Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky


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Alexander Peshkov (later known as Maxim Gorky was born in Nizhny Novgorod on 16th March, 1868. His father was a shipping agent but he died when Gorky was only five years old. His mother remarried and Gorky was brought up by his grandmother.

Gorky left home in 1879 and went to live in a small village in Kazan and worked as a baker. At this time radical groups such as the Land and Liberty group sent people into rural areas to educate the peasants. Gorky attended these meetings and it was during this period that Gorky read the works of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Peter Lavrov , Alexander Herzen, Karl Marx and George Plekhanov. Gorky became a Marxist but he was later to say that was largely because of the teachings of the village baker, Vasilii Semenov.

In 1887 Gorky witnessed a Pogrom in Nizhny Novgorod. Deeply shocked by what he saw, Gorky became a life-long opponent of racism. Gorky worked with the Liberation of Labour group and in October, 1889 was arrested and accused of spreading revolutionary propaganda. He was later released because they did not have enough evidence to gain a conviction. However, the Okhrana decided to keep him under police surveillance.

Osip Volzhanin met Gorky in 1889: "He was tall, stooped, dressed in a coat-like jacket and high polished boots. His face was ordinary, plebeian, with a homely duck-like nose. By his appearance he could easily have been taken for a worker or a craftsman. The young man sat on the window sill, and swinging his long legs, spoke strongly emphasizing the letter 'O'. We listened with great delight to his stories, though Somov, an implacable 'political', disapproved of the stories and the behaviour of the young man. In his opinion, the latter occupied himself with trifles."

In 1891 Gorky moved to Tiflis where he found employment as a painter in a railway yard. The following year his first short-story, Makar Chudra, appeared in the Tiflis newspaper, Kavkaz. He story appeared under the name Maxim Gorky (Maxim the Bitter). The story was popular with the readers and soon others began appearing in other journals such as the successful Russian Wealth.

Gorky also began writing articles on politics and literature for newspapers. In 1895 he began writing a daily column under the heading, By the Way. In this articles he campaigned against the eviction of peasants from their land and the persecution of trade unionists in Russia. He also criticized the country's poor educational standards, the government's treatment of the Jewish community and the growth in foreign investment in Russia.

In his story Twenty-six Men and a Girl, one of his characters comment: “The poor are always rich in children, and in the dirt and ditches of this street there are groups of them from morning to night, hungry, naked and dirty. Children are the living flowers of the earth, but these had the appearance of flowers that have faded prematurely, because they grew in ground where there was no healthy nourishment.”

Gorky's short stories often showed Gorky's interest in social reform. In a letter to a friend, Gorky argued that "the aim of literature is to help man to understand himself, to strengthen the trust in himself, and to develop in him the striving toward truth; it is to fight meanness in people, to learn how to find the good in them, to awake in their souls shame, anger, courage; to do all in order that man should become nobly strong."

In 1898 Gorky published his first collection of short-stories. The book was a great success and he was now one of the country's most read and discussed writers. His choice of heroes and themes helped him emerge as the champion of the poor and the oppressed. The Okhrana became greatly concerned with Gorky's outspoken views, especially his articles and stories about the police, but his increasing popularity with the public made it difficult for them to take action against him.

Gorky secretly began helping illegal organizations such as the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Social Democratic Labour Party. He donated money to party funds and helped with the distribution of radical newspapers such as Iskra. One Bolsheviks later recalled that Gorky's contribution included "financial help systematically paid every month, technical assistance in the establishment of printing shops, organizing transport of illegal literature, arranging for meeting places, and supplying addresses of people who could be helpful."

On 4th March, 1901, Gorky witnessed a police attack on a student demonstration in Kazan. After publishing a statement attacking the way the police treated the demonstrators, Gorky was arrested and imprisoned. Gorky's health deteriorated and afraid he would die, the authorities released him after a month. He was put under house arrest, his correspondence was monitored and restrictions were placed on his movement around the country. When he was allowed to travel to the Crimea, he was greeted on the route by large crowds bearing banners with the words: "Long live Gorky, the bard of Freedom exiled without investigation or trial."

In 1902 Gorky was elected to the Imperial Academy of Literature. Nicholas II was furious when he heard the news and wrote to his Minister of Education: "Neither Gorky's age nor his works provide enough ground to warrant his election to such an honorary title. Much more serious is the circumstance that he is under police surveillance. And the Academy is allowing, in our troubled times, such a person to be elected! I am deeply dismayed by all this and entrust to you to announce that on my orders, the election of Gorky is to be cancelled."

When news that the Academy had followed the Tsar's orders and had overruled Gorky's election, several writers resigned in protest. Later that year the statutes of the Academy were changed, giving Nicholas II the power to approve the list of candidates before they came up for election.

Gorky gave his support to Father George Gapon and his planned march to the Winter Palace. He attended the march on the 22nd January, 1905, and that night Gapon stayed in his house. After Blood Sunday Gorky changed his mind about the moral right for revolutionaries to use violence. He wrote to a friend: "Two hundred black eyes will not paint Russian history over in a brighter colour; for that, blood is needed, much blood. Life has been built on cruelty and force. For its reconstruction, it demands cold calculated cruelty - that is all! They kill? It is necessary to do so! Otherwise what will you do? Will you go to Count Tolstoy and wait with him?"

After Blood Sunday Gorky was arrested and charged with inciting the people to revolt. Following a wide-world protest at Gorky's imprisonment in the Peter and Paul Fortress, Nicholas II agreed for him to be deported from Russia. Gorky now spent his time attempting to gain support for the overthrow of the Russian autocracy. This included raising money to buy arms for the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Social Democratic Labour Party. He also helped to fund the new Bolsheviks newspaper Novaya Zhizn.

In 1906 Gorky toured Europe and the United States. He arrived in New York on 28th March, 1906 and the New York Times reported that "the reception given to Gorky revealed with that of Kossuth and Garibaldi." His campaign tour was organized by a group of writers that included Ernest Poole, William Dean Howells, Jack London, Mark Twain, Charles Beard and Upton Sinclair.

The New York World newspaper decided to run a smear campaign against Gorky. The American public were shocked to hear that Gorky was staying in his hotel with a woman who was not his wife. The newspaper printed that the "so-called Mme Gorky who is not Mme Gorky at all, but a Russian actress Andreeva, with whom he has been living since his separation from his wife a few years ago." As a result of the story Gorky was evicted from his hotel and William Dean Howells and Mark Twain changed their mind about supporting his campaign. President Theodore Roosevelt also withdrew his invitation for Gorky to meet him in the White House.

Others such as H. G. Wells continued to help Gorky and issued a statement that included the comment: "I do not know what motive actuated a certain section of the American press to initiate the pelting of Maxim Gorky. A passion for moral purity ever before begot so brazen and abundant torrent of lies." Frank Giddings, a sociologist, compared the attack on Gorky to the lynching of three African Americans in Missouri. "Maxim Gorky came to this country not for the purpose of putting himself on exhibition, as many literary characters have done at one time or another, not for the purpose of lining his pockets with American gold, but for the purpose of obtaining sympathy and financial assistance for a people struggling against terrific odds, as the American people once struggled, for political and individual liberty. All was assertion, accusation, hysteria, impertinence in the way the papers have tried to instruct Gorky in morality."

Gorky also upset other supporters by sending a telegram of support to William Haywood, the leader of the Industrial Workers of the World, who was in prison waiting to be tried for the murder of the politician, Frank Steunenberg. Later Gorky published a book American Sketches, where he criticized the gross inequalities in American society. In one article he wrote that if anyone "wanted to become a socialist in a hurry, he should come to the United States."

In 1907 Gorky attended the Fifth Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party. While there he met Lenin, Julius Martov, George Plekhanov, Leon Trotsky and other leaders of the party. Gorky preferred Martov and the Mensheviks and was highly critical of Lenin's attempts to create a small party of professional revolutionaries. Gorky commented that he was not impressed with Lenin: "I did not expect Lenin to be like that. Something was lacking in him. He rolled his r's gutturally, and had a jaunty way of standing with his hands somehow poked up under his armpits. He was somehow too ordinary and did not give the impression of being a leader."

Gorky was later to write about Lenin: "Squat and solid, with a skull like Socrates and the all-seeing eyes of a great deceiver, he often liked to assume a strange and somewhat ludicrous posture: throw his head backwards, then incline it to the shoulder, put his hands under his armpits, behind the vest. There was in this posture something delightfully comical, something triumphantly cocky. At such moments his whole being radiated happiness. His movements were lithe and supple and his sparing but forceful gestures harmonized well with his words, also sparing but abounding in significance. From his face of Mongolian cast gleamed and flashed the eyes of a tireless hunter of falsehood and of the woes of life - eyes that squinted, blinked, sparkled sardonically, or glowered with rage. The glare of those eyes rendered his words more burning and more poignantly clear.... A passion for gambling was part of Lenin's character. But this was not the gambling of a self-centred fortune seeker. In Lenin it expressed that extraordinary power of faith which is found in a man firmly believing in his calling, one who is deeply and fully conscious of his bond with the world outside and has thoroughly understood his role in the chaos of the world, the role of an enemy of chaos."

Gorky continued to write and his most successful novels include Three of Them (1900), Mother (1906), A Confession (1908), Okurov City (1909) and the Life of Matvey Kozhemyakin (1910). Gorky argued: "The aim of literature is to help man to understand himself, to strengthen the trust in himself, and to develop in him the striving toward truth; it is to fight meanness in people, to learn how to find the good in them, to awake in their souls shame, anger, courage; to do all in order that man should become nobly strong."

Gorky was strongly opposed the First World War and he was attacked in the Russian press as being unpatriotic. In 1915 he established the political-literary journal, Letopis (Chronicle) and helped establish the Russian Society of the Life of the Jews, an organization that protested against the persecution of the Jewish community in Russia.

