Bougival Should Turgenev’s house be near Paris?
And I went to Bougival. It was there that last summer I met Alexander Zvigilsky, who heads the “Association of Friends of Ivan Turgenev, Pauline Viardot and Maria Malibran”. (In parentheses, Maria Felicia Malibran, sister of Pauline Viardot, was a legendary singer, a woman of unprecedented beauty and talent, who died tragically in her heyday: she fell off her horse and died to death.) Then in Bougival, the association held another literary and musical evening, which traditionally gathered a lot of guests. It took place on Ivan Turgenev Street at number 16 – the address is the estate “Les Frenes” (“Le Fren”), which means “Ash”, where the great Russian writer once lived, and now his museum is located. The program of the evening, which I got, was declared by the world famous conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Works of Turgenev, music by Tchaikovsky, Arensky, Brahms sounded. The maestro’s wife, pianist Victoria Postnikova, was at the piano, their son Sasha played the violin. Zvigilsky himself translated the famous Turgenev prose poems into French, and the most famous of them, “How good, how fresh the roses were …” ended a warm, warm evening. And then we sat for a long time with the museum curator, and he spoke with bitterness and anxiety about his difficult fate.
The museum was opened on October 3, 1983 – to the centenary of the death of the great Russian writer, who survived the most beautiful years of his love in Bougival. (In detail about this period of life Turgenev magazine told in the 47th issue for 2003.)
The estate itself has existed since the 18th century, but the loud biography of this place begins in fact from 1813. Then the wife of Napoleon, Josephine, with whom Russian emperor Alexander I, who arrived in defeated Paris, loved to communicate in 1814, bought this estate in order to attach it to her estate, Malmaison, located next door. In the middle of the XIX century, Bougival was the favorite refuge of impressionist artists. Polina Viardot and Turgenev bought Le Fren (“Ash”) – the house and eight hectares of the park – in 1874. Turgenev – for use, Viardot – in the property. Here, in a two-story chalet, hidden in the shadow of ash trees, Turgenev lived his last years and died here in 1883. Just below the slope you can see the villa of Pauline Viardot. Around the park stretches of ancient trees. I can’t even believe that just a hundred meters from here the highway passes and city life is noisy.
“Yaseni” was a real center of the spiritual life of France, a true center of Russian culture, in which two people supported the fire: Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev and his love and muse, the captivating singer Polina Viardot, the museum keeper tells me. – Viardot, as is known, is a 25-year-old writer, aristocrat and handsome, met in St. Petersburg, during his tour in the Russian capital of the French opera. In The Barber of Seville, the opera star sang the part of Rosina, and the young man fell unconsciously in love with her. And shortly before this, he met with her husband, director of the French opera, Louis Viardot. They were brought together by a passion for hunting, which they both enjoyed. Thus began the story of this extraordinary friendship and love. By the way, Turgenev more than once resorted to the help of Viardot, a man of highly educated, deep connoisseur of the arts, when he translated into Russian the books of Charles Perrault, Flaubert and other authors. The exposition of the museum reminds of this, which still keeps the spirit of the old “Ash trees”.
– This is the main, most “living” room at home – Turgenev’s office. In Bougivali, he was affectionately called Turgel, – said Alexander Zvigilsky, when we went upstairs to the second floor of the house. – Here everything is authentic. At this table, the writer worked. I found it with the historian Kovalevsky, and he received, probably, from his uncle, who was friends with the writer. Unfortunately, after the death of Turgenev, Pauline Viardot squandered, if I may say so, much of what is connected with the life and work of the writer, without leaving any notes or receipts to determine to whom and what was given or given to him in memory. The more expensive that managed to find and save.
“Turgenev remembers this fireplace,” continues my interlocutor. – Since the same time, Beethoven’s bust is kept – Ivan Sergeevich highly appreciated this composer, and Pushkin’s bust. Turgenev prized this bookcase – it was an exhibit at the 1867 World’s Fair. On the old shelves, as well as during the life of the writer, publications in Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, English, German. Goethe, Schiller, Byron, Shakespeare, “Don Quixote” by Cervantes in the translation of Louis Viardot — Turgenev read them all. Especially a lot of books in French – Ivan Sergeevich was very fond of French literature, although he was quite skeptical about Hugo and Balzac. Among the impressive volumes – “Dictionary of the French language.” Its compiler Emile Liter often came to Turgenev to learn the etymology of the French words of “Russian” origin. Turgenev, for example, explained to him that the word “troika” came to French from the works of Gogol and what it specifically means.