Superb new translations of Gorky’s classic memoirs of Tolstoy and other remarkable Russians, along with unforgettable characterizations of Gorky himself by his contemporaries
Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) enjoyed worldwide fame of a kind unmatched by that of any other writer in the first half of the twentieth century. Prodigiously gifted and prolific, riddled with contradictions, praised increasingly for political rather than literary reasons, he left a vast body of writing that contains acknowledged masterpieces alongside many currently neglected works that still await impartial assessment.
Taken together, the pieces in this book (many of them based on fuller texts than those of previously published translations) present a surprising and unfamiliar Gorky—a figure who, once the clichés are stripped away from him, becomes ever more fascinating and enigmatic as man, as writer, and as historical figure. Among the volume’s selections are portraits of Gorky by four particularly astute observers: poet Vladislav Khodasevich, critics Boris Eikhenbaum and Georgy Adamovich, and novelist Evgeny Zamiatin.
Fanger’s generous annotations and brilliant introduction will make this book indispensable to every reader with an interest in Tolstoy, Gorky, modern Russian literature and politics, or the art of the memoir.
Donald Fanger is Harry Levin Professor of Literature Emeritus, Harvard University. His previous books include Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism and The Creation of Nikolai Gogol. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Fanger’s Introduction is splendid, judicious, stimulating, and elegantly written. He explores and illuminates the many dark corners in the troubling and even tragic life of the extraordinary Gorky, so acute an observer, yet often so blind.”—Hugh McLean, University of California at Berkeley
“Was Gorky a dissident, a witness, a martyr, a collaborator, simply a survivor? His biography and reputation were badly in need of a new synoptic look, and Donald Fanger has crafted a fascinating multi-dimensional portrait of him, both as subject and object.”—Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
"This book is a treasure chest of brilliantly told and revealing anecdotes. Donald Fanger’s English translation is so wonderfully readable that it is hard to believe these pieces could be any more effective in the original Russian."—David Lodge, novelist, critic and Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, England
"This book is a treasure chest of brilliantly told and revealing anecdotes, about not only major writers like Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Gorky himself, but also fascinating lesser-known Russian writers, and a host of unforgettable characters—idealistic, desperate, grotesque, mad—from all levels of Russian life, whom Gorky recalled with extraordinary vividness and stylistic precision. It is an album of verbal snapshots which give the non-specialist reader like myself a real sense of what Russian society—not just literary life—was like during one of the most volatile periods of its history. Donald Fanger’s English translation is so wonderfully readable that it is hard to believe these pieces could be any more effective in the original Russian."—David Lodge, novelist, critic and Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, England
"[Gorky's] memoir of Tolstoy . . . which Fanger translates for the first time in its entirety, is torn-edged, surprisingly vicious, unpredictable, and empathic to the point of being almost an X-ray of a spirit."—Alexander Nemser, New Republic
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