In March, 1917, Gorky welcomed the abdication of Nicholas II and supported the Provisional Government. Gorky wrote to his son: "We won not because we are strong, but because the government was weak. We have made a political revolution and have to reinforce our conquest. I am a social democrat, but I am saying and will continue to say, that the time has not come for socialist-style reforms."

Gorky started a newspaper, New Life, in 1917, and used it to attack the idea that the Bolsheviks were planning to overthrow the government of Alexander Kerensky. On 16th October, 1917, he called on Vladimir Lenin to deny these rumours and show he was "capable of leading the masses, and not a weapon in the hands of shameless adventurers of fanatics gone mad."

After the October Revolution the new government got Joseph Stalin to lead the attack on Gorky. In the newspaper Workers' Road, Stalin wrote: "A whole list of such great names was discarded by the Russian Revolution. Plekhanov, Kropotkin, Breshkovskaia, Zasulich and all those revolutionaries who are distinguished only because they are old. We fear that Gorky is drawn towards them, into the archives. Well, to each his own. The Revolution neither pities nor buries its dead."

Gorky retaliated by writing in the New Life in 7th November, 1917. "Lenin and Trotsky and their followers already have been poisoned by the rotten venom of power. The proof of this is their attitude toward freedom of speech and of person and toward all the ideals for which democracy was fighting." Three days later Gorky called Lenin and Leon Trotsky the "Napoleons of socialism" who were involved in a "cruel experiment with the Russian people."

Victor Serge met Gorky during this period: "His apartment at the Kronversky Prospect, full of books, seemed as warm as a greenhouse. He himself was chilly even under his thick grey sweater, and coughed terribly, the result of his thirty years' struggle against tuberculosis. Tall, lean and bony, broad-shouldered and hollow-chested, he stooped a little as he walked. His frame, sturdily-built but anaemic, appeared essentially as a support for his head. An ordinary, Russian man in the street's head, bony and pitted, really almost ugly with its jutting cheek-bones, great thin-lipped mouth and professional smeller's nose, broad and peaked."

In January, 1918, Gorky led the attack on Lenin's decision to close down the Constituent Assembly. Gorky wrote in the New Life that the Bolsheviks had betrayed the ideals of generations of reformers: "For a hundred years the best people of Russia lived with the hope of a Constituent Assembly. In this struggle for this idea thousands of the intelligentsia perished along with tens of thousands of workers and peasants."

The Bolshevik government controlled the distribution of newsprint and in July, 1918, it cut off supplies to New Life and Gorky was forced to close his newspaper. The government also took action making it impossible for Gorky to get his work published in Russia.

During the Civil War Gorky agreed to give his support to the Bolsheviks against the White Army. In return Lenin gave him permission to establish the publishing company, World Literature. This enabled Gorky to give employment to people such as Victor Serge and other critics of the Soviet government. Privately, Gorky remained an opponent of the government. In September, 1919, he wrote to Lenin: "for me it became clear that the "reds" are the enemies of the people just as the "whites". Personally, I of course would rather be destroyed by the "whites", but the "reds" are also no comrades of mine."

In 1921 Gorky once again clashed with the Soviet government over the suppression of the Kronstadt Uprising. Gorky blamed Gregory Zinoviev for the way the sailors were treated after the rebellion. Gorky failed to save the life of the writer, Nikolai Gumilev, who was arrested and executed for his support for the Kronstadt sailors. He was also unsuccessfully in obtaining an exit visa for the poet, Alexander Blok, who was dangerously ill. By the time Zinoviev gave permission for Blok to leave the country, he was dead.

Gorky based his play, The Plodder Slovotekov, on his experiences of dealing with Gregory Zinoviev. The play began its run on 18th June, 1921, but its criticism of the Soviet government's inefficient bureaucracy resulted in it being closed down after only three performances.

During the terrible famine of 1921, Gorky used his world fame to appeal for funds to provide food for the people starving in Russia. One of those who responded was Herbert Hoover, head of the American Relief Administration (ARA).

Gorky continued to criticize the Soviet government and after coming under considerable pressure from Lenin, he agreed to leave the country. In October, 1921, Gorky went to live in Germany where he joined a community of around 600,000 Russian émigrés. He continued to criticize Lenin and in one article wrote: "Russia is not of any concern to Lenin but as a charred log to set the bourgeois world on fire."

In July, 1922, Gorky campaigned against the decision to sentence to death twelve leading members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. He wrote to Alexei Rykov: "If the trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries will end with a death sentence, then this will be a premeditated murder, a foul murder. I beg of you to inform Leon Trotsky and the others that this is my contention. I hope this will not surprise you since I had told the Soviet authorities a thousand times that it is a senseless and criminal to decimate the ranks of our intelligentsia in our illiterate and lacking of culture country. I am convinced, that if the SR's should be executed the crime will result in a moral blockade of Russia by all of socialist Europe."

Gorky stayed in Germany for two and half years before moving to Sorrento in Italy. He continued to take a keen interest in Russian literature and was particularly impressed with the work of Isaac Babel, Vsevolod Ivanov and Konstantin Fedin. He often invited these writers to stay with him in Sorrento and did what he could to promote their careers.

Joseph Stalin attempted to bring an end to Gorky's exile by inviting him back to his homeland to celebrate the author's sixtieth birthday. Gorky accepted the invitation and returned on 20th May, 1928. Stalin wanted Gorky to write a biography of him. He refused but did take the opportunity to seek help for those writers being persecuted in the Soviet Union. This included asking for exit visas for some writers and the publication of the works of others.

Over the next few years Gorky played an important role in saving the lives of writers such as Victor Serge and Yevgeni Zamyatin when he successfully obtained permission from Stalin to let them leave the Soviet Union. In return, Gorky agreed to publicly support some of Stalin's policies. This included collectivization, his opposition to world revolution, and the formation of the Soviet Writers' Union. It is unlikely that Gorky ever discovered the full picture of what Stalin was doing in the Soviet Union. He was kept under close surveillance by the NKVD and his private correspondence reveals that he believed Stalin that Leon Trotsky and his followers were behind the assassination of Sergy Kirov.

Ella Winter saw Gorky lecture on literature to students during a visit in 1932: "He (Gorky) was like a stringy poplar tree, tall and thin and frail, his face, with its big walrus mustache, paper yellow like old parchment. He looked as if he might topple over. But he talked for an hour, about writing and literary problems, and held his audience; some inner strength seemed to support him."

Maxim Gorky died of a heart attack on 18th June, 1936. Rumours began circulating that Stalin had arranged for him to be murdered. This story was given some support when Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the NKVD at the time of his death, was successfully convicted of Gorky's murder in 1938.

He was tall, stooped, dressed in a coat-like jacket and high polished boots. The young man sat on the window sill, and swinging his long legs, spoke strongly emphasizing the letter "O". We listened with great delight to his stories, though Somov, an implacable "political", disapproved of the stories and the behaviour of the young man. In his opinion, the latter occupied himself with trifles.

We believe that the students were provoked by the police to assemble, and that the leaflets and the invitations issued to the students originated in the offices of the Okhrana. We declare that the Cossacks and not the students were first to start the scuffle, that the Cossacks grabbed women by their hair and beat them with whips.

The aim of literature is to help man to understand himself, to strengthen the trust in himself, and to develop in him the striving toward truth; it is to fight meanness in people, to learn how to find the good in them, to awake in their souls shame, anger, courage; to do all in order that man should become nobly strong.

Gapon by some miracle remained alive, he is in my house asleep. He now says there is no Tsar anymore, no church, no God. This is a man who has great influence upon the workers of the Putilov works. He has the following of close to 10,000 men who believe in him as a saint. He will lead the workers on the true path.

It is such an amazing fantasy of stone, glass, and iron, a fantasy constructed by crazy giants, monsters longing after beauty, stormy souls full of wild energy. All these Berlins, Parises, and other "big" cities are trifles in comparison with New York. Socialism should first be realized here - that is the first thing you think of, when you see the amazing houses, machines, etc.

Maxim Gorky came to this country not for the purpose of putting himself on exhibition, as many literary characters have done at one time or another, not for the purpose of lining his pockets with American gold, but for the purpose of obtaining sympathy and financial assistance for a people struggling against terrific odds, as the American people once struggled, for political and individual liberty. All was assertion, accusation, hysteria, impertinence in the way the papers have tried to instruct Gorky in morality.

When we were introduced, he shook me heartily by the hand, and scrutinizing me with his keen eyes and speaking in the tone of an old acquaintance, he said jocularly: "So glad you've come, believe you're fond of a scrap? There's going to be a fine old scuffle here."

I did not expect Lenin to be like that. He was somehow too ordinary and did not give the impression of being a leader.

Before me stood a tall man of slender build, his head relative to his height, rather small. I was stuck by the intense, very attractive, childlike, blue eyes. There was nothing artificial about him, a simple demeanour, nothing that would harken of him being famous. He was dressed in a grey well-fitting suit, a blue shirt and no tie.

Remember, the revolution just began, it will last for a long time. We won not because we are strong, but because the government was weak. I am a social democrat, but I am saying and will continue to say, that the time has not come for socialist-style reforms. The new government has inherited not a state but its ruins.

Lenin and Trotsky and their followers already have been poisoned by the rotten venom of power. The proof of this is their attitude toward freedom of speech and of person and toward all the ideals for which democracy was fighting. Blind fanatics and conscienceless adventurers are rushing at full speed on the road on the road to a social revolution - in actuality, it is a road toward anarchy.

