Le photographe belge Philippe Herbet est parti en Russie à la recherche des héroïnes romantiques de l’écrivain Ivan Tourgueniev. Mais le temps, les siècles même ont passé. Que sont donc devenues ces figures quasi mythiques de la littérature russe
Les Tournegievskaya Dievouchkas sont dans les romans de l’écrivain de Père et fils, des personnages intelligents et sauvages, habitant dans la Russie profonde chez leurs parents, prêtes à tout par amour et même à aller à l’encontre de leurs familles. Grâce aux portraits si justes de ces jeunes femmes, les filles de Tourgueniev sont devenues une expression à part entière, qui existe encore de nos jours.
Si celles de l’écrivain russe au XIXe siècle étaient clairement rebelles, libres et modernes, il n’en ait plus de même pour celles d’aujourd’hui. Les filles de Tourgueniev sont devenues nostalgiques, résolument ancrées vers le passé, voire carrément démodées. Elles se caractérisent par leur refus de s’adapter à la vie contemporaine. Ces portraits intimes et poétiques donnent une vision étonnante d’un type de jeunes femmes russes, surannées et mystérieuses.
Une splendide monographie vient tout juste de paraître aux Editions Bessard.
My maternal grandfather lives on the other side of the lake, she says. At 85, he still lives in his house, a typical isba of our Russia. In his house, after crossing the doorstep, I feel as if in another era: a carved shelf covered with the works of the great Russian authors, an antique chest of drawers, a Singer sewing machine, a huge wooden radio receiver with white keys similar to those of a piano and two big knobs on either side.
I remember being alone with him one afternoon, it was during a Easter holiday, there was a rainbow. He was listening to the radio, sitting in his armchair, not saying a word. At some point, he dozed off and I dared turn the big knob to the wavelengths of faraway cities, Berlin, Vilnius, Prague, Hilversum, Tashkent… Crackles, snatches of music, speech, words. I had had the feeling that they were ghosts, wandering souls that wanted to pass on some messages to me.
(5) Colourful zakuskis brighten up a flower napkin placed on the bare ground. Julia asks me to open the bottle of Саперави she brought with her and which she seems to look after carefully. She pours the wine in cups from the Soviet era. A thick liquid, an intense red. Julia tells me, somewhat solemnly, that the bottle dates back to fifteen years ago, her husband was then living his last days …
Wine revives memories and hearts, they say. We drink a toast to love. Julia drinks it bottom up, in the Russian style. As for me, the acidity of the wine, and above all its Itxassou cherry flavour takes me by surprise. So the Basque country comes to visit me on the quiet on the shore of this isolated Northern lake. I tell her so and we start laughing.
(6) During one month in Magadan, Ira squats a flat on the other side of the river. She invites me for tea and blinis with sugar or jam; and even for dinner with simple and delicious dishes. I feel a bit like her “man” … or her father.
I leave at 10 p.m. at the latest, mixing with stray dogs until I reach my hotel room. Magadan hotel. Everything is Magadan in Magadan.
(7) There is tropical heat in the apartment where we drink hot tea, waiting for the storm to blow away. The bright spell came rather fast, we leave for a walk in this small isolated town in the Russian Far east: Oussouriisk.
Irina and Irina, Irina’s best friend, had lived the turbulent – yet very well-behaved as far as they were concerned – years of adolescence together. These Turgenev girls, as they like to call themselves, are fond of little polka-dot dresses.