Biography of Máximo Gorki (1868-1936)

Poet, Narrator and Russian playwright, born in Nizhni Nóvgorod (four hundred kilometers east of Moscow, at the confluence between the Oka and Volga rivers) on March 28, 1868, and died in his hometown on June 18, 1936. Although his real name was Alexéi Maxímovich Pechkov, he/she is universally known by her literary pseudonym of Maxim Gorky. Author of an extensive and brilliant literary production that rejects any attempt to work to deepen with realism - not without a certain romantic and sentimental - touch in the miseries of daily life, availed themselves of populism to denounce the excesses of the Tsarist capitalism and embraced with enthusiasm the revolutionary socialism, to become one of the great Patriarchs of the Russian letters during the first measures of the Soviet regime. Shortly before his death, was officially recognized in the Soviet Union as the greatest exponent of the new proletarian literature, and his work was designated as the main reference of the Soviet aesthetic (socialist realism).

Since the publication of the story Chelkas (1895) in the prestigious journal Russkoe bogatstvo (Russian wealth), Gorky became a professional writer who served their narrations to reflect their social and political concerns. The publication of vagrants (1898), two volumes of his best short stories compilation, earned him some celebrity in the literary world. A year later handed over to print his novel Formá Gordéiev, and two years later the three and the poem the song of the Petrel, an allegory of the proximity of the revolution that led to his arrest by the Czarist authorities.

In 1901, opened his first dramatic work, the small bourgeois, starring a union leader who fears losing economic status that has reached in its condition of bourgeois accommodated. In 1906 he/she had to leave his country because of his opposition to the Tsarist regime and travelled through Germany, France and United States, until finally settling on the island of Capri (Italy). During this time he/she published mother (1907), the story of an elderly woman who, influenced by their child's participation in the political riots, it ends up becoming the "mother" of all revolutionaries.

In 1913 he/she returned to Russia and he/she took an active part in the struggles which took place there, but again left his country horrified by the consequences of a Russia divided as a result of the revolution. After finally settling in Moscow in May 1931, he/she assumed the leadership of the magazine our successes and carried out an intense campaign of literacy and education of the workers and peasants. In 1935 he/she published his last novel, the life of Klim Sangin, where attempted to meet artistic and political ambitions.

Life and work

Born in a humble family, constantly threatened by poverty - his father was a modest upholsterer who lost his life as the small Alexei just had five years of age, the mayor spent part of his childhood and youth next to his grandparents, a Dyer also exercised as tug in the Volga to reduced incomes, and a cheerful and vigorous woman who infected him his vitality and his generous love life and to all those who surrounded him. Key figure in forging his character during that decisive infantile stage, to the example provided by this admirable woman attributed, years later, Russian author his own psychic strength and its ability to deal with any adversity, hard that seems without fear.

From the seven years of age (1873), the small Alexei was forced to perform menial labor tasks that were essential for the sustenance of the weak domestic economy. Lacking resources to attend the school, he/she entered pinche a Volga steamer and there, thanks to the tenacity of a cook something legal, learned to read and write. At age nine he/she was as an apprentice in a shoe store, and shortly afterwards, decided to release his grandparents of the burden to its maintenance, began to make a living on their own with the performance of the various trades. Thanks to the great industrial and commercial infrastructure implanted on the banks of the Volga, it was not difficult to exercise certain professions as pilgrims - on the formation of a future man of letters-as Assistant painter, Baker helper, waiter in a boat, seller of drinks and employed by the railways. This eventful and hectic work, deployed without truce or rest throughout his adolescence and youth, also powerfully influenced the route that would follow in adulthood: the experiences accumulated in the banks of the River, between Longshoremen, merchants, travelers and vagabonds, provided you abundant thematic material for his future literary works, while putting you in contact with clandestine political circles in which the working class began to conspire against abusive capitalism autocrat of the tsars.

Dragged, in effect, by revolutionary enthusiasm, soon became one of the young leaders of the proletarian movement in his region, situation that was on the verge of ending its existence when it had still failed the twenty years. It happened that, after having convinced colleagues to fight from underground against tsarism, a series of revolutionary student mobilizations - that took occurred in all Russia an active part a very young Lenin (1870-1924) - which were seen with bad eyes by workers from the banks of the Volga, who considered the students as a privileged misses playing to make the revolution. To the despair of Gorki, their own coworkers wanted to assaulting the student mass, which plunged the future writer in a State of despondency and despair of which only found out through the tragic suicide. It was, at the time, the year of 1887, date in which the young Alexei Maximovich Pechkov, desolate seeming impossible to combine the wills of the oppressed to confront the absolute power of the tsars, fired a shot in the heart; but erred in his attempt to end his life and the bullet lodged in a lung, in result of which was left by chronic sequel a severe tuberculous condition that had to carry for the rest of his days.