Lenin and Trotsky and all who follow them are dishonoring the Revolution, and the working-class. Imagining themselves Napoleons of socialism. The proletariat is for Lenin the same as iron ore is for a metallurgist. It is possible, taking into consideration the present conditions, to cast out of this ore a socialist state? Obviously this is impossible. Conscious workers who follow Lenin must understand that a pitiless experiment is being carried out with the Russian people which is going to destroy the best forces of the workers, and which will stop the normal growth of the Russian Revolution for a long time.

For a hundred years the best people of Russia lived with the hope of a Constituent Assembly. In this struggle for this idea thousands of the intelligentsia perished and tens of thousands of workers and peasants.

On 5th January, the unarmed revolutionary democracy of Petersburg - workers, officials - were peacefully demonstrating in favour of the Constituent Assembly. Pravda lies when it writes that the demonstration was organized by the bourgeoisie and by the bankers. Pravda lies; it knows that the bourgeoisie has nothing to rejoice in the opening of the Constituent Assembly, for they are of no consequence among the 246 socialists and 140 Bolsheviks. Pravda knows that the workers of the Obukhavo, Patronnyi and other factories were taking part in the demonstrations. And these workers were fired upon. And Pravda may lie as much as it wants, but it cannot hide the shameful facts.

If the trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries will end with a death sentence, then this will be a premeditated murder, a foul murder. I am convinced, that if the SR's should be executed the crime will result in a moral blockade of Russia by all of socialist Europe.

A passion for gambling was part of Lenin's character. In Lenin it expressed that extraordinary power of faith which is found in a man firmly believing in his calling, one who is deeply and fully conscious of his bond with the world outside and has thoroughly understood his role in the chaos of the world, the role of an enemy of chaos.

He could with equal enthusiasm play chess, study a volume on the History of Dress, debate for hours with his comrades, fish, walk along the stony paths of Capri, hot and glowing in the southern sun, admire the golden colours of the furze bush and the dirty children of the fishermen...

He enjoyed fun, and when he laughed, his whole body shook, really bursting with laughter, sometimes until tears came into his eyes. There was an endless scale of shade and meaning in his inarticulate "Urn" - ranging from bitter sarcasm to cautious doubt, and there was often in it the keen humour given only to one who sees far ahead and knows well the satanic absurdities of life.

Squat and solid, with a skull like Socrates and the all-seeing eyes of a great deceiver, he often liked to assume a strange and somewhat ludicrous posture: throw his head backwards, then incline it to the shoulder, put his hands under his armpits, behind the vest. At such moments his whole being radiated happiness.

His movements were lithe and supple and his sparing but forceful gestures harmonized well with his words, also sparing but abounding in significance. The glare of those eyes rendered his words more burning and more poignantly clear.

Maxim Gorky welcomed me affectionately. In the famished years of his youth, he had been acquainted with my mother's family at Nizhni-Novgorod. His apartment at the Kronversky Prospect, full of books, seemed as warm as a greenhouse. An ordinary, Russian man in the street's head, bony and pitted, really almost ugly with its jutting cheek-bones, great thin-lipped mouth and professional smeller's nose, broad and peaked.

He spoke harshly about the Bolsheviks: they were "drunk with authority", "cramping the violent, spontaneous anarchy of the Russian people", and "starting bloody despotism all over again"; all the same they were "facing chaos alone" with some incorruptible men in their leadership. His observations always started from facts, from chilling anecdotes upon which he would base his well-considered generalizations.


Maxim Gorky and the Russian Revolution

Maxim Gorky was revered as the leading Russian artist and intellectual associated with the 1917 Revolution throughout the lifetime of the Soviet Union. But did he really approve of Lenin and the Soviet experiment?

Among the portraits of Soviet heroes that used to hang in every Russian school and library the one of Maxim Gorky was nearly always given pride of place with Lenin. Gorky was an icon of the Soviet cultural establishment. He was hailed as the first great Russian writer to emerge from the proletariat, as a life-long friend of the Bolsheviks, and as the founder of Socialist Realism, the artistic doctrine of the Stalinist regime which said that the artist should depict Soviet life, not as it was, but as it should be in the socialist utopia. The Soviet cult of Gorky took off in his own lifetime: there was a trilogy of films about his youth the main street in Moscow was named after him and his native city of Nizhnyi Novgorod was renamed Gorky.

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Arshile Gorky

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Arshile Gorky, original name Vosdanik Adoian, (born April 15, 1904, Khorkom, Van, Turkish Armenia [now in Turkey]—died July 21, 1948, Sherman, Connecticut, U.S.), American painter, important as the direct link between the European Surrealist painters and the painters of the American Abstract Expressionist movement.

Gorky’s early life was disrupted when his father abandoned Turkey, his wife, and his family in order to avoid service in the Turkish army. The rest of the family soon fled to Armenia to escape Turkish persecution and were subsequently dispersed. In 1920 Gorky emigrated to the United States, where he rejoined his sister in Watertown, Massachusetts, and assumed the pseudonym by which he became known. The name Arshile is derived from Achilles, the brooding Achaean hero of the Iliad. The name Gorky (Russian for “the bitter one”) is derived from that of the writer Maxim Gorky.

After studying painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, Gorky enthusiastically entered into the Bohemian life of Greenwich Village in New York City, occasionally passing himself off as a successful Russian portraitist who had studied in Paris and experimented with Automatism. From 1926 to 1931 he taught at the Grand Central School of Art. Early in his career, he hit on the idea of becoming a great painter by subjecting himself to long apprenticeships, painting in the style of such artists as Paul Cézanne, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso. His aim was never merely to imitate the work of others, however, but to assimilate fully their aesthetic vision and then move beyond it.

Gorky remained stylistically unable to move beyond the work of his mentors until about 1939, when he met the Chilean Surrealist painter Roberto Matta. The Surrealists’ idea that art is the expression of the artist’s unconscious enabled Gorky to discover his personal idiom, which he pursued the last eight years of his life. In such works as The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb (1944) and How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life (1944), biomorphic forms that suggest plants or human viscera float over an indeterminate background of melting colours. The erotic significance of the loosely painted forms and elegant, fine black lines is often made explicit in such titles as The Diary of a Seducer (1945) and The Betrothal II (1947). The years that saw Gorky finally emerge as one of the most important painters in the United States were marked by personal tragedy, however. In early 1946 he lost many of his paintings in a studio fire, and soon after he underwent an operation for cancer. In June 1948 his neck was broken in an automobile accident, and he lost the use of his painting hand. His wife left him the following month, and shortly thereafter he hanged himself.


Revolutionary Writer Maxim Gorky’s NYC Sex Scandal

In 1906, Russian Bolshevik writer Maxim Gorky was given a warm welcome in the United States. Then the American media manufactured a scandal about his girlfriend.

When Maxim Gorky arrived at the steamship terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 10th, 1906, he was met by thousands of excited fans. The positive reception wouldn’t last.

Fresh from a well-publicized European tour after his release from the infamous Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg, Gorky was renowned as a writer who stood against the Russian tsarist autocracy. “Public sentiment in the United States,” writes Russian Literature scholar Filia Holtzman, “was vehemently opposed to Russian autocracy.” So literary luminaries across the river in Manhattan like Mark Twain and William Dean Howells were ready to fete the herald of Russian revolution. In the White House, Teddy Roosevelt awaited Gorky’s visit. Events were planned for Boston and Chicago, too.

Gorky was on a goodwill and fundraising mission for the Russian Social Democratic Party (SDP). The party had hopes of raising a million dollars on the strength of his fame and personality as a dashing revolutionary. The SDP had only recently split into two factions, the Bolsheviks (“majority”) and Mensheviks (“minority”). That’s right: Gorky was a Bolshevik. (The Bolsheviks eventually became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.) But in 1906 this didn’t mean much to Americans.

William Randolph Hearst’s New York American had an exclusive with Gorky. This enraged a rival newspaper, the World. So when the Russian embassy, attempting to discredit Gorky’s mission, spread the following story, the World decided to play it up even though it was already common knowledge among reporters.

Here was the scoop: It turned out the woman accompanying Gorky was not, in fact, Mrs. Gorky. She was Maria Andreyeva, a star of the Moscow Art Theatre. Sure, she was another ardent Bolshevik, but apparently that wasn’t the problem. She and Gorky weren’t legally married. That was the problem, considered by the media to be a moral blemish worse than anarchism.

Gorky had been amicably separated from his wife for years, their divorce stymied by an Orthodox Church that refused to allow revolutionaries to divorce. In Russia and elsewhere, he and Andreyeva shacked up in a common-law marriage. American morality, however, was made of different stuff. This was the new century, and women’s roles were rapidly transforming, women’s suffrage was on the march, and the old sexual mores were coming under increased scrutiny and challenge. The moral outrage about Gorky’s unconventional home life was one of the last gasps of an old order.

Gorky and his girlfriend were thrown out of their Manhattan hotel, where they’d initially been given an entire floor. Two more hotels ejected them. H.G. Wells, who happened to be in town at the time, described the ostracism: “Infected persons could not have been treated more abominably in a town smitten with a panic of the plague.”

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Unsurprisingly, the invitation to the White House was cancelled. Although Gorky and Andreyeva were in the country for almost six months, staying in private homes, they were cut off by society, literary and otherwise. They barely raised $10,000. Twain and Howells, the doyens of American letters, did not publicly defend them. Decades later, Sherwood Anderson wrote Gorky that when he was a young man he and his peers hung their heads in shame over Gorky’s treatment.

Gorky got some revenge with an essay lambasting New York as “the monstrous metropolis” that boiled people alive. Years later, he still referred to American civilization as “deformed.” But that was in the late 1920s, by which time American Victorianism had been fairly routed, at least in the cities.

Holtzman, writing in the depths of the Cold War, reveals that no mention of the American scandal over Andreyeva was to be found in the Gorky Museum in Moscow. The “prudish morality of the Soviet public—paradoxically like the morality of the American public in 1906—will not accept lightly ‘unconventional marriage,’ especially in the figure of a hero.”


