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Maxim Gorky

Gorky's autographed portrait
Born Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov
March 28 [O.S. March 16] 1868
Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Empire
Died June 18, 1936 (aged 68)
Moscow, USSR
Pen name Maxim Gorky
Occupation WriterDramatist
Political Activist
Nationality RussianSoviet
Writing period Modernism
Genres NovelDrama
Literary movement Socialist Realism

Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov (Russian: Алексе́й Макси́мович Пе́шков or Пешко́в[1]) (28 March [O.S. 16 March] 1868 – 18 June 1936), better known as Maxim Gorky (Макси́м Го́рький), was a Russian/Soviet author, a founder of the socialist realism literary method and a political activist.[2] From 1906 to 1913 and from 1921 to 1929 he lived abroad, mostly in Capri, Italy; after his return to the Soviet Union he accepted the cultural policies of the time, although he was not permitted to leave the country.

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Life

Gorky was born in Nizhny Novgorod and became an orphan at the age of ten. Two years later at the age of 12 in 1880 he ran away from home and was trying to find his grandmother. Gorky was brought up by his grandmother, an excellent storyteller.[2] Her death deeply affected him, and after an attempt at suicide in December 1887, he travelled on foot across the Russian Empire for five years, changing jobs and accumulating impressions used later in his writing.[2]

As a journalist working in provincial newspapers, he wrote under the pseudonym Иегудиил Хламида (Jehudiel Khlamida— suggestive of "cloak-and-dagger" by the similarity to the Greek chlamys, "cloak").[3] He began using the pseudonym Gorky (literally "bitter") in 1892, while working in Tiflis newspaper Кавказ (The Caucasus).[4] The name reflected his simmering anger about life in Russia and a determination to speak the bitter truth. Gorky's first book Очерки и рассказы (Essays and Stories) in 1898 enjoyed a sensational success and his career as a writer began. Gorky wrote incessantly, viewing literature less as an aesthetic practice (though he worked hard on style and form) than as a moral and political act that could change the world. He described the lives of people in the lowest strata and on the margins of society, revealing their hardships, humiliations, and brutalization, but also their inward spark of humanity.[2]

Gorky’s reputation as a unique literary voice from the bottom strata of society and as a fervent advocate of Russia's social, political, and cultural transformation (by 1899, he was openly associating with the emerging Marxist social-democratic movement) helped make him a celebrity among both the intelligentsia and the growing numbers of "conscious" workers. At the heart of all his work was a belief in the inherent worth and potential of the human person (личность, lichnost'). He counterposed vital individuals, aware of their natural dignity, and inspired by energy and will, to people who succumb to the degrading conditions of life around them. Still, both his writings and his letters reveal a "restless man" (a frequent self-description) struggling to resolve contradictory feelings of faith and skepticism, love of life and disgust at the vulgarity and pettiness of the human world.

1900, Yalta. Anton Chekhov and Gorky.

He publicly opposed the Tsarist regime and was arrested many times. Gorky befriended many revolutionaries and became Lenin's personal friend after they met in 1902. He exposed governmental control of the press (see Matvei Golovinski affair). In 1902, Gorky was elected an honorary Academician of Literature, but Nicholas II ordered this annulled. In protest, Anton Chekhov and Vladimir Korolenko left the Academy.