Nursing in nursing, he/she traveled incessantly for those years, often on foot, in the company of Gypsies, peddlers, vagabonds and other marginal subjects that would soon play a relevant role in his first literary pieces. He/She toured Ukraine and Bessarabia until you reach the Danube, and thence, after skirting the Black Sea, across Crimea and reached the foothills of the Caucasus. Next to fishermen, sailors, railway workers and other workers of low social extraction, he/she was outlining his Marxist beliefs, and during a prolonged stay in Kazan - where he/she had gone in the hope of receiving a free education that ultimately had no access - actively took part in the clandestine political meetings that were organized in the bakery where he/she had found work, assemblies in which they exchanged Marxist propagandadiscussed the news published by the official press and destabilizing demonstrations convened.

Read, then, with relish some of the works had recommended his improvised tutor - the selfless Cook who taught him the first letters-including books of Gogol (1809-1852), one of his favorite authors; and fruit of these readings, began crafting his first stories, which enabled him to be known as a writer at the age of twenty-six, when, on September 12, 1894, he/she published in Tbilisi (capital of Georgia) a story entitled Makar Chudra, printed in the pages of the local Rotary Kavkas (Caucasus). The pseudonym chosen to present this directorial debut (Maxim Gorky) should already accompany you until the end of his life.

After a month of this literary debut, was detained by the police under the charge of having promoted unrest. In the police files open at the time of this arrest is evidence of its shameless and insolent behavior to the forces of order, attitude that always who, was characterized with the love and compassion that showed toward her class, didn't disguise his roughness and aggressiveness to his enemies. Once released, he/she returned to Nizhniy Nóvgorod and found a job as an intern for a lawyer, occupation that allowed him to continue to cultivate literary creation. He/She met - in his own words, "by a happy chance" - the great writer Vladimir Korolenko (1853-1921), who became his main literary Adviser and gave him the opportunity to publish their writings; and so, in the middle of the last decade of the 19th century gave to press a new story, Chelkas (1895), published thanks to the recommendation of the aforementioned mentor in the prestigious journal Russkoe bogatstvo (Russian wealth), came to fully confirm their worth as Narrator, allowing him to start a fruitful collaboration in the local press as a author of fictional stories. Be paid depending on the number of written lines, so it can be said that he/she narrated piece, willing to live solely on the profits from his pen; this pressing need to fill pages blank - so counterproductive in so many authors inexperienced - became a splendid spur for a writer of the expressive vigour and fertile inspiration of Gorki, who took advantage of the space provided to their narratives into literary material the object of social concerns and policies (the capitalist exploitation, accidents at work, the corruption of the civil service(, etc.).

The success of critics and readers of these stories (which include, for its literary quality, the entitled the song of the Hawk, who was born in a Rotary of Petersburgo) provided to Gorki a well-deserved literary prestige which is served to the printing press a valuable collection of his best short stories, published in two volumes under the title of the vagabonds (1898). Starring marginal heroes defying conventions from profiles anchored in the romantic rebellion, these first-time stories developed the author of Nizhni Nóvgorod in one the great revelations of the letters of the Russian at the end of the 19th century, at the time putting its emphasis manifest in denouncing social injustice and oppression suffered by the underprivileged. It was not casual, in the course of that same year, Gorki is one of the first writers who joined the newly created POSDR (party worker Social Democrat Russian), founded in Minsk in March 1898, which would soon secede a majority fraction known as the Bolsheviks.

Also in 1898 appeared the first extensive narration of Gorki, a novel entitled Varenka Olesova. Already immersed in the main forums Marxists of the country, turned to magazine Zhizn (life) - main organ of diffusion of the ideological power - to publish other narrations as Formá Gordéiev (1899) and the three (1901), linked to the romantic world of tales of vagrants. In this publication appeared also his famous poem entitled the song of the Petrel (1901), a splendid allegorical composition which heralded the imminent outbreak of the revolution, which gave rise to the immediate of the magazine closure and Gorki arrested by tsarist authorities, which decreed his confinement in Crimea. Meanwhile, the Moscow Arts Theatre Company, directed by Konstantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), led to the tables the first theatrical piece by the writer of Nizhni Nóvgorod, the small bourgeois (1901), a splendid drama starring a group of individuals that are paralyzed by their own apathy and stupidity; that, despite everything, poor and vulnerable beings aspire to a more satisfying life, despite its manifest failure to promote any attempt at change. Vasili, a trade union leader unchanging and bourgeois, see how their family environment is about to come down before his own passivity and that of his wife (Aculina); both are incapable of confronting the generational conflict caused by their children (Tatiana, Pedro and the adopted Nil), but are also grip by the fear of losing economic status that have reached their status as small bourgeois accommodated.