The History Of The Maxim Gorki Theater In 1 Minute

The Maxim Gorki Theater, like a lot of historically significant buildings in Germany, has roots in the GDR. It was the municipal theater of East Berlin that was founded in 1952 to put on contemporary productions. With an address on the main boulevard Unter den Linden, this artistic infrastructure is quite literally in the heart of Berlin.

As a result of a dispute in 1952, the Gorki Theater was established as a place for the care of Russian and Soviet theater art. Under its first director, the Stanislavsky student Maxim Vallentin, the theater committed itself to socialist realism. This came following a dispute around form in response to Brecht’s Epic Theatre in Berliner Ensemble theater in Mitte. The theater was intended to be opened under the name Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths, but this was prevented by the State Art Commission. Instead, the Maxim Gorki Theater opened on October 30, 1952, with the German premiere of the Soviet piece Für die auf See by Boris Lavrenev.

In the so-called cultural thaw in the late 1950s came (even in the wake of riots in East Germany, Poland and Hungary) performances of such pieces as Alfred Matusches’ Nude Grass and Heiner Müller’s Correction and The Lohndrücker. In the late 1980s, the East German premiere of Volker Braun proved to be a controversial choice, despite the ostensibly improved conditions between east and west. The Transitional Society, directed by Thomas Langhoff at the Gorki in 1988, was seen as farewell to the social conditions in the GDR.

Today, the theater is as likely a stage for local dance and student theater as it is for performances from Soviet writers. The theater seeks to balance the classic Soviet pieces on which the theater was founded with contemporary art and music from Berlin and beyond. In many ways, Gorki represents a unique spot in the city’s storied history.


Amazing Facts about Maxim Gorky

  • He was also a political activist and had been nominated five times for Noble Prize in literature.
  • He was associated with other famous writers like Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov.
  • His writings are influenced by his frequent job changes and roaming across the Russian Empire.
  • He was orphaned at the age of 11 and raised by his grandmother. He, once, attempted suicide.
  • He took literature as a moral and political act which could change the world for the better.
  • He was against the Tsarist regime and got arrested several times.
  • The Tupolev ANT-20, the largest aircraft of the 1930s was named after him including the main park and central streets of Moscow.
  • He was the President of the Union of the Soviet Writers.
  • He was against homosexuality.
  • He died of pneumonia on June 1936.

Maxim Gorky is not only known for his successful novels, but also for dramas and plays. Focusing on his major success, here are the best novels that you can add to your reading list:

The I.V. Stalin White Sea - Baltic Sea Canal


Exile and revolution

On leaving Russia in 1906, Gorky spent seven years as a political exile, living mainly in his villa on Capri in Italy. Politically, Gorky was a nuisance to his fellow Marxists because of his insistence on remaining independent, but his great influence was a powerful asset, which from their point of view outweighed such minor defects. He returned to Russia in 1913, and during World War I he agreed with the Bolsheviks in opposing Russia’s participation in the war. He opposed the Bolshevik seizure of power during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and went on to attack the victorious Lenin’s dictatorial methods in his newspaper Novaya zhizn (“New Life”) until July 1918, when his protests were silenced by censorship on Lenin’s orders. Living in Petrograd, Gorky tried to help those who were not outright enemies of the Soviet government. Gorky often assisted imprisoned scholars and writers, helping them survive hunger and cold. His efforts, however, were thwarted by figures such as Lenin and Grigory Zinovyev, a close ally of Lenin’s who was the head of the Petrograd Bolsheviks. In 1921 Lenin sent Gorky into exile under the pretext of Gorky’s needing specialized medical treatment abroad.


Gorky on Soviet Literature

After the dismal experiment in “proletarian” art the party line shifted to a more palatable nineteenth-century realism. The famous revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky was restored to favor as the leading exponent of the “new” literature, which he extolled at a 1935 writer’s congress as “socialist realism.” With some variation in the rigor of its enforcement, this was the Communist line in the arts, while modernistic experiments were systematically condemned as “bourgeois formalism.”

The Communist-Leninist Party, the workers’ and peasants’ government of the Union of Socialist Soviets, which have destroyed capitalism throughout the length and breadth of tsarist Russia, which have handed over political power to the workers and the peasants, and which are organizing a free classless society, have made it the object of their daring, sage and indefatigable activity to free the working masses from the age-old yoke of an old and outworn history, of the capitalist development of culture, which today has glaringly exposed all its vices and its creative decrepitude. And it is from the height of this great aim that we honest writers of the Union of Soviets must examine, appraise and organize our work….

… We must grasp and fully realize the fact that in our country the socially organized labor of semi-literate workers and a primitive peasantry has in the short space of ten years created stupendous values and armed itself superbly for defense against an enemy’s attack. Proper appreciation of this fact will reveal to us the cultural and revolutionary power of a doctrine which unites the whole proletariat of the world.

All of us-writers, factory workers, collective farmers-still work badly and cannot even fully master everything that has been made by us and for us. Our working masses do not yet quite grasp the fact that they are working only for themselves. This feeling is smoldering everywhere, but it has not yet blazed up into a mighty and joyous flame. But nothing can kindle unfit it has reached a certain temperature, and nobody ever was so splendidly capable of raising the temperature of labor energy as is the party organized by the genius of Vladimir Lenin, and the present-day leader of this party.

As the principal hero of our books we should choose labor, i.e., a person, organized by the processes of labor, who in our country is armed with the full might of modem technique, a person who, in his turn, so organizes labor that it becomes easier and more productive, raising it to the level of an art ….

The party leadership of literature must be thoroughly purged of all philistine influences. Party members active in literature must not only be the teachers of ideas which will muster the energy of the proletariat in all countries for the last battle for its freedom the party leadership must, in all its conduct, show a morally authoritative force. This force must imbue literary workers first and foremost with a consciousness of their collective responsibility for all that happens in their midst. Soviet literature, with all its diversity of talents, and the steadily growing number of new and gifted writers, should be organized as an integral collective body, as a potent instrument of socialist culture.

The Writers’ Union is not being created merely for the purpose of bodily uniting all artists of the pen, but so that professional unification may enable them to comprehend their corporate strength, to define with all possible clarity their varied tendencies, creative activity, guiding principles, and harmoniously to merge all aims in that unity which is guiding all the creative working energies of the country.

The idea, of course, is not to restrict individual creation, but to furnish it with the widest means of continued powerful development.

It should be realized that critical realism originated as the individual creation of “superfluous people,” who, being incapable of the struggle for existence, not finding a place in life, and more or less clearly realizing the aimlessness of personal being, understood this aimlessness merely as the senselessness of all phenomena in social life and in the whole historical process.

Without in any way denying the broad, immense work of critical realism, and while highly appreciating its formal achievements in the art of word painting, we should understand that this realism is necessary to us only for throwing light on the survivals of the past, for fighting them, and extirpating them.

But this form of realism did not and cannot serve to educate socialist individuality, for in criticizing everything, it asserted nothing, or else, at the worst, reverted to an assertion of what it had itself repudiated.

Socialist individuality, as exemplified by our heroes of labor, who represent the flower of the working class, can develop only under conditions of collective labor, which has set itself the supreme and wise aim of liberating the workers of the whole world from the man-deforming power of capitalism.

Life, as asserted by socialist realism, is deeds, creativeness, the aim of which is the uninterrupted development of the priceless individual faculties of man, with a view to his victory over the forces of nature, for the sake of his health and longevity, for the supreme joy of living on an earth which, in conformity with the steady growth of his requirements, he wishes to mould throughout into a beautiful dwelling place for mankind, united into a single family…

The high standard demanded of literature, which is being rapidly remolded by life itself and by the cultural revolutionary work of Lenin’s party, is due to the high estimation in which the party holds the importance of the literary art. There has never been a state in the world where science and literature enjoyed such comradely help, such care for the raising of professional proficiency among the workers of art and science.

The proletarian state must educate thousands of first-class “craftsmen of culture,” “engineers of the soul.” This is necessary in order to restore to the whole mass of the working people the right to develop their intelligence, talents and faculties -a right of which they have been deprived everywhere else in the world. This aim, which is a fully practicable one, imposes on us writers the need of strict responsibility for our work and our social behavior. This places us not only in the position, traditional to realist literature, of “judges of the world and men,” “critics of life,” but gives us the night to participate directly in the construction of a new life, in the process of “changing the world.” The possession of this right should impress every writer with a sense of his duty and responsibility for all literature, for all the aspects in it which should not be there….


15 thoughts on &ldquo Maxim Gorky on Coney Island &rdquo

THE FOLLOWING COMMENT IS A RESPONSE TO THE FOLLOWING QUESTION:

Do you agree or disagree with Gorky’s heartbreaking description of the show animals’ rough treatment at Coney Island? Do you feel that he accurately describes a selfish human characteristic of seeing other living beings experience pain? Or can this be justified as a harmless practice of show business? (AR)

I agree with Maxim Gorky’s view on the various show animals’ treatment in Coney Island performances. Taken from “Boredom”, Gorky writes:
“Sometimes one of the musicians turns the stupid brass bellow of his instrument upon the monkey and overwhelms the animal with a deafening noise. The little baby timidly clasps the mother’s body still harder, show its teeth, and looks at the musician sharply.”
The most important detail of the above description is the fact that these tormentors of the monkey weren’t zoo keepers, but musicians. Secondly, the setting for this is in Coney Island, an amusement park, where a fee is charged for people to enjoy themselves. So it begs the question, why do respectable people who have “strict” moral codes during the day, all of sudden become carefree and savage when trying to have fun? Why do musicians whose job is to please crowds with music, look to inflict pain on innocent animals for their crowd’s amusement? So as Gorky explains, humans do have a taste for the suffering of others, especially when this suffering can be viewed in comfort and justified as taking place in an amusement park. Labeling this as part of show business, and nothing more, is incorrect since this show business ultimately leads to spectators doing this themselves. Nowadays, millions of dollars are spent on boxing, wrestling and other pain-inflicting sports. So in short, not much has changed, and Gorky was correct in describing the animals’ treatment as human selfishness.

