turgenev
    -PODCAST: Tessa Hadley on Ivan Turgenev’s First Love: In Conversation for the Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast (Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast , February 28, 2024, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Why Turgenev Remains One of the Most Important Russian Writers (And Why You Should Read the Constance Garnett Translation) : Josh Billings on the Pocket Universes of a True Literary Master (Josh Billings, December 19, 2022, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Liberals, Radicals, and the Making of a Literary Masterpiece: Ivan Turgenev achieved greatness with a novel detested by almost everyone he cared about. (Keith Gessen, 9/05/22, The New Yorker)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Ivan Turgenev (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : Turgenev, Ivan Sergeyevich
    -ETEXT : Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (bartleby)
    -ETEXTS : Ivan Turgenev (
    -ETEXT : Ivan Turgenev   "Singers" from  Sketches from  a Hunter's Album  translated by Richard Freeborn
    -ETEXT : Gustave Flaubert writes letter to Ivan Turgenev  November 13, 1872
    -PROFILE : Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (1818-1883) (Melissa McDaniel)
    -Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev (1818-1883) (
    -Bob Bamont's Ivan Turgenev Page
    -Ivan Turgenev 1818 - 1883 (Penguin Classics)
    -Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev 1818 - 1883 (Marc Robinson)
    -ART : Vasily Perov. Portrait of the Author Ivan Turgenev. 1872.  (Olga's Gallery)
    -ART : A Portrait of Ivan Turgenev : facsimile of a wood engraving of Ivan Turgenev by Fritz Eichenberg
    -LINKS : Top: Arts: Literature: World Literature: Russian: Authors: Turgenev, Ivan (Open Directory)
    -ESSAY : Bazarov's Byronic Roots : Tracing Byron's Influence on the Creation and Development of the Nihilist Bazarov in Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons (Daniel Hocutt)
    -ESSAY: IDENTITY: A Study of Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons  (Frederick Corney,  Assistant Professor Department of History U of FL)
    -Shchi: A tale by Ivan Turgenev that heartbreakingly and ironically sets forth the epic economic divide between master and serf in 19th century Russia (Soup Tales)
    -Encyclopædia Britannica : superfluous man
    -ESSAY : Different Brands of Superfluity (Matt Jungers on November 05, 1999)
    -REVIEW: (Bryan's Reviews Page)
    -REVIEW: of FLAUBERT & TURGENEV. A Friendship in Letters: The Complete Correspondence. Edited and translated by Barbara Beaumont (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of FIRST LOVE AND A FIRE AT SEA By Ivan Turgenev. Translated by Isaiah Berlin (John Bayley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Two Lives: Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria by William Trevor (John Banville, NY Review of Books)
     -REVIEW: of Turgenev's Letters selected, translated, and edited by A.V. Knowles (Isaiah Berlin, NY Review of Books)
     -REVIEW: of Turgenev: His Life and Times by Leonard Schapiro (Henry Gifford, NY Review of Books)
     -REVIEW: of The Gentle Barbarian: The Life and Work of Turgenev by V.S. Pritchett (Conor Cruise O'Brien, NY Review of Books)

    -superfluous man (
    -Bucknell Russian Studies Department
    -LINKS : Russian Books On-Line In English
    -ESSAY : Russian Literature (John Mooers)

    -ESSAY : The Superfluous Lenski (Rossen Djagalov on October 01, 1999)