January/February 2011

‘The Torrents of Spring’ brought to life in the Bookshop Café Gisborne

Written by Ludwig Wendzich

Iwas in Gisborne (on the east coast) for a few days last week and I went into a bookshop looking for a book I’d recently read called, The Torrents of Spring by Ivan Turgenev. I thought I’d buy it as a Christmas present for a friend. However, I was told the book was not in stock.

It was just on lunchtime and I discovered there was a cafe above the bookshop so I went up. I ordered a coffee and sandwich and sat down at a nearby table. For some reason the atmosphere in the café brought the memory of the book I’d been reading (Torrents of Spring) back to me.... The story starts off with the hero, Dimitry Sanin, a 22 year old entering a confectionary shop in a quite street in Frankfurt to buy a glass of lemonade and then falling in love with the beautiful young Italian girl, Gemma who serves him. Passionate and impetuous, he sells his estates in order to start a new life with Gemma, but his youthful vulnerability makes him prey to a darker, destructive passion. The story is not complicated by any social or political problems but it does show a profound understanding of the seemingly unavoidable calamities that can befall a man in his interactions with other people.

I’m not sure why the story came back to me so vividly, perhaps it was the heritage atmosphere in the café with it’s polished timber flooring and exposed brick walls or maybe the friendly service I received. Whatever it was, it made me remember the book I’d read, called the The Torrents of Spring.