An unsung gem of nineteenth-century Russian literature, City Folk and Country Folk
is a seemingly gentle yet devastating satire of Russian elites in the 1860s. Translated here into English for the first time, the novel weaves a rollicking tale of social change, villainous machinations, and female empowerment in the wake of the official emancipation of the Russian Empire's serfs.
Upending the literary cliches of female passivity and rural-gentry benightedness, Sofia Khvoshchinskaya centers her story on a tough and savvy heiress who refuses to succumb to the pressure to marry. City Folk and Country Folk
unfolds at the country estate of Nastasya Ivanovna, where she lives with her seventeen-year-old unmarried daughter, Olenka. As three Muscovite "city folk" descend on the pair and attempt to take advantage of them, Olenka staves off their efforts to push her into marriage, displaying a courage that is thoroughly uncharacteristic of the heroines of Turgenev's fiction and other Russian works by men. Sofia Khvoshchinskaya and her writer sisters closely mirror Britain's Brontes, yet Khvoshchinskaya's work contains more of Jane Austen's wit and social repartee, as well as an intellectual engagement reminiscent of Elizabeth Gaskell's condition-of-England novels. Written by a woman under a male pseudonym, this brilliant and entertaining exploration of gender dynamics on a post-emancipation Russian estate offers a fresh and necessary point of comparison with the better-known classics of nineteenth-century world literature.