There is something bare and autumnal in the letters between the two singular stylists and masters of the novel, Gustave Flaubert and Ivan Sergeyevitch Turgenev. They are filled with tenderness and affection, they are comradely and literary, but Flaubert’s no longer have the thrust and ebullience of his celebrated correspondence and Turgenev’s show signs of attrition and fatigue, although they still speak for his seductive charm. The Russian was aware of this. “We have been writing very sad letters to each other for some time now,” he says, “there is illness and death in the air—it’s not our fault—but we must try and shake ourselves a bit.” They try. But life still has its changes and interruptions, gout, colds, and more serious symptoms—“the calling cards of death,” says Turgenev.

Two hundred and thirty letters have been gathered...

 

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