Just as happened in the greatest playwright of the time Theatre -Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), who reviewed this dramatic first foray of Gorki prior to its premiere, in bourgeois small becomes apparent that satisfied vulgarity that, seated in the spirit of the mediocre, appears as the sole force capable of defeating the heroes. This is the message of Fund that attempted to convey with this theatrical piece Maxim Gorky, who, at the time of its release, had aroused a clamor of protests because of the role that had been developing since Znanie publishing, endeavouring to publish the unpublished texts of young and unknown authors aware of the new realistic aesthetics in his defense. In the spring of 1901, the writer had returned to be arrested by the tsarist authorities, now for having published in the press his particular version of the violent events that took place at the gates of one of the cathedrals of St. Petersburgo, which ended in a massacre of demonstrators carried out by the police. Gorky, who was among those attending the demonstration, contradicted the official version of the Tsarist propaganda, so it was accused of carrying out actions of political turmoil in working-class neighborhoods.

In 1902, his election as a member of the Academy of Sciences was voided by the tsarist authorities, which gave rise to new manifestations of solidarity in support of the writer and, in the midst of a major scandal in all forums intellectual and political of Russia, to the resignation of Chekhov and Korolenko to continue belonging to this institution. Meanwhile, Gorky continued increasing their already considerable literary prestige, greenery in the course of that year with the staging of his second play, also carried the tables by the company of Stanislavski. It's the lower depths (1902), a drama conceived as a kind of Portrait Gallery of characters that, marginal and pure, have extreme freedom, although they are unable to use it to change the oppressive world surrounding them. The work presents Kostylev, a usurer who runs a hostel in which take refuge for the night several miserable and ragged types. Among them is Lukas - windbag with pretensions of visionary, capable of carrying a little illusion that sordid environment - and Vaska - Vasilisa lover, the woman of Kostylev, although at the bottom in love with the sister of this, Natasha-. Induced by cold malice of Vasilisa, murderous Vaska to the owner of the hostel, but not with the same purpose of her lover: this was intended to get rid of her husband to live with Vaska, but he/she who searched with their criminal action is to rid poor Natasha of the humiliations to which subjected you the usurer. Consummate the murder, Lukas abandons the hostel, that without its strong presence and enriching fantasy returns to be the paradigm of the uprooting, disillusionment, marginality and poverty. Front of this capitulation resigned from Lukas, Gorki proposes vitalist humanism of the capable of transforming, revolutionary struggle freeing man from his internal and external restraints.

Head of the revolutionary workers movement by his writings as for their political actions, Gorky continued in those years writing dramas in which passed magazine to the relationship between intellectuals and civic turmoil, as holiday-makers (1904), the children of the Sun (1905) and the barbarians (1905). So things, its role was outstanding in the riots of 1905, year which began for him with a new "visit" to police cells. Indeed, January 11 police in a routine record of his home, found a manuscript of Gorki in which it denounced the injustices of the Tsars and urged the people to armed struggle. It was immediately reduced to prison, but while police cooking tests to force an exemplary condemnation, the masses organized violent disturbances that led to his release. Fearing that a prosecution of the writer of Nizhni Nóvgorod triggered a genuine popular revolution, the police authorities gave reverse and sought to shelve the case; However, Gorki cried out in a loud voice demanding a fair trial, with the conviction to be able to demonstrate, in its course, not only his innocence, but the excesses and the irregularities committed by the regime of the Tsar ("If the trial takes place and I am condemned, will have an excellent opportunity to explain to Europe why I raise against the current regime, regime that carried out massacres of peaceful and unarmed citizensincluding children; am I a revolutionary").

The trial, however, never took place, Gorky continued to write freely their literary texts and working closely in the rotating leading of the country, including organ spokesperson of the Bolsheviks new life, in whose Foundation had taken an active part. In its pages appeared his famous "notes on the small bourgeois spirit", which produced him an economic performance which, in its seventy per cent, was to stop at the hands of the organizers of the revolutionary struggle. It was customary in it, always characterized by excessive generosity, deliver most of their income to this cause.