The years 1900 to 1905 saw a growing optimism in Gorky’s writings. He became more involved in the opposition movement, for which he was again briefly imprisoned in 1901. In 1904, having severed his relationship with the Moscow Art Theatre in the wake of conflict with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Gorky returned to Nizhny Novgorod to establish a theatre of his own.[5] Both Constantin Stanislavski and Savva Morozov provided financial support for the venture.[6] Stanislavski saw in Gorky's theatre an opportunity to develop the network of provincial theatres that he hoped would reform the art of the stage in Russia, of which he had dreamed since the 1890s.[6] He sent some pupils from the Art Theatre School—as well as Ioasaf Tikhomirov, who ran the school—to work there.[6] By the autumn, however, after the censor had banned every play that the theatre proposed to stage, Gorky abandoned the project.[6] Now a financially-successful author, editor, and playwright, Gorky gave financial support to the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), though he also supported liberal appeals to the government for civil rights and social reform. The brutal shooting of workers marching to the Tsar with a petition for reform on January 9, 1905 (known as the "Bloody Sunday"), which set in motion the Revolution of 1905, seems to have pushed Gorky more decisively toward radical solutions. He now became closely associated with Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik wing of the party—though it is not clear whether he ever formally joined and his relations with Lenin and the Bolsheviks would always be rocky. His most influential writings in these years were a series of political plays, most famously The Lower Depths (1902). In 1906, the Bolsheviks sent him on a fund-raising trip to the United States, where in the Adirondack Mountains Gorky wrote his famous novel of revolutionary conversion and struggle, Мать (Mat’, The Mother). His experiences there—which included a scandal over his traveling with his lover rather than his wife—deepened his contempt for the "bourgeois soul" but also his admiration for the boldness of the American spirit. While briefly imprisoned in Peter and Paul Fortress during the abortive 1905 Russian Revolution, Gorky wrote the play Children of the Sun, nominally set during an 1862 cholera epidemic, but universally understood to relate to present-day events.

Portrait of Gorky by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helsinki, winter 1905-1906.

From 1906 to 1913, Gorky lived on the island of Capri, partly for health reasons and partly to escape the increasingly repressive atmosphere in Russia.[2] He continued to support the work of Russian social-democracy, especially the Bolsheviks, and to write fiction and cultural essays. Most controversially, he articulated, along with a few other maverick Bolsheviks, a philosophy he called "God-Building",[2] which sought to recapture the power of myth for the revolution and to create a religious atheism that placed collective humanity where God had been and was imbued with passion, wonderment, moral certainty, and the promise of deliverance from evil, suffering, and even death. Though 'God-Building' was suppressed by Lenin, Gorky retained his belief that "culture"—the moral and spiritual awareness of the value and potential of the human self—would be more critical to the revolution’s success than political or economic arrangements.

An amnesty granted for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty allowed Gorky to return to Russia in 1913, where he continued his social criticism, mentored other writers from the common people, and wrote a series of important cultural memoirs, including the first part of his autobiography.[2] On returning to Russia, he wrote that his main impression was that "everyone is so crushed and devoid of God's image." The only solution, he repeatedly declared, was "culture".

During World War I, his apartment in Petrograd was turned into a Bolshevik staff room, but his relations with the Communists turned sour. After his newspaper Novaya Zhizn (Новая Жизнь, "New Life") fell prey to Bolshevik censorship, Gorky published a collection of essays critical of the Bolsheviks called Untimely Thoughts in 1918. (It would not be published in Russia again until the end of the Soviet Union.) The essays call Lenin a tyrant for his senseless arrests and repression of free discourse, and an anarchist for his conspiratorial tactics; Gorky compares Lenin to both the Tsar and Nechayev.

1931. Voroshilov, Gorky, Stalin (left to right)

In August 1921, Nikolai Gumilyov, his friend, fellow writer and Anna Akhmatova's husband, was arrested by the Petrograd Cheka for his monarchist views. Gorky hurried to Moscow, obtained an order to release Gumilyov from Lenin personally, but upon his return to Petrograd he found out that Gumilyov had already been shot. In October, Gorky returned to Italy on health grounds: he had tuberculosis.

According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Gorky's return to the Soviet Union was motivated by material needs. In Sorrento, Gorky found himself without money and without fame. He visited the USSR several times after 1929, and in 1932 Joseph Stalin personally invited him to return for good, an offer he accepted. In June 1929, Gorky visited Solovki (cleaned up for this occasion) and wrote a positive article about that Gulag camp, which had already gained ill fame in the West. Later he stated that everything he had written was under the control of censors. What he actually saw and thought when visiting the camp has been a highly discussed topic.

Gorky's return from fascist Italy was a major propaganda victory for the Soviets. He was decorated with the Order of Lenin and given a mansion (formerly belonging to the millionaire Ryabushinsky, now the Gorky Museum) in Moscow and a dacha in the suburbs. One of the central Moscow streets, Tverskaya, was renamed in his honor, as was the city of his birth. The largest fixed-wing aircraft in the world in the mid-1930s, the Tupolev ANT-20 (photo), was also named Maxim Gorky. It was used for propaganda purposes and often demonstratively flew over the Soviet capital.

