Maxim Gorky


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Maxim Gorky [pseudonym meaning "Maxim the Bitter" of Aleksey Maximovich Pyeshkov] (1868-1936), Russian author considered the father of Soviet revolutionary literature and founder of the doctrine of socialist realism wrote The Mother (1906).

Praised by Lenin as "a very timely book" it is an empathetic study of the down-and-out, have-nots of Russian society and their lives on the eve of the 1905 revolution. Though dark at times it is also full of optimism and compelling characters, the main one based on his own grandmother. Gorky was a great writer but also an influential figure in tumultuous times of political upheaval.

"Long live, then, the proletariat as it goes forth to renew the whole world. Long live the working men of all lands who by the strength of their hands have built up the wealth of nations and are now labouring to create new life! Long live Socialism, the religion of the future. Greetings to the fighters, greetings to the workers of all lands, and may they ever have faith in the victory of truth, the victory of justice! Long live humanity fraternally united in the great ideals of equality and freedom!"
--from "Letter on the Russian Revolution", January 1, 1906.

Aleksey Maximovich Pyeshkov was born on 16 March 1868, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Early on in life he experienced the harsh straits of poverty and transience of the dispossessed that he would later write about with such compassion. After the death of his parents he travelled throughout Russia and held many jobs including baker, dockworker, and painter. Although he tried to commit suicide in his early twenties, his grandmother seems to have been a stabilising force in his life, who inspired him to learn to read and write.

Gorky's collection of short stories Sketches and Stories (1898), published by a radical press, established him as a favoured revolutionary voice for the people. He married Ekaterina Pavlovna while working for the Samarskaya Gazeta. Foma Gordeyev (1899) was his first published novel. Gorky also wrote numerous plays, often preferring characterisation over plot. After his famous play The Lower Depths (1902) was released he spent a number of years in exile including travelling to the United States in 1906 to raise funds for the bolsheveik movement. He himself had been arrested a number of times for his political activity though his popularity saved him from the most severe punishment.

In 1914 he returned to Russia and the first of his autobiographical novels My Childhood appeared the same year, followed by In the World in 1916. My Universities (1922) is based on his self-education, universities being closed to peasants such as himself. Though he had many debilitating bouts of tuberculosis, he worked as head of the Writer's Union and continued work on his ambitious four-volume accounting of social conditions The Life of Klim Samgin (192736). Gorky writes of his friendship with Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov in Reminiscences (tr. 1946).

Maxim Gorky died on 18 June 1936. There is some speculation that he was poisoned to death on orders by Stalin. His ashes are interred in the Kremlin Wall in Moscow, Russian Federation.

"Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is."

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Maxim Gorky

Gorky's works

There were no threads about Gorky so I decided to start one. If somebody doesn'y know Gorky(means bitter in Russian) is a pseudoname of Alexey Maximovich Peshkov- a Russian writer who became one of the symbols of social realysm. I've read his trilogy about his childhood and youth. It was pretty interesting, especially to compare it with similar work of Tolstoy. Of course, there is a huge difference in a social status of two writers- so there is nothing in common between their upbringings. Gorky started with short romantic stories in the late 19th century and some of them are pretty good. I remember a cool story about a tribe who lost their fire, so everything was dark and they were in the middle of the huge forest. The hero(his name was Danko, if I'm not mistaken) tore his heart out of his breast and because he was so full of life, courage and desire to help his people, his heart was shining and providing the necessary light for the tribe. His main novel is Mother. During Soviet years it was considered a classic work and one of the best novels ever. I decide to read it mainly because I wanted to know reading what books did my parents grew up. It was one of the worst novels I've ever read. Basically it's about a worker who participates in some kind of antitsarist activity and his uneducated mother who starts listening to the conversations between her son and his comrades and , of course- who would doubt that- also becomes an ardent revolutionary. I personally dislike Gorky also because he covered up for a lot of Stalin crimes. He was an international figure who was well-known in Europe. Not once he condemned "enemies of the people", although I have to admit it was a difficult time for a writer and he did helped quite a few of his less influential fellow writers. To finish about Gorky I'll tell you a real story that our literature teacher tolds us in high school. It became known in one of the soviet labor camps for children that Gorky is supposed to visit and confirm to everybody that society helps to make perfect soviet citizens out of young criminals. You can imagine what the conditions in the camp were- not enough food, horrible living conditons, children were workomg for 14 hours a day and wre dying like flies. The management of the camp created a perfect picture for the famous writer- you know how it's done. But the children believed in great Gorky- he will help them, he will save them! So they selected one boy, who found a moment when the writer was alone and told him everything about the real life of the camp. Gorky started crying hearing about it but did nothing and left the next day. you can imagine what happened to these children after he left... I kind of understand that he could not change the system, but he sure could save at least this little boy who told him the truth- doesn't take a genius to realize what will happen to him. Even Gorky's death brought only misery- Stalin accused a bunch of doctors that they poisoned him and declared them "enemies of the state". Sorry for the long post, but hopefully there was something new for some of you and I'm always happy to promote the interest in Russian literature


My CHildhood

I'm reading My Childhood for a class, its by Maxim Gorky... I was just wondering if anybody had any thoughts on it or if they read. Also... what epectations of children are portrayed in the novel.


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