At the beginning of 1906, after the failure of the first revolutionary episodes of last year and the subsequent triggered reprisals against the leaders and Marxist agitators, Maxim Gorky was forced to abandon his nation, where her life was a serious threat. He/She traveled, then, the main capitals (such as Berlin and Paris), trying to the Governments of the countries which passed to freeze appropriations which were granting to Russia since the outbreak of the bloody Russian-Japanese war (1904-1905), credits contributing to strengthening the reactionary policy of the Tsarist Government. Soon after, he/she moved to the United States of America with the intention to raise funds to support the political opposition against the Tsar, and was received with open arms by some of most prominent American intellectuals of the moment, as the writers Mark Twain (1835-1910) and William Dean Howells (1837-1920), and the sociologist Jane Addams (1860-1935). But a campaign orchestrated against him by the Russian Embassy in the United States - based on the "infamous" story that the woman accompanying him was not his wife--unleashed the wrath of American tabloid, which ended up causing a widespread rejection of all the people U.S., anchored then in the most retrograde Puritan values. No hotel agreed to give New York accommodation, so it had to be installed in precarious conditions in a commune of Staten Island, where he/she began to write which is perhaps his masterpiece, and, without a doubt, one of the best pieces of world literature. It's the novel titled mother (1907), which addressed the ups and downs of the revolutionary struggle from the perspective of an old woman that, thanks to the direct intervention of his son in the political riots, departs from its traditional unchanging resignation and understands and embraces the cause of the revolution.

Pelagea Vlásova, the protagonist of this splendid narration, is an old farmer who undergoes a radical transformation after the death of her husband, an alcoholic and brutalized craftsman who has been abused throughout their conjugal life. This change is his son Pavel, a young socialist worker that, after the disappearance of her surly father, his house has become a clandestine Center of political rallies. Impulse excited Pavel and his comrades Mazin, Vesovshchikov, Natasha, Andrei and Samoilov captive the elder, embracing excited the revolutionary cause and is liberated from all the repressions of his impoverished former life. Shortly after, all the Socialist Youth are arrested and imprisoned, with what Pelagea Vlásova, by gathering a force unfit in a person of his age, becomes a kind of mother to all of them. During the judicial process, Pavel pronounce a vibrant plea for the revolution that, printed in hiding, is disseminated in leaflets by the battle-hardened old lady; to be discovered by the police in this propaganda action, 'the mother' throws papers to the crowd, while he/she raised his voice to call the workers to fight. The violent police charge causes panic among the protesters and, in the midst of the tumult, the death of the combative woman.

By way of this dazzling novel, which opened a new era in the literary production of Gorki, Nizhniy Nóvgorod writer presented the revolutionary struggle as an alternative to the sterile pursuit of freedom starring the Bohemians and bums of their earlier works. Inspired by the events in railway Sormovo factory during the revolution of 1905, the mother became immediately a huge publishing success, with millions of copies sold around the world and numerous language versions (in Russia, where it had been forbidden, spread thousands of illegal copies for every corner of the country). Initiated, as already indicated more above, in the United States of America - where Gorki also began the drafting of a new theatrical piece, enemies, and his famous political brochure in America, which attacked against the fierce American capitalism and militarism threatening German-, mother was concluded in the Italian island of Capri, which had become the Russian authorfrom America, with the intention of finding a healthier climate for serious tuberculous ailment he/she suffered from his foiled suicide attempt. As it had banned emphatically return to their homeland, lived in Capri for seven years, saddened by the constant memory of his native Russia, which adored so that he/she was unable to speak in any other language that is not Russian (failed to learn a single word of Italian, despite their prolonged stay on the beautiful island anchored in the Gulf of Naples).

A series of disagreements in the bosom of the Bolshevik faction - very demoralized after the failure of the first revolutionary rales - led to the personal journey of Lenin to Capri to Gorki to meet and put an aware secession maneuvering detected in the bosom of own revolutionary labor movement. Next to the "Socialist Mystic" by the playwright and essayist Anatoli Lunacharsky (1875-1933) - future Minister of culture between 1917 and 1933 Soviet-, Maxim Gorky was then to combine Marxism and religion, weakness in which also other many Russian revolutionary writers of the era, such as the great poet fell Alexandr Blok (1880-1921). It was then when, influenced the spiritual and literary for one of his favorite authors, Leo Tolstoy (1828-1920), wrote the work titled confession (1908), mysticism, reflecting clearly the aforementioned demoralization of the revolutionaries, in the same way that the mother had played in fiction a novel replete with its spirit of defiance and his combative mood. In his visit to Capri, Lenin was patient with these spiritual whims of Gorki, but he/she urged Marxist who had opened to close the school in his own House, birthplace of many separatists of the Bolshevik Party.