Is Gorky’s scathing description of Coney Island caused by an inherent clash of two cultures? In other words, is Gorky, who is from Russia, totally new to this emerging American form of pastime, which involves a high level of physical interaction among people and a superficial sense of extravagance?

Gorky definitely feels that there is a superficial sense of extravagance he says “tho they hint at the possibility of beauty, they everywhere discover the dull, gloomy ugliness.The city, magic and fantastic from afar now appears an absurd jumble of straight lines of wood, a cheap, hastily constructed toy house for kids.” He sees Americans as dumbfounded fools whose curiosity and want of escape lets them take themselves away from reality. This high level of interaction, unseen of in cultured society in Europe bothers Gorky. But I do not think this is a clash of cultures but rather a clash of Class the rich upper class would not allow themselves to engage in such interaction, and the fact that Coney Islands attractions had to teach the people not to sin in one part, and had men and women sinning and dancing in the other goes against the protestant and upper class ideals and ways of life.

Do you agree or disagree with Gorky’s heartbreaking description of the show animals’ rough treatment at Coney Island? Do you feel that he accurately describes a selfish human characteristic of seeing other living beings experience pain? Or can this be justified as a harmless practice of show business?
As I know from Russian History, Maxim Gorky was one of the critic writers at his times. I remember his essay about his trip to America with his wife. We read it at high school. Based on my memory he compared Americans to Russian third- grade students.
He sees elite people as foolish, dull, selfish people. In Russian language we know his book about New York as “city of demons”.
I agree with him that treatment of animals was very harsh at that time. However, harsh treatment still continues up to current times. For example, Dolphin Shows. Dolphins live in small pools. Sometimes animal trainers beat them. Overall, animals live like in a prison. Their place is in the ocean not in the city’s pool. This kind of business is harmless for people but not for the animals. I see that people from early 20th century did not change much. People care about themselves first . Gorky was right about people’s selfishness.

Do you agree or disagree with Gorky’s heartbreaking description of the show animals’ rough treatment at Coney Island? Do you feel that he accurately describes a selfish human characteristic of seeing other living beings experience pain? Or can this be justified as a harmless practice of show business?

Reading Gorky’s article on Coney Island, I kept a line from the Kasson article we read for class that stuck with me when summing up Coney Island and it was the belief that it was “a nightmare world…” Gorky’s article nails the nightmarish perception of Coney Island when he describes the anxiousness of the human audience to watch and inflict pain on animals for maybe a minute of pleasure? Holding true to another term referenced in Kasson’s article that the park would be described as “Oriental Orgasmic.” It is these quick doses of satisfaction that the park goers crave at the expense of the animals pain that depicts selfish human behavior and forces us to reevaluate the disturbing forms of entertainment that the late 19th and early 20th century New Yorkers flocked to. I agree that this treatment is unjust and unfortunately still present in the 21st century with parks like SeaWorld and their treatment of killer whales.

The text describes Coney Island at the turn of the last century. Do you agree with the author’s sentiments that Coney Island is just a lie people use to ignore the truth of their situations?

I agree with Gorky that Coney Island was a lie people used to ignore the truth of their situations because most of the time it is the escape from reality that these parks assure that attracts children and adults to this form of entertainment. Especially when there was a tense time where cultures clashed with the wave of immigration. The park became a medium for the tightly wounds to smile and be able to give in to their desires. Whether that desire was to scream on a huge ride, or hold on to the opposite sex on a scary one. Stepping into Coney would intoxicate park goers and lower their inhibitions to do as they like and step away from the strict moral code of behavior the upper class had to practice and the poverty stricken lives the lower class lived in New York.

The text describes Coney Island at the turn of the last century. Do you agree with the author’s sentiments that Coney Island is just a lie people use to ignore the truth of their situations?
I do agree with the author’s sentiments. The point of going to amusement parks is to enter this alternate reality where your life outside does not matter. There is this fake sense of danger which is exciting to most people. Visitors of Coney Island, especially the working class, were looking for an escape from their troubles and the upper class wished to strip themselves from their strict moral codes that ruled and limited their lives greatly. The park became a way to have a good time without having to worry about what is the “right” thing to do. It took away many inhibitions because visitors were forced into these situations that were uncomfortable for their time and had to make the most of them. They would smile, laugh, and have a genuine good time because the same rules did not apply. Even today, people go to amusement parks to do things they cannot do otherwise. They go on coasters that have large drops, loops, and travel at great speeds. It is not, however, a bad thing to want an escape from your everyday life.

The text describes Coney Island at the turn of the last century. Do you agree with the author’s sentiments that Coney Island is just a lie people use to ignore the truth of their situations?
Answer: First of all we need to understand what Maxim Gorky meant by saying “lie people”? Did he mean that Coney Islands people were not genuine or they just do not want to show their real situation? In my opinion, he wanted to say that American people work very hard, dress up to look nice, and tried to be part of amusement park fancy crowd every evening. By “lie people he meant that they to pretend to have really good life, but in reality they were struggling financially. By coming to the Coney Island Park they relax and act as careless people. Ignoring the truth of their situations means that they do not care about anything. Other times they were as everyone else, working and paying bills. I do agree with Gorky that people usually do not show their real situation, they fake a lot. It still continues in daily activity. Gorky was so happy that he left USA, even with very confusing feelings and some misunderstanding of local culture and traditions.

Is Gorky’s scathing description of Coney Island caused by an inherent clash of two cultures? In other words, is Gorky, who is from Russia, totally new to this emerging American form of pastime, which involves a high level of physical interaction among people and a superficial sense of extravagance? (AR)

At the time of Gorky’s visit to Coney Island, Russia is twelve years away from Revolution and socialism, although Marxist ideals were already running rampant. Gorky has this almost poetic way of describing Coney Island that makes whatever beauty he does believe it possesses part of a children’s tale. He does give off an air of superiority, as if to say that he is better than the Americans who are becoming entranced by the transparent lures of Coney Island. Gorky, a man who seems to be a hardcore realist, sees Coney Island as a mere facade and escape from reality, which it absolutely was. It was a get-away from life in the quickly industrializing, harsh life of New York City.

The text describes Coney Island at the turn of the last century. Do you agree with the author’s sentiments that Coney Island is just a lie people use to ignore the truth of their situations?

Based on Gorky’s essay I would have to say that I agree with his sentiments that Coney Island is a lie that people use to avoid their situations. Coney Island was a place of entertainment for people, a place to enjoy and to have fun so I think that was one way people used as a distraction in their daily lives. Even when Gorky describes the cruel treatment that the animals receive to the people its entertainment seeing how they enjoyed bothering and terrifying the animals. Going to Coney Island meant experiencing something out of the ordinary, something that a person couldn’t do on a normal day therefore it is possible that people went to Coney Island just to get out of their average and complicated lives. Seeing that this essay was based on Gorky’s visit in 1906 there must have been many people, ranging from the poor to the higher class, going to this fun place to experience the amusement that everybody else was experiencing just to avoid their problems.

The text describes Coney Island at the turn of the last century. Do you agree with the author’s sentiments that Coney Island is just a lie people use to ignore the truth of their situations? (FM)

The description seems to be more prophetic than actually being accurate during the time it was written. Perhaps then the description is asynchronous and we will never be able to say if the writer is being accurate. From all other descriptions that we have heard about Coney Island Gorky is just wrong. Coney Island was a wonderland of lights that allowed people escape, but not away from their situation, but into a world that was full of wonder. It was salubrious to their spirits and not something that was hiding anything. It was Coney Island that allowed them truthfully reimagine their situation. Everyone was equal in the land of lights. Perhaps then Gorky was just on the pessimistic side of the argument. They weren’t ignoring their situations, they were enjoying the situation that was created with the price of admission.

Do you agree or disagree with Gorky’s heartbreaking description of the show animals’ rough treatment at Coney Island? Do you feel that he accurately describes a selfish human characteristic of seeing other living beings experience pain? Or can this be justified as a harmless practice of show business? (AR)

Gorky’s description of the animals’ rough treatment is something that is still talked about today. Animals in “show business” are often forced to live unnaturally or do things that would be unnatural for them for the amusement of people. In circuses, elephants are made to do handstands, to lift people with their trunks, to bow, even to balance on a ball. At amusement parks orcas, or killer whales, are trained to put on shows, such as “Shamu,” and wow the people who believe that these beasts, in the wild, could kill them. However, in the wild, there has never been a report of an orca attacking a person. That being said, there are hundreds of reports of orcas attacking people and dozens where they have killed people – all of these orcas are in captivity. Even in secluded farms and low-lit basements, dogs are being forced to fight one another to the death for men who wish to see blood. Show business, when it comes to animals, is hardly ever “harmless.” It is usually cruel and abhorrent. It is my belief that anyone who inhumanely harms an animal for the sake of profit is soulless indeed.

Is Gorky’s scathing description of Coney Island caused by an inherent clash of two cultures? In other words, is Gorky, who is from Russia, totally new to this emerging American form of pastime, which involves a high level of physical interaction among people and a superficial sense of extravagance?

I think that it is both a clash of cultures and just intense observation of not having been to a place before. Because Coney Island is unfamiliar to Gorky, much like everyone else, he will take in his surroundings and try to dissect and analyze everything around him. Also, because Gorky is coming from a dark Russia, he might have difficulty understanding why these people come to Coney Island to experience all these emotions and physical expressions when the “hell” he describes as Coney Island is his reality in Russia.

