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Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky Maxim Gorky[1†]

Maxim Gorky, whose real name was Alexei Maximovich Peshkov[1†][2†], was born on March 28, 1868[1†][2†]. He was a renowned Russian and Soviet writer, a socialist political thinker, and a proponent[1†]. Gorky’s work spanned across various genres including novels, novellas, short stories, plays, travelogies, autobiographies, poetry, opinion journalism, diaries, and correspondences[1†]. He was an active participant in the emerging Marxist communist movement and later the Bolshevik[1†].

Early Years and Education

Maxim Gorky, born as Alexei Maximovich Peshkov[2†][1†], spent his earliest years in Astrakhan, where his father, a former upholsterer, became a shipping agent[2†]. When Gorky was five, his father died, and he returned to Nizhny Novgorod to live with his maternal grandparents, who raised him after his mother remarried[2†]. His grandfather, a dyer whose business was deteriorating, treated Gorky harshly[2†]. From his grandmother, he received most of the little kindness he experienced as a child[2†].

Gorky’s grandfather afforded him only a few months of formal schooling, sending him out into the world to earn his living at the age of eight[2†][3†]. He worked in a variety of jobs, including as an assistant in a shoemaker’s shop, an errand boy for an icon painter, and a dishwasher on a Volga steamer[2†]. The cook on the steamer introduced him to reading, which soon became his main passion in life[2†]. These early experiences, frequently beaten by his employers and nearly always hungry and ill-clothed, led him to choose the word gorky (“bitter”) as his pseudonym[2†].

His late adolescence and early manhood were spent in Kazan, where he worked as a baker, docker, and night watchman[2†]. There he first learned about Russian revolutionary ideas from representatives of the Populist movement[2†]. Despite the hardships, Gorky was a prodigiously gifted autodidact who quit school at 10[2†][3†]. He spent his formative years in an astonishing variety of jobs before becoming a writer[2†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Maxim Gorky’s career is a testament to his resilience and talent. Despite his challenging early life, he managed to rise above his circumstances and become one of the most influential writers of his time[1†][2†].

Gorky began his literary career in the 1890s, writing short stories that drew heavily from his experiences with poverty and hardship[1†]. His early works, such as “Chelkash”, “Old Izergil”, and “Twenty-six Men and a Girl”, were marked by a naturalistic style and a focus on social outcasts[1†]. These stories brought him recognition and established him as a significant figure in Russian literature[1†].

In the early 1900s, Gorky turned to drama, producing plays like “The Philistines” (1901), “The Lower Depths” (1902), and “Children of the Sun” (1905)[1†]. His plays, known for their social realism, were critical of the societal inequalities in Russia[1†].

Gorky’s novel “Mother” (1906) is perhaps his most famous work[1†]. The novel, which depicts the life of a revolutionary woman, is considered a classic of socialist realism[1†]. However, Gorky himself thought of “Mother” as one of his biggest failures[1†].

After the Russian Revolution, Gorky’s works took on a different tone[1†]. His post-revolutionary novels, such as “The Artamonov Business” (1925) and “The Life of Klim Samgin” (1925–1936), are considered by some critics as modernist works[1†]. These works differ from his earlier writings, with an ambivalent portrayal of the Russian Revolution and a greater interest in human psychology[1†].

Gorky was not just a writer but also a political activist. He was active in the emerging Marxist communist movement and later the Bolshevik[1†]. He publicly opposed the Tsarist regime and for a time closely associated himself with Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov’s Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party[1†].

Despite facing exile from Russia and later the Soviet Union, Gorky continued to write and remained politically active[1†][4†]. He was nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, a testament to his significant contributions to literature[1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Maxim Gorky’s literary career began with his early short stories, written in the 1890s[1†]. These stories, including “Chelkash”, “Old Izergil”, and “Twenty-six Men and a Girl”, were marked by their naturalistic and sympathetic portrayal of tramps and social outcasts[1†][2†].

In the early 1900s, Gorky turned his attention to drama. His plays, such as “The Philistines” (1901), “The Lower Depths” (1902), and “Children of the Sun” (1905), are considered some of his most significant works[1†]. “The Lower Depths”, in particular, is renowned for its stark and realistic portrayal of society’s underclass[1†][2†].

Gorky also made significant contributions to poetry. His poem, “The Song of the Stormy Petrel” (1901), is one of his most famous works in this genre[1†].

In 1906, Gorky published his novel “Mother”, which is considered one of his most important works[1†]. The novel, which portrays the life of a revolutionary woman, was not well-received by Gorky himself, who considered it one of his biggest failures[1†].

Gorky’s autobiographical trilogy, “My Childhood”, “In the World”, and “My Universities” (1913–1923), provides a detailed account of his early life and experiences[1†][5†]. These works are considered significant for their insight into Gorky’s life and the socio-political climate of Russia during his time[1†][5†].

In the post-revolutionary period, Gorky wrote “The Artamonov Business” (1925) and “The Life of Klim Samgin” (1925–1936). The latter is considered by some as Gorky’s masterpiece and has been viewed by some critics as a modernist work[1†].

Here is a list of some of Gorky’s main works along with their first year of publication:

Personal Life

Maxim Gorky, born as Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, was known to be reticent about his personal life[3†]. He professed to dislike his personal life except as raw material for his writing[3†]. Despite the lack of detailed personal anecdotes, it is known that he spent a significant part of his life in exile from Russia and later the Soviet Union[3†][6†].

In 1932, he returned to the USSR on Joseph Stalin’s personal invitation and lived there until his death in June 1936[3†][6†]. His return marked him as the officially declared founder of Socialist Realism[3†][6†]. However, his life ended abruptly while under medical treatment, and it is speculated that he might have been killed on the orders of Joseph Stalin[3†][7†].

Despite the hardships and controversies that marked his personal life, Gorky’s influence on Russian literature and socialist political thought remains undeniable[3†][1†][2†][7†][6†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Maxim Gorky [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Maxim Gorky: Russian writer [website] - link
  3. Harvard Magazine - Maxim Gorky [website] - link
  4. Goodreads - Author: Maxim Gorky (Author of Mother) [website] - link
  5. Wikipedia (English) - Autobiographies of Maxim Gorky [website] - link
  6. Wikiwand - Maxim Gorky - Wikiwand [website] - link
  7. Britannica - Maxim Gorky summary [website] - link
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