In his Italian exile, Gorki wrote many other works such as the city of Okurov (1910), tales of Italy (1910), Mathieu Kojemiakin (1911), tales of Russia (1913) and in Russia (1913); and, at the same time, continued unfolding a relentless work of encouragement and patronage among the young authors who came to his Mediterranean home, who encouraged to assume a political and social commitment in its literary texts. A second clash between Lenin and the author of the mother, motivated by an article of which criticized crossly Dostoevsky (1821-1881) for "corrupting" style took place in 1913. The Bolshevik leader applauded this thesis of Gorki, but censured him to follow anchored to this mystical spirituality that was becoming evident in several passages of this article.

At the end of that year of 1913, benefiting from a political amnesty decreed by the Tsar, Maxim Gorky could finally return to their cherished Russia and settle in a house located in the center of Moscow, where--always a tightly controlled police - began to write an extensive cycle of autobiographical works which opened with my childhood (1913), and which was completed - at war world - among men (1915) and my University (1917). In this magnificent trilogy memorialist, Gorky spoke not only itself, but also those who had exercised a decisive influence in his character, in his education, in his thinking and in the forging of his literary style. By that time, always committed to the political present national and international, critical imperialist ambitions that had resulted in the first world war, and before radical excision in the Russian Socialist ranks, it strongly supported the position of Lenin against the Mensheviks and joined with joy in the second international.

Despite this renewed furor Marxist - which reached its peak of enthusiasm at the beginning of 1917, during the February revolution, cause of the abdication of the Tsar Nicolás II (1868-1918)-, the outbreak of the October revolution - with the immediate seizure of power by the Bolsheviks - plunged Gorki in depressive crisis, this time derived from the horror and cruelty that passed before his eyes. After a lifetime longing for the revolution, the first bars of this (i.e. the period called "war communism") not only not brought peace, happiness and prosperity for all the Russian people, but that they gave way to the greatest scourges of humanity, such as hunger, disease, civil war and the lack of freedom, some of them more intense, sharp and deadly than it had been under the Tsarist Government. Reacting against this desperate situation, Gorky had no qualms about publicly criticizing the excesses of the Bolsheviks (including some performances of own Lenin in their disapproval), and his Moscow home became a reception center that, as it had been their residence in Capri, confusing time was the only refuge of those fleeing hunger, threats or repression. In his always accredited generosity, gave food, medicines and money among its guests, some of whom had been previously declared enemies yours; and undertook a brave civic campaign to safeguard the cultural heritage (threatened by blindness of the war), eradicate illiteracy (originator of so many positions extremists), spread education and, ultimately, reconcile all factions of the democratic social party, without rejecting reunification with the Mensheviks (which Lenin opposed strongly). Gave lectures peacekeeping in many parts of the country, and maintained correspondence with intellectuals attached to various trends of the ideological spectrum, conciliatory attitude which the reaction took advantage to become an intermediary between conservative tradition and the proletarian dictatorship; and so came their claims on behalf of some of these reactionaries, who provoked the suspicion of many Bolsheviks, so the own Lenin in person had to advise you that, for some time, withdraw quietly from the political landscape.

So, although the idea of leaving Russia, again became unbearable in 1921 was not obliged to go out again in the country settled first in Germany, where he/she went to Italy and settled in Sorrento (in the Bay of Naples), where he/she lived delivered to the cause of reconciliation between the two Russias - the exile and the interior of the country - that the revolution had spread dramatically. He/She also resumed his narrative path, which increased with the Artamonov (1925), a brilliant parable of Russian capitalism since the demise of the serfs until the outbreak of the revolution, reflected in the experiences of three generations of the same family.

In 1928, as something more calmed tempers after more than ten years of proletarian Government, returned to their beloved country and, by means of an open letter sent to the magazine Europe, publicly acknowledged mistakes and said its support to the Bolsheviks, noting that the missing Lenin had shown to possess a much more insightful than his political vision. Reached, that year, sexagenary condition, so it rained you letters greeting from all corners of the country. After