Leonid Nikolayevich Andreyev (1871-1919), Russian novelist, dramatist and photographer was one of the most successful Russian writers from 1902-1914. Among his many works, The Seven Who Were Hanged was published in 1908;
I am very glad that The Story of the Seven Who Were Hanged will be read in English. The misfortune of us all is that we know so little, even nothing, about one another-neither about the soul, nor the life, the sufferings, the habits, the inclinations, the aspirations of one another. Literature, which I have the honor to serve, is dear to me just because the noblest task it sets before itself is that of wiping out boundaries and distances.--from Andreyev's Introduction
Leonid Nikolayevich Andreyev was born 21 August, 1871, in Oryol Province, Russia. His father was a civil servant. He has always been noted for his autobiographical grim portent and ability to convey despair and pessimism in his work, while critiquing the bourgeoisie and nobility. He experienced the utter depths of depression when he was twenty while studying law at St. Petersburg University. He then transferred to the University of Moscow. Onset of mental health issues led to several suicide attempts, thus he abandoned law and became a police court reporter for the Moscow Courier. Around this time Andreyev also dabbled in photography, experimenting with colour and his favourite genre, self-portraits. His first short stories including "In the Fog" (1902) and "The Abyss" (1902) were published in newspapers and periodicals.
Iliya Repin, one of the most famous portrait painters in Russia, worked with Leo Tolstoy and also painted a famous portrait of Andreyev in a red shirt, capturing the symbolism of tragedy and alarm that Andreyev soulfully conveyed in his writing. Like many other Russian writers at the time, the Revolution of 1905 and ensuing Communist revolution that overthrew the tsarist regime had a profound affect on Andreyev. He was imprisoned with Maxim Gorky who became a friend and supporter until they parted ways years later due to political differences.
Other works of Andreyev's are Gubernator (1905), Lazarus (1906), King Hunger (1907), The Seven That Were Hanged (1908) and Anathema (1909), on the futility of goodness. Andreyev also tried writing drama in 1905 and some of his more successful allegorical plays are The Life of Man (1907) and He Who Gets Slapped (1916). Other plays are: To the Stars (K Zviezdam), 1905; Savva, 1906; The Life of Man (Zhizn Chelovieka), 1906; King Hunger (Tzar Golod), 1907; The Black Masks (Chiorniya Maski), 1908; The Days of Our Life (Dni Nashey Zhizni), 1908; Anathema (Anatema), 1909; Anfissa (Anfissa), 1909; Gaudeamus (Gaudeamus), 1910; The Ocean (Okean), 1911; "Honor" ("Chest"), 1911 (?); The Pretty Sabine Women (Prekrasniya Sabinianki), 1911; Professor Storitzyn (Professor Storitzyn), 1912; Catherine (Yekaterina Ivanovna), 1913; and Thou Shalt Not Kill (Ne Ubi), 1914.
During World War I, Andreyev was the patriotic editor of a government inspired newspaper, but as a fervent anti-revolutionary moved to Finland after the Bolsheviks gained power. His last work, S.O.S. (1919) was a blatant appeal to the Allies to save Russia. Andreyev's brilliant depth of vision as a writer was short-lived as he became increasingly mentally ill and anxious about his public image. Leonid Nikolayevich Andreyev died 12 September, 1919 in Kuokkala, Finland, and is buried in the Volkovskoye Memorial Cemetery in St. Petersburg Russia.
Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2005. All Rights Reserved.
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