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First Love

(Первая любовь)

Ivan Turgenev


(A young man is thrown into the sweet agony of unrequited love for his beautiful new neighbor.)

KonstantinMakovsky_RussianBeauty Russian Beauty, by Konstantin Makovsky (1839-1915).  This painting appears to be in a private collection.  See Makovsky’s paintings at Wikiart.


Woldemar, a young man of sixteen, experiences the whirlwind of love descending on him for the first time, as he becomes acquainted with the beautiful and elegant Zinaida, the daughter of a princess, who has moved in next door.  She enjoys a crop of suitors, and in her charming and carefree way pits them against each other.  They make fools of themselves competing for her attention and smiles; but Woldemar is different, so awed he is in her presence.  She is very kind towards him, and eventually gives him more attention than any other.  He is enraptured, able to think of nothing else, obsessed with thoughts and dreams of her.  He is overcome with the pain of his unrequited feelings, and is blissful when with her, sent into reverie with every careless touch or soft look.  In this experience he realizes the power of love, and the strong—even dangerous—grip it can have on a person.  Meanwhile, although he pays little attention to it, his home life is unsettled, with his parents often arguing.


  1. Dear Q Writer – I was just talking about *First Love* the other day to a colleague (who is teaching Russian lit. this semester). Perhaps one of the many items I read as a young man of 17 that had a tremendous affect on my psyche – I wonder what I would think of it now, 40 years later. gft

    • Yes, it certainly had some influence on me too, although later– in my 20s– and mostly because my psyche was already in tune with it somewhat. I felt like Turgenev had tapped into some emotional states that I hadn’t been able to articulate and barely even to recognize as such.

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