Turgenev's first major prose work is a series of twenty-five Sketches: the observations and anecdotes of the author during his travels through Russia satisfying his passion for hunting. His album is filled with moving insights into the lives of those he encounters - peasants and landowners, doctors and bailiffs, neglected wives and bereft mothers - each providing a glimpse of love, tragedy, courage and loss, and anticipating Turgenev's great later works such as First Love and Fathers and Sons. His depiction of the cruelty and arrogance of the ruling classes was considered subversive and led to his arrest and confinement to his estate, but these sketches opened the minds of contemporary readers to the plight of the peasantry and were even said to have led Tsar Alexander II to abolish serfdom.
Turgenev (1818-83) studied philosophy at Petersburg University, Russia. When he was nineteen he began to publish poems before moving to study in Berlin. In 1843 he fell in love with a young Spanish singer, whose influence remained throughout his life. He followed her round Europe, and was accepted by her and her husband as a friend. He had one daughter with a sempstress. After 1856 he lived mainly abroad and was well-known in Paris, where he was a friend of Flaubert. He wrotes six novels, all after 1855. Isaiah Berlin was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford and the first President of Wolfson College, Oxford. He received many honours and awards throughout his lifetime. On his death in 1997, he was described by The Times as 'one of the most influential figures in the intellectual life of the country.' V.S. Pritchett was Visiting Professor at several American universities and President of the Society of Authors. He wrote critical works, novels and short stories throughout his lifetime. When he died in 1991 he was described by The Guardian as 'one of the towering English literary figures of the century.' Richard Freeborn is Emeritus Professor of Russian Literature at the University of London. he has published widely on Russian literature, including Turgenev, A Study and The Rise of the Russian Novel.