Do you agree or disagree with Gorky’s heartbreaking description of the show animals’ rough treatment at Coney Island? Do you feel that he accurately describes a selfish human characteristic of seeing other living beings experience pain? Or can this be justified as a harmless practice of show business?

I agree with Gorky’s heartbreaking description of the show animals’ rough treatment at Coney Island. These animals are being abused for the pleasure of and creation of a fantasy for human beings, which seem rather barbaric. The spectators’ reactions to the falling tiger, trembling lips and gnashing their teeth, reflects the devastating nature. Gorky’s description of not only the man in the cage with the tiger, but also the spectators does not emphasize the human desire of watching animals being tortures, but rather the human nature to fulfill curiosities and experience what can be unimaginable or extraordinary. The treatment of these animals can never be justifies as a “harmless practice” of show business unless the animals are not being harmed and rather their natural behavior is being observed, which is not the case. If people wanted to see them in their natural element, they would have visited a zoo. However, it is ironic that Gorky refers to all of these animals as beast justifying their use.

Does Gorky’s reaction to Coney Island still hold true today in the age of mass organized entertainment such as the MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL (Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League)?

Gorky’s disgusted reaction to Coney Island does not hold true today in the age of mass organized entertainment. These forms of entertainment reflect not only people having something to believe in or cheer for, developing a sense of honor for their cities, but also a fulfillment of dreams for those playing the sport. Even for someone coming from Russia like Gorky today, these forms of mass entertainment are what brings people together, because it is in our human nature to want to escape on a journey and to feel a part of something. Places like Coney Island are most likely not to be viewed the way Gorky described today because of all the other forms of entertainment such as Six Flags, circuses, swimming with dolphins or sharks, and casinos, etc. Thus, the thrill of Coney Island is miniscule compared to all these other forms of entertainment.

The text describes Coney Island at the turn of the last century. Do you agree with the author’s sentiments that Coney Island is just a lie people use to ignore the truth of their situations?

I disagree that by visiting Coney Island you can only escape the truth of your situation for so long. In the period that Coney Island developed there were many immigrant that were getting used to their way of living here in New York, however living conditions weren’t that bad. I think the main reason that Coney Island was so popular was because people were so focused on their daily lives, and work that they most likely failed to gain other experiences that Coney Island provided. Coney Island probably made some of their transitions just a bit easier by providing the escape, however I don’t see it as serving as “a big lie.”


Maxim Gorky - History

Written: 1932
Translator: Y. Ganuskin
Source: A. Lunacharsky: On Literature and Art Progress Publishers, 1965
Transcribed: Sally Ryan for marxists.org, January 2002.

FORTY years in the literary career of a great writer will always cover a large area on the ever-growing map of world culture. It is only at a distance that such a mountain range can be evaluated as a whole.

The results and full significance of Maxim Gorky's work as concerns our epoch and Russian and world culture as a whole, and his relative place on the great map of human achievement will only become clear at a future date. All the more so since the mountain range that is Gorky has not yet been completed, and we hope to see him grow most wonderfully and gigantically for many years to come.

And yet, forty years is a long time. When a person who has worked for forty years looks back from the vantage point to which life has brought him he sees a long and winding river whose source appears as remote as ancient history, while the ribbon itself acquires an integral significance which such a person wants to discover and establish for himself, and sometimes for others as well.

It was approximately after forty years that Goethe, for instance, felt the irresistible need to comprehend the meaning of his life and his work and tell others about it.

I do not know whether Gorky now has a desire to embark on a similar preliminary summing-up of everything he has experienced and accomplished. He is not devoid of an inclination to autobiography, and it is responsible for a number of books which are truly the pride of Russian literature.

Neither does Gorky lack a sense of retrospection, for what else is the great structure of Klim Samgin if not a very original panorama, a sum-total of his recollections in the course of several decades?

But we cannot wait until Gorky himself gets down to writing his Dichtung und Wahrheit.

The golden bell of the grand fortieth anniversary is ringing, reminding us literary critics of the great Marxist-Leninist school that we as yet do not have a major work which would at least present a series of clear, concise photographs from all the chief angles of the mountain range Gorky has erected in forty years.

Such a work must be written. It must be written soon. I do not know whether this should be done by an individual or by a group of authors. At any rate some preliminary work has been done.

I am far from the thought of presenting in this article, which finds the allotted space too restrictive, a sketch or outline of this likewise preliminary Marxist book on Gorky.

I am merely pointing here to the far horizon, where Gorky's might mountain range rises above the sea level, above the glades and the forests. I am merely pointing most sketchily to its vital foundation, to the elemental deposits from which it "grew".

I am merely drawing an outline for the reader to help him recognise the profile of the mountains lost high in the clouds.

Perhaps the great majority of outstanding literary phenomena and significant writers appear as a result of major social changes, of social catastrophes. Literary masterpieces mark these changes.

Lenin, in his magnificent works on Tolstoi, which no Marxist literary critic can afford to ignore, defines the basic elemental, social, unavoidable reason for Tolstoi's appearance, for the existence of Lev Tolstoi per se, for the scope of his talent, his triumph in Russia and throughout the world, for the immortality of his artistic achievement and the poverty of his philosophical and social ideas: this was the colossal catastrophe which shook Russia at the time. The old Russia of peasants and landowners was perishing under the pressure of the relentless onslaught of capital.

The Russian peasant was the hero and, unfortunately, the passive hero of this terrible bloody and tear-drenched drama.

There arose then a great cloud of tears, grief, moans, destitution, cries of despair and anger, passionate, heart-wrenching bewilderment, a searching for a way out a fiery question mark rose over the land as a terrible nightmare: where was one to find the truth?

While tormenting the peasants, this crisis dealt the landowners a terrible blow as well, sending them down to the bottom. All the old ways began to shake, as things do in an earthquake.

And a man came forth whose background, education, culture, sensitivity and gift for writing made him capable of transforming the peasants' grief and the peasants' bewilderment into works of art. This man was a landowner, and, therefore, there were many scenes of aristocratic life in his works, although the peasant spirit predominated and the peasants' suffering dominated the Count's every thought. This did not divert Lenin's keen insight to a superficial evaluation of Tolstoi as a writer of the nobility. No, Tolstoi's fiery revolutionary spirit, ready to sweep away thrones, altars and the nobility itself, was not of the nobility nor of the nobility was the essentially noxious and most harmful spirit of submission, patience and non-violence, which for centuries had been the faithful helpmate of every executioner in the heart of the peasant himself.

In like manner, Maxim Gorky signifies a tremendous step forward in the history of our country at a later date.

The bourgeoisie came to power, it asserted itself as the dominant class, though it still shared its power with the lions of the nobility. But these were new noblemen--the very same ones whose first representatives Tolstoi described with such loathing in Anna Karenina.

On the whole, the moneybag now ruled the country. However, it only fulfilled its rather relative cultural and economic role to a very small degree. It was carnivorous and grasping. Naturally, it created something, but it destroyed much more.

The historical experience of other countries and its own instincts indicated that the stylish European parliamentary dress which fitted the foreign big bourgeoisie so well was not made for it. And though well-fed Russian capitalism would from time to time mutter something unintelligible about a constitution, it relied above all on the gendarme and the priest.

Nevertheless, this capitalism, which oppressed the country both by its maturity and immaturity, was dangerously ill. It was grieved. It was tortured by terrible premonitions. It was full of fear and divarication. It had its connivers, its oppressors and pessimists, but all of them carried the stamp of doom on their faces. This giant in golden armour, but weak of heart, had not been born to a long and happy life.

The further growth of capital continued to oppress the villages mercilessly. But it was not their groans that filled the new and powerful artistic organ and the many organ pipes of the young Gorky.

His social standing made him more familiar with the stagnant, swampy, tortured society of the city petty bourgeoisie, gripped as it was by rigid routine and overflowing with strange characters.

They were Gorky's first subjects. He chose as his theme one of the city's strangest phenomena, the tramps, and then, in time, turned to the proletariat.

As we listen keenly to Gorky's music, from its very inception, we can but laugh as we reject the superficial and, I would say, silly little theories that Gorky was a writer of the lower middle classes.

Following in Lenin's giant footsteps, we can say that Gorky's indomitable, turbulent, rainbow-bright joy of life, which burst forth from his very first lines, was not of the lower middle classes. Nor is his merciless indignation at the ruling evil of the middle class nor is his firm belief in man, in his mighty culture, in his coming victory nor is his bold call for courage and his stormy petrel, heralding the coming revolution, of the middle class. None of this is of the lower middle classes--all is of the proletariat.

The social change which gave birth to Tolstoi, and which can be defined as the destruction of old Russia by the swift advance of capitalist industry, was a change that was one-sided and irreparable.

Tolstoi made his ideological escape from his class, which was doomed by history, to the peasantry. But there was no way out for, the peasantry, either. It was only much later that a way out would be found for the impoverished peasantry, and only the victorious proletariat would be capable of showing this way to it.

One can rightly say that the proletariat, as such, did not exist for Tolstoi. The revolutionary democrats, representatives of the progressive peasantry, and their great leader Chernyshevsky, appeared in a distant haze as dim but most unpleasant silhouettes. He considered them to be children of the same Satanic city, madmen who wanted, by using violence to quench violence, to further increase the hellish confusion of the advancing pseudo-civilisation and who strove in vain to tempt the simple folk by their crude promises of plunder, distribution and the false carnal sense of well-being.

The change of which Maxim Gorky was born was, on the contrary, of a dual nature and provided a way out.

Though the full, leaden weight of capital had descended upon the country, this great mass, as we stated previously, had already begun to crack, an indication of its impending doom. Even in literature the triumph of capitalism was reflected not so much in triumphant songs as in a groaning and creaking, while such portrayers of life in a capitalist society as the seemingly capable and observant Boborykin began their descriptions of capitalist life with its inherent defects, crashes and inner doubts.