Gorky, Kaganovich, Molotov, Voroshilov, Stalin and Kalinin at the podium of Lenin's mausoleum.

On October 11, 1931 Gorky read his fairy tale "A Girl and Death" to his visitors Joseph Stalin, Kliment Voroshilov and Vyacheslav Molotov, an event that was later depicted by Viktor Govorov on his painting. On that same day Stalin left his autograph on the last page of this work by Gorky:

Эта штука сильнее чем "Фауст" Гёте (любовь побеждает смерть)[7] English: "This piece is stronger than Goethe's Faust (love defeats death)".

In 1933 Gorky edited an infamous book about the White Sea-Baltic Canal, presented as an example of "successful rehabilitation of the former enemies of proletariat".

With the increase of Stalinist repression and especially after the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934, Gorky was placed under unannounced house arrest in his Moscow house.

Older Gorky. Artistic rendering.

The sudden death of his son Maxim Peshkov in May 1934 was followed by the death of Maxim Gorky himself in June 1936. Speculation has long surrounded the circumstances of his death. Stalin and Molotov were among those who carried Gorky's coffin during the funeral.

During the Bukharin show trials in 1938, one of the charges was that Gorky was killed by Yagoda's NKVD agents.[8]

Statue of Gorki in Art Muzeon Sculpture Park, Moscow

In Soviet times, before and after his death, the complexities in Gorky's life and outlook were reduced to an iconic image (echoed in heroic pictures and statues dotting the countryside): Gorky as a great Russian writer who emerged from the common people, a loyal friend of the Bolsheviks, and the founder of the increasingly canonical "socialist realism". In turn, dissident intellectuals dismissed Gorky as a tendentious ideological writer, though some Western writers noted Gorky's doubts and criticisms. Today, greater balance is to be found in works on Gorky, where we see a growing appreciation of the complex moral perspective on modern Russian life expressed in his writings. Some historians have begun to view Gorky as one of the most insightful observers of both the promises and moral dangers of revolution in Russia.

Selected works

  • Makar Chudra (Макар Чудра), short story, 1892
  • Chelkash (Челкаш), 1895
  • Malva, 1897
  • Creatures That Once Were Men, stories in English translation (1905)
  • Twenty-six Men and a Girl
  • Foma Gordeyev (Фома Гордеев), novel, 1899
  • Three of Them (Трое), 1900
  • The Song of the Stormy Petrel (Песня о Буревестнике), 1901
  • Song of a Falcon (Песня о Соколе),short story, 1902
  • The Life of Matvei Kozhemyakin (Жизнь Матвея Кожемякина)
  • The Mother (Мать), novel, 1907
  • A Confession (Исповедь), 1908
  • Okurov City (Городок Окуров), novel, 1908
  • My Childhood (Детство), 1913–1914
  • In the World (В людях), 1916
  • Chaliapin, articles in Letopis, 1917[10]
Commemorative coin, released in the USSR on his 120th anniv. features his portrait and a stormy petrel over the storm sea
  • Untimely Thoughts, articles, 1918
  • My Universities (Мои университеты), 1923
  • The Artamonov Business (Дело Артамоновых), 1927
  • Life of Klim Samgin (Жизнь Клима Самгина), epopeia, 1927-36
  • Reminiscences of Tolstoy (1919), Chekhov (1905-21), and Andreyev
  • V.I.Lenin (В.И.Ленин), reminiscence, 1924-31
  • The I.V. Stalin White Sea - Baltic Sea Canal, 1934 (editor-in-chief)
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Drama

  • The Philistines (Мещане), 1901
  • The Lower Depths (На дне), 1902
  • Summerfolk (Дачники), 1904
  • Children of the Sun (Дети солнца), 1905
  • Barbarians, 1905
  • Enemies, 1906
  • Queer People, 1910
  • Vassa Zheleznova, 1910
  • The Zykovs, 1913
  • Counterfeit Money, 1913
  • Yegor Bulychov and Others, 1932
  • Dostigayev and Others, 1933

Adaptations

The German modernist theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht based his epic play The Mother (1932) on Gorky's novel of the same name. Gorky's novel was also adapted for an opera by Valery Zhelobinsky in 1938. In 1912, the Italian composer Giacomo Orefice based his opera Radda on the character of Radda from Makar Chudra.

Works about Gorky

  • The Gorky Trilogy is a series of three feature films—The Childhood of Maxim Gorky, My Apprenticeship, and My Universities—directed by Mark Donskoi, filmed in the Soviet Union, released 1938-1940. The trilogy was adapted from Gorky's autobiography.
  • The Murder of Maxim Gorky. A Secret Execution by Arkady Vaksberg. (Enigma Books: New York, 2007. ISBN 978-1-929631-62-9.)

Quotations

  • "One has to be able to count if only so that at fifty one doesn't marry a girl of twenty"
  • "Если враг не сдается, его уничтожают" (If the enemy doesn't surrender, he shall be exterminated!)
  • "When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is duty, life is slavery."
  • "One miserable being seeks another miserable being; then he's happy."
  • "Politics is the seedbed of social enmity, evil suspicions, shameless lies, morbid ambitions, and disrespect for the individual. Name anything bad in man, and it is precisely in the soil of political struggle that it grows with abundance."

See also

Notes

  1. ^ His own pronunciation, according to his autobiography Detstvo (Childhood), was Пешко́в, but all reference books have Пе́шков, which is presumably used by most Russians.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Maksim Gorki". Kuusankoski City Library, Finland. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/gorki.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-21.  
  3. ^ "Maxim Gorky". Library Thing. http://www.librarything.com/author/gorkymaxim. Retrieved 2009-07-21.  
  4. ^ "Горький Максим :: Биографии :: РефератБанк :: Рефераты, курсовые и дипломные работы, доклады, сочинения. Скачать бесплатно." (in Russian). http://www.referatbank.ru/biography-165.html.  
  5. ^ Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko had insulted Gorky with his critical assessment of Gorky's new play Summerfolk, which Nemirovich described as shapeless and formless raw material that lacked a plot. Despite Stanislavski's attempts to persuade him otherwise, in December 1904 Gorky refused permission for the MAT to produce his Enemies and declined "any kind of connection with the Art Theatre." See Benedetti (1999, 149-150).
  6. ^ a b c d Benedetti (1999, 150).
  7. ^ "Scan of the page from "A Girl And Death" with autograph by Stalin". http://www.maximgorkiy.narod.ru/PHOTOS/6/stalin.jpg. Retrieved 2009-07-21.  
  8. ^ http://neworleans.media.indypgh.org/uploads/2007/02/the.treason.case.18feb07.pdff4mrvk.pdf
  9. ^ Creatures That Once Were Men, and other stories, by Maksim Gorky (introduction) at ebooks.adelaide.edu.au
  10. ^ The manuscript of this work, which Gorky wrote using information supplied by his friend Chaliapin, was translated, together with supplementary correspondence of Gorky with Chaliapin and others, in N. Froud and J. Hanley (Eds and translators), Chaliapin: An Autobiography as told to Maxim Gorky (Stein and Day, New York 1967) Library of Congress card no. 67-25616.

References

  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521434378.
  • Benedetti, Jean. 1999. Stanislavski: His Life and Art. Revised edition. Original edition published in 1988. London: Methuen. ISBN 0413525201.
  • Worrall, Nick. 1996. The Moscow Art Theatre. Theatre Production Studies ser. London and NY: Routledge. ISBN 0415055989.
  • Figes, Orlando. 1998. "A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924" Penguin, NY and London. ISBN 9780140243642

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov (Russian: Алексей Максимович Пешков;) (28 March [16 March, Old Style] 1868 - 14 June 1936) Russian writer and political activist, better known as Maxim Gorky (Максим Горький).

