Meet the Golovliovs, the ultimate dysfunctional family. In the difficult transition years before and after the liberation of Russia’s serfs, the Golovliovs are a gentry family ill-equipped to face the adaptations necessary in the new social order. Petty, back-biting, greedy, rigid, ignorant, and cruel, their personalities are captured in the array of nicknames they themselves give each other: The Hag, Little Judas, Simple Simon, Pavel the Sneak, the Orphans, the Blood-Sucker. They hate each other ferociously and utterly despise the peasants around them, who are gradually awakening to the potentialities of their new freedoms. In this most famous of Saltykov-Shchedrin’s novels, there is a keen sympathy toward the plight of women caught in the complexities of social change: Anninka and Lubinka, the aristocratic orphans who, seeking independence, recklessly cast themselves into the bohemian life; the matriarch Arina Petrovna, whose desperately vigorous administration of the estate leads to an exhilarating but only temporary stability; the peasant girl Yevpraksia, who is resistlessly taken by the loathsome Porfiry Vladimirych as his mistress. Far from a piece of social propaganda, A Family of Noblemen shows a subtle portraiture of the complex characters and convoluted circumstances of the time. (Expatriate)
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