Is it not strange that in all of Russian literature it is difficult to find a writer at all famous who might be called the bard of capitalism? I believe that Pereverzev's attempts to delegate this place to Goncharov are most unsuccessful.

Capitalism, on the other hand, had its own proletarian lining on which history was later to base all of society.

True, that which the chief literary giant of the epoch, Maxim Gorky, found most obvious was yet another side of capitalism. As we have already noted, the discordant, wretched howling of the suffering lower middle classes, over whose bones the capitalist chariot was rolling just as it was rolling over the bones of the peasantry, was the first wild, spontaneous dissonance of which the mighty chords of Gorky's rage were born.

Yes, Gorky came to literature dressed in peasant boots and a peasant shirt, tuberculous, yet mighty, having drunk deeply of the cup of grief, yet yearning for happiness he came to the sunny offices of the magazines which were salon editions compared to his native cellar, to tell the full and terrible truth about the "moles" and their blind, filthy, horrible life. This was Gorky's great mission, this was his great speech of indictment. This determined his biting, sarcastic, merciless realism.

Gorky condemned Luka (Lower Depths) as a man who consoles the suffering by hastily stuffing their mouths with a narcotic pacifier of lies. Gorky did not want to lie to the poor, whom he considered to be his brothers, as "Chizh who lied". In his absolute honesty Gorky rejected the false solace, "the exalting deceit" which at times seemed to be on the tip of his pen. This honesty, this courage was the quite subconscious reflection in his early writings of the approach of a new type of music: the march of the advancing proletarian battalions.

Who knows but that, if spring and revolution were not in the air as a result of the increasing numbers and growing social consciousness of the workers, Gorky would not have fallen a victim to the blackest pessimism? We know that he was dissatisfied with the frayed idealism of the Narodniks. And does not his pen-name, Gorky, [Bitter in Russian-Tr.] seem a threat to pessimistic moralising?

One thing certainly could never have happened to Gorky. No matter how much soot from the iconlamps and the various strange religious fantasies had accumulated in the middle-class cellars where he had spent a part of his life, he had quickly developed an immunity against "God" in all shapes and forms.

It is much easier to imagine Gorky as the prophet of dark despair, cursing an ill-starred humanity, than as a saint a la Tolstoi, with a saintly halo above his shaggy head and his hand raised in blessing.

However, Gorky, who spoke to the Russian reader in his deep, muffled voice of the terrible life of the poor, and whose stories were at times unbearable in their intensity, did not strike the reader as being bitter.

Because Gorky's pockets were full of golden, carmine and azure pictures and fairy tales that were full of a rather naive romanticism, but heroism as well. And even in the magnificent and realistic Chelkash, which brought the author great fame, this gold, carmine and pure blue of man's true dignity, of the clear clarion protest of magnificent heroic spirit, illuminate Chelkash's shaggy head, his bronzed chest and rags.

Gorky soon threw off his fairy-tale plumage, but the heroic protest was becoming ever more a part of the truth of life, and thus Gorky's chords, Gorky's harmony and Gorky's symphony were created.

Lev Tolstoi could not draw upon a heroic protest, a call to a struggle enlightened by hope from the lords and ladies of his circle, nor from the peasants of the village of Yasnaya Polyana.

And no one anywhere in the terrible blackness that was Russia, none of its artists could draw upon it. The intellectual novels of the 1860s, grouped around the great What Is To Be Done? , appear as a faint promise of the future, but more as monuments of a premonition than true calls to action.

The author of nearly thirty volumes under the general heading of The Collected Works of Maxim Gorky is none other than our dear, good friend Alexei Maximovich Peshkov.

But not even in his own heart could he find the fiery ink with which he wrote so many of these pages. He dipped his pen in the fountain of life which had its source in the incoming tide of the revolution.

That is why we see behind the great, vital and dearly beloved figure of Alexei Peshkov a co-author, the monumental figure of the proletariat, whose mighty hand rests gently on the shoulder of the man who became its spokesman.

Tolstoi undoubtedly loved Nature. And very much so, indeed. Much more than the average man, for did he not understand so perfectly the psychology of animals? He loved Nature with every fibre of his soul, with every sense, with every pore. Tolstoi was an inveterate hiker, a horseman until he was eighty, for many years a dedicated hunter, a man who lived mostly in the country he was, to a very great extent, a man of Nature.

Only such a man could have created a type such as Yeroshka. And can one ever forget the great little old man at the seashore whom Gorky portrayed? One must add a hatred of the city. There is so much of this scornful hatred in the famous beginning of one of Tolstoi's novels which describes the way people choked down the living earth beneath their cobblestones and how it stubbornly sent up green shoots through the stones.

Nevertheless, Tolstoi the writer, Tolstoi the ideologist does not like Nature: he is not only indifferent to it in his own way, but he is afraid of it, he practically hates it.

He is prepared, if the worst comes to the worst, to accept Mother Earth, since it can be ploughed and the ripe ears can then be reaped for man's meagre daily bread, but that is all. For what is Nature? This brightness of day and charm of night? These flowers, sparkling in every hue, their aroma intoxicating? This play of elemental forces which calls upon one to live, to fight, to seek pleasure, to multiply, as the animal world lives, finds pleasure, fights and multiplies, but more wisely, i.e., more forcefully and consciously? What is Nature then? It is temptation! It is a mirage! It is difficult to believe that God could have created this. God has for unknown reasons sown our souls as a myriad of sparks into the luxuriant and evil world and has set these souls a task: not to be tempted, to live a pure life and return to Him, the source of the spiritual fire, cleansed of the filth of contact with Nature.

This is less the peasant than the Asiatic attitude towards Nature, imposed upon the peasantry from Asia, and one which Tolstoi, despite his flaming sensuality and his sensitive genius, tried to adopt and called upon others to adopt.

That is why Tolstoi is so sparing in his descriptions of Nature. If you do come upon a few landscapes in his works, they seem to have been done at random and rather grudgingly.

The few exceptions merely prove the rule.

Now recall Gorky's descriptions of Nature!

Though it weeps and rages and inflicts pain upon man, this is not the impression one carries away. What remains is an elemental grandeur, a great, and, I believe, despite Turgenev, incomparable variety of landscapes unequalled in Russian literature.

Gorky is truly a great landscape painter and, more important, a passionate landscape lover. He finds it difficult to approach a person, to begin a story of a chapter of a novel without first glancing at the sky to see what the sun, the moon, the stars and the ineffable palette of the heavens with the everchanging magic of the clouds are doing.

In Gorky we find so much of the sea, the mountains, forests and steppes, so many little words he invents to describe it! He works at it as an objective artist: now as Monet, breaking down its colours for you with his amazing analytical eye and what is probably the most extensive vocabulary in our literature, now, on the contrary, as a syntheticist who produces a general outline and with one hammered phrase can describe an entire panorama. But he is not merely an artist. His approach to Nature is that of a poet. What if we do not actually believe that a sunset can be sad, that a forest can whisper pensively, that the sea can laugh! Indeed, they can do all this it is only when man will become a dry old stick (and he will never become one) that he will stop seeing in the forces of Nature a magnificently delicate and enlarged version of his own emotions.

In order to create Nature's majestic and beautiful orchestrations for his human dramas, Gorky uses most skilfully the frailest similarities and contrasts between human emotions and Nature, which at times are barely discernible.

Those who will doubt the truth of this and think that I am too lavish in my praise of Gorky, the artist and poet of Nature, should pick up any volume of The Life of Klim Samgin and reread the pages which create a background of Nature for the human drama.

But why does Gorky devote so much space to Nature? And does this prove that he is a proletarian writer? How much of Nature does a worker see? Do not the brick factory walls conceal it? Has it not been exiled from the workers' barracks, from the workers' settlement?

Gorky, the proletarian writer, loves Nature for the very reason the old peasant writer Tolstoi does not and is afraid to like it.

We have already said that Nature calls upon man to live, struggle, enjoy life and multiply, but more wisely, i.e., more forcefully and consciously than the animal world.

According to Tolstoi and Christianity, this is temptation, it is Satan's trap. And both the feudal landowning and capitalist systems of the world have proven that, indeed, this principle of life and struggle, no matter what creative force it develops, what sciences it calls to its aid, what arts it adorns itself with, can lead only to sin and filth, to moral death of some as the oppressors and others as their victims.

But it is at this point that the proletariat disagrees with history, it is at this point that it wants to change the course of humanity.

The proletariat says: Yes, Mother Nature, our great, wonderful, merciless and blind Mother, you are right your world and your way of life is good. They will become a supreme good, surpassing all our hopes in the hands of a wise, united mankind, in the hands of the universal commune which we shall achieve, which we shall build, sparing no effort at all. And we know how to win it, how to build it. And then, what a true paradise you will be, Nature, for the new and wonderful man the future will produce. That is why we love you, Nature.

"And that is why I love it," says Gorky.

The very same difference exists in Gorky's and Tolstoi's attitudes towards man. Certainly, Tolstoi loves his fellow man. This love for his fellow man may be considered the chief commandment of his teaching. But this is a strained sort of love. According to it, one must not love man as a whole, but only "God's spark" that lies hidden within him. And one must love only this "spark" within oneself as well, only one's own power to believe and to love. In this respect Tolstoi is a true proponent of the teachings of some Asiatic gnostic, philotheistic, etc., theories.