Sourced

  • Everybody, my friend, everybody lives for something better to come. That's why we want to be considerate of every man— Who knows what's in him, why he was born and what he can do?
    • The Lower Depths (1902)
  • Some one has to be kind, girl— some one has to pity people! Christ pitied everybody— and he said to us: "Go and do likewise!" I tell you— if you pity a man when he most needs it, good comes of it. Why— I used to be a watchman on the estate of an engineer near Tomsk— all right — the house was right in the middle of a forest— lonely place — winter came— and I remained all by myself. Well— one night I heard a noise— thieves creeping in! I took my gun— I went out. I looked and saw two of them opening a window— and so busy that they didn't even see me. I yell: "Hey there— get out of here!" And they turn on me with their axes— I warn them to stand back, or I'd shoot— and as I speak, I keep on covering them with my gun, first on the one, then the other— they go down on their knees, as if to implore me for mercy. And by that time I was furious— because of those axes, you see— and so I say to them: "I was chasing you, you scoundrels— and you didn't go. Now you go and break off some stout branches!"— and they did so— and I say: "Now — one of you lie down and let the other one flog him!" So they obey me and flog each other— and then they began to implore me again. "Grandfather," they say, "for God's sake give us some bread! We're hungry!" There's thieves for you, my dear! [Laughs.] And with an ax, too! Yes— honest peasants, both of them! And I say to them, "You should have asked for bread straight away!" And they say: "We got tired of asking— you beg and beg— and nobody gives you a crumb— it hurts!" So they stayed with me all that winter — one of them, Stepan, would take my gun and go shooting in the forest— and the other, Yakoff, was ill most of the time — he coughed a lot . . . and so the three of us together looked after the house . . . then spring came . . . "Good-bye, grandfather," they said— and they went away— back home to Russia . . . escaped convicts— from a Siberian prison camp . . . honest peasants! If I hadn't felt sorry for them— they might have killed me— or maybe worse— and then there would have been a trial and prison and afterwards Siberia— what's the sense of it? Prison teaches no good— and Siberia doesn't either— but another human being can . . . yes, a human being can teach another one kindness— very simply!
    • The character "Luka" in The Lower Depths (1902) English translation by Laurence Irving (1912)
  • There— you say— truth! Truth doesn't always heal a wounded soul. For instance, I knew of a man who believed in a land of righteousness. He said: "Somewhere on this earth there must be a righteous land— and wonderful people live there— good people! They respect each other, help each other, and everything is peaceful and good!" And so that man— who was always searching for this land of righteousness — he was poor and lived miserably— and when things got to be so bad with him that it seemed there was nothing else for him to do except lie down and die— even then he never lost heart— but he'd just smile and say: "Never mind! I can stand it! A little while longer— and I'll have done with this life— and I'll go in search of the righteous land!"— it was his one happiness— the thought of that land. And then to this place— in Siberia, by the way— there came a convict — a learned man with books and maps— yes, a learned man who knew all sorts of things— and the other man said to him: "Do me a favor— show me where is the land of righteousness and how I can get there." At once the learned man opened his books, spread out his maps, and looked and looked and he said — no— he couldn't find this land anywhere . . . everything was correct— all the lands on earth were marked— but not this land of righteousness. The man wouldn't believe it. . . . "It must exist," he said, "look carefully. Otherwise," he says, "your books and maps are of no use if there's no land of righteousness." The learned man was offended. "My plans," he said, "are correct. But there exists no land of righteousness anywhere." Well, then the other man got angry. He'd lived and lived and suffered and suffered, and had believed all the time in the existence of this land— and now, according to the plans, it didn't exist at all. He felt robbed! And he said to the learned man: "Ah— you scum of the earth! You're not a learned man at all— but just a damned cheat!"— and he gave him a good wallop in the eye— then another one . . . [After a moment's silence.] And then he went home and hanged himself.
    • The character "Luka" in The Lower Depths (1902) English translation by Laurence Irving (1912)
  • One has to be able to count, if only so that at fifty one doesn't marry a girl of twenty.
    • The Zykovs (1914)
  • There's a little book I'm thinking of writing - 'Swan Song' is what I shall call it. The song of the dying. And my book will be incense burnt at the deathbed of this society, damned with the damnation of its own impotence." - Foma Gordeyev. The English music group Led Zeppelin would later name their record label "Swan Song".

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Simple English

Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov (In Russian Алексей Максимович Пешков) ( Old Style: March 28,1868, New style: March 16–June 18, 1936), better known as Maxim Gorky (Максим Горький), was a Soviet/Russian author, a founder of the socialist realism literary method and a political activist. From 1906 to 1913 and from 1921 to 1929 he lived abroad, mostly in Capri, Italy; after his return to the Soviet Union he accepted the cultural policies of the time, although he was not permitted to leave the country.

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