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The Torrents of Spring

By: Ivan Turgenev

Torrents of Spring, also known as Spring Torrents, is a 1872 novella by Ivan Turgenev. It is highly autobiographical in nature, and centers on a young Russian landowner, Dimitry Sanin, who falls deliriously in love for the first time while visiting the German city of Frankfurt. Written during 1870 and 1871, when Turgenev was in his fifties, the novel is widely held as one of his greatest.

The story opens with a middle-aged Dmitry Sanin rummaging through the papers in his study when he comes across a small cross set with garnets, which sends his thoughts back thirty years to 1840. 


In the summer of 1840, a twenty-two-year-old Sanin, arrives in Frankfurt en route home to Russia from Italy at the culmination of a European tour. During his one-day layover he visits a confectioner's shop where he is rushed upon by a beautiful young woman who emerges frantic from the back room. She is Gemma Roselli, the daughter of the shop's proprietress, Leonora Roselli. Gemma implores Sanin to help her younger brother who has passed out and seems to have stopped breathing. Thanks to Sanin's aid, the boy – whose name is Emilio – emerges from his faint. Grateful for his assistance, Gemma invites Sanin to return to the shop later in the evening to enjoy a cup of chocolate with the family. 


Later that evening, Sanin formally meets the members of the Roselli household. These include the matriarch, Leonora (or Lenore) Roselli, her daughter Gemma, her son Emilio (or Emile), and the family friend Pantaleone, a rather irascible old man and retired opera singer. Over conversation that evening Sanin grows increasingly enamoured with the young Gemma, while the Roselli family is also well-taken by the young, handsome, educated, and gracious Russian. Sanin so enjoys his evening that he forgets about his plans to take the diligence on to Berlin that night and so misses it. At the end of the evening Leonora Roselli invites Sanin to return the next day. Sanin is also disappointed to learn that Gemma is in fact engaged to a young German named Karl Klüber. 


The following day Sanin is visited in his room by Gemma's fiancé, Karl Klüber, and the still recovering Emilio. Klüber thanks Sanin for his help in assisting Gemma and resuscitating Emilio and invites Sanin on an excursion he has arranged the following day to Soden. That evening Sanin enjoys another enjoyable time with the Rosellis and becomes yet more taken by the charm and beauty of Gemma. 


The next morning Sanin joins Klüber, Gemma, and Emilio for the trip to Soden. During lunch at an inn the party shares the restaurant with a group of drinking soldiers. A drunken officer among their number approaches Gemma and rather brazenly declares her beauty. Gemma is infuriated by this behaviour, and Klüber, also angry, orders the small party to leave the dining room. The enraged Sanin on the other hand, feels compelled to confront the soldiers, and going over declares the offending officer an insolent cur and his behaviour unbecoming an officer. Sanin also leaves his calling card, anticipating he might be challenged to a duel for his public words. 


The following morning a friend of the offending German officer arrives early at Sanin's door demanding either an apology or satisfaction on behalf of his friend. Sanin scoffs at any notion of apologizing and so a duel is arranged for the following day near Hanau. For his second Sanin invites the old man Pantaleone, who accepts and is impressed by the nobility and honour of the young Russian, seeing in him a fellow “galant'uomo.” Sanin keeps the planned duel a secret between himself and Pantaleone, though the latter reveals it to Emilio. Departing the Roselli home that night, Sanin has a brief encounter with Gemma, who calls him over to a darkened window when she spots him leaving along the street. As they whisper to one another there is a sudden gust of wind that sends Sanin's hat flying and pushes the two together. Sanin later feels this was the moment he began to fall in love with Gemma. 


The next morning on the way to Hanau, Pantaleone's earlier bravado has largely faded. Sanin does his best to embolden him. At the subsequent duel Sanin gets off the first shot but misses, while his opponent, the Baron von Dönhof, shoots deliberately into the air. The officer, feeling his honor has been satisfied, then apologizes for his drunken behavior, an apology Sanin readily accepts. Sanin feels somewhat disgusted afterward that the whole duel was a farce. Pantaleone, however, is overjoyed with the outcome. Returning to Frankfurt with Pantaleone and Emilio (who had secretly followed him to the duel site), Sanin discovers that Emilio has in turn told Gemma about the duel. Sanin is a little put off by the indiscretion of this pair of chatterboxes, but cannot be angry. Back in Frankfurt, Sanin soon learns from a distraught Frau Lenore that Gemma has cancelled her engagement to Klaus for no apparent reason than that he did not defend her honor sufficiently at the inn. Frau Lenore is frantic at the idea of the scandal this will cause and Sanin promises to talk to Gemma and convince her to reconsider. In Sanin's subsequent talk with Gemma, she professes her love for him but tells him that for his sake she will reconsider her estrangement from Klaus. 

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Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a Russian novelist, short story writer, poet, playwright, translator and popularizer of Russian literature in the West.   His first major publication, a short story...

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