Tolstoi's man is made of two men: one born of God, the other of Satan. He who perhaps is often endowed with a beautiful body immortalised by sculpture, he whose breast harbours the gentlest emotions and fiery passions, which find expression in music he whose head contains that most amazing apparatus, a brain, which has created such miracles of science he who wants happiness for himself and for others, implying by happiness the fulfilment of the ever-growing demands of the rich human body and the human collective--that man is born of Satan, Tolstoi does not love him, he is afraid of him he has cast him aside, because he sees him as the victim of a terrible social system and, at the same time, as the one responsible for this system because in the future he sees no happiness for this man, but only an increase in the greedy oppression of capitalism, the state and the Church, and the useless bloody revolutions.

That is why Tolstoi's love went to the other man: the quiet, meek little angel, the passionless, incorporeal and kind one with ever-tearful eyes, everthankful to dear God.

While still living on earth this man, this Abel, can cast off all of Cain's magnificence, all of culture, and divide the land up into tiny gardens, he can grow cabbages there, eat them, fertilise his garden and plant some more cabbage, and thus, sustaining himself self-sufficiently and ever so sweetly, he will have no need for his neighbour, except for soulsaving talks or mutual prayer. Gradually, according to Tolstoi, marriages will cease between these little fools (that is how he fondly though seriously calls them, viz., the tale of their kingdom) the human race will blissfully die out, having fulfilled its mission and, washed clean of all the passions of terrible matter, it will return to the source of the spirit.

Such a love for man is more terrifying than any hatred and we Communists consider Tolstoi's teachings to be but another variety of the old Asiatic poison which crippled man's will.

Goethe confessed that he hated the sign of the Cross. Many of the best representatives of the young bourgeoisie shared this view. With even greater vehemence we hate and reject Christianity and all the teachings which paved the way for it, and any of its distillations which the decadents of all colours are busy with to this day.

Gorky, on the other hand, loves man in his entirety. It is Gorky speaking when Satin says: "How proud the word rings--MAN!"

Gorky knows that people can be mean and foul and these are the people he hates. But he knows that these are ignoramuses, that these are freaks, that these are mere scabs on the beautiful tree of human life.

Moreover, he knows that there are still very few really great men, pure of heart, courageous and wise, that there are practically no perfectly wonderful people.

But this does not keep him from loving his fellow man with a feeling that is true love and to have real faith in him, a faith born of knowledge.

And now we come to the question of Tolstoi's and Gorky's attitudes towards progress.

Here the two writers have much in common. Tolstoi came through his sufferings to despise patriotism, royalty, the nobility, the feudal past and all its remnants.

Gorky can be said to have been born with this burning disgust.

Tolstoi came to hate capital with a truly great hatred and would not be bribed by the glitter of European culture, but, after visiting Europe, he returned full of rage, having seen quite clearly all the black lies that lay beneath the surface of life with its marble and tapestry drapes.

Gorky, too, became a sworn enemy of capital from his earliest youth. And neither was he fooled by America's Yellow Devil , and he spat gall and blood into the face of the bourgeois la belle France.

Tolstoi saw every manifestation of cowardice, gross drunkenness, petty chicanery, the spider-like cruelty of the petty townsfolk--and of the peasantry to a very great extent as well.

And Gorky, too, driven by horrified curiosity, likes to dig up the Okurov dens and bring their filth to light.

Nevertheless, Tolstoi drew the line here: having washed all that he considered to be a superfluous accumulation from the visage of the old peasantry, he restored the saintliness of the forefathers, the saintly Akims, with their eloquent ineloquence, the fairy-tale-like patriarchs who would give to poor mankind "grain as large as hen's eggs".

Tolstoi built his mystical cabbage heaven for mankind on the myth of the saintly peasantry, on the myth that hidden in each muzhik was a saint that could not wait to pop out of him.

Gorky, too, nearly drew the line at the little man, but he searched among them for large and proud specimens, for the nuggets in the gold ore. He felt they were to be found where life's waters washed ashore all that seemed most unsuitable to it, there on the bottom, among the outcasts, among the wolfmen, the unruly protestants, individuals who were not shackled by property and morals, giants of antisocial behaviour, instinctive anarchists.

But Gorky did not stop for long at this extremely anti-Tolstoian stage of development.

There followed Gorky's natural merger with the proletariat and its vanguard, the Bolsheviks.

This great event was marked in literature by many magnificent works, among which Enemies, Mother and The Life of Klim Samgin are most notable.

Herein, naturally, lay the reason for the great difference in Tolstoi's and Gorky's attitudes towards mankind's cultural treasures.

There is undoubtedly much truth in Tolstoi's invective against bourgeois science and bourgeois art, but he has cast out the child with the bath water. And the child, no matter how badly brought up by the ruling classes, is nevertheless hardy and viable.

If people of the old tenor of life, whom Tolstoi joined, regard science and art suspiciously and have no use for technical progress, the proletariat, on the other hand, accepts them enthusiastically and takes them for its own. It knows that only under socialism can science develop and culture flourish.

Gorky knows this, too. I believe there are very few people on earth who are so inspired by the achievements of science and art and who await new miracles with such anticipation.

The proletarian writer rises to his full height in Gorky the publicist.

We will not analyse this aspect of Gorky here. It is a significant part of the writer's work, an integral part of his forty years of writing.

It rises as a watchtower and bastion against the background of his mountain range.

Even writing from Western Europe, Gorky the publicist has taken it chiefly upon himself to ward off the treacherous blows against the communist cause, inflicted by fear and hatred.

Gorky often disregards a public or even official blow, or snap of one of his many poison-pen correspondents they circle like a cloud of gnats above his head.

His replies usually deal a moral mortal blow to the inquirer.

On the whole the greater part of Gorky's journalism can be collected and issued as an impressive and forceful well-argumented volume entitled On Guard of the U.S.S.R.

However, there is more than "gnats" buzzing about Gorky's head.

Thousands upon thousands of news items reach the writer's sensitive ears. He keenly absorbs books, magazines and newspapers, he listens to people and has at his disposal an amazing store of knowledge about what is going on in the Soviet Union and in the hostile world that surrounds it.

There is not much he can do for the rest of the world, though he cannot lose sight of it for a moment. However, the news that reaches him from the Soviet Union is not stored away in the vast chambers of Gorky's erudition. It must all serve the cause.

Here Gorky can lend a helping hand.

His aid is undoubtedly valuable as a collector of the achievements of our vast building programme, for instance the magazine Nashi dostizhenia (Our Achievements).

But this is not his true calling.

What we need are major literary works. What we actually need is great literature. We do not have it.

It would be a great undertaking to win over the old writers, among whom there are many talented men and skilled craftsmen, to throw bridges over to them and help them overcome the various inner barriers which prevent them from understanding and accepting our great times. And Gorky can undoubtedly play a tremendous role in this respect.

But our power does not lie in this.

Our power is not to be found in the yesterday, but in the future. Our basic strength lies in the young growth. Without for a moment forgetting our daily tasks and our own work, we must give very much of our attention to our wonderful youth.

The Party delves deep into it to find its cadres.

It is just as understandable that we must delve into it to find our artistic cadres and our writers as well. It is quite understandable that this is a vital detachment of our Soviet creative army.

Ever since the now deceased Valery Bryusov noted so correctly that an artist of the written word, just as any other artist, must possess beside his talent both skill and a cultural background, something is constantly being done to promote such study. But what is being done is done timidly, lacking generosity and vitality.

There are many amateur literary circles, but things are apparently moving too slowly there.

And especially disappointing was the insufficient attention the young leaders of proletarian literature paid to Lenin's great behests on learning from the vast culture of the past.

The dialectics here are very refined: since one must study critically, it means one must study and criticise! If you begin to study without a critical approach or with an insufficiently critical approach, you will find yourself among the epigoni. If you begin to criticise without sufficient learning to back you up, you will not become a one hundred per cent proletarian Wunderkind, but Saltykov-Shchedrin's "Neuvazhai Koryto". Pdany were the times that, in my capacity as editor of encyclopaedias, magazines and collected works, I came upon such dim-witted criticism. And when you attempt to arouse in such a young, and at times very sincere and sympathetic "critic", a feeling of respect for some great writer of the past, he will drop a rather heavy hint about the mistakes of some "venerable old" Bolsheviks.

It is time to put an end to such things.

We must be able to understand, finally, how we must learn the old skill, how we must analyse the old cultural treasures with true understanding and respect, which in no way precludes but merely presupposes criticism.

In no way is this limited to the literary and other artistic models of the past this has bearing on the great philosophy of the past, this is especially relevant to science. A young writer should not shun anything, he should strive to achieve the greatest amount of learning, he should not be limited by ignorance when he undertakes to portray life in a new way for hundreds and thousands of readers.

In a recent letter to Romain Rolland Gorky referred to the young writers by saying, "What they lack is culture."

The reader of this article might say, "The author's last statement is probably right, but it has no direct bearing on the subject."

In the first place, all that I have written of the necessity of our young writers to acquire a cultural background are things I have read in Gorky's works or heard Gorky say.

Secondly, we can expect real help from Gorky as an organiser in this respect. He can not only convince our young people of the necessity of acquiring a cultural background. They already agree to this and indeed wish to acquire such a background, but do not quite know how to go about it.

No single man, however, is equal to the task.

Even Gorky cannot do it alone. But he can head a group of people who are well suited for the job, who will be entrusted with developing a plan for the tremendous cultural advance of the young writers towards that great socialist literature we all strive for.

We hope Gorky will give us the promised volumes of Klim Samgin and other brilliant works of fiction.

We hope he will raise high his sword and shield as a publicist many times over, defending our cause.

Such are our wishes on the fortieth anniversary of the great writer's literary career.


Watch the video: The Childhood of Maxim Gorky 1938 movie


Comments:

  1. Tygoshakar

    I don't know that to say too

  2. Zebulon

    Sorry to interrupt ... I am here recently. But this topic is very close to me. Write to PM.

  3. Tojagrel

    Clearly, thanks for the explanation.

  4. Dao

    Now everything became clear to me, thank you for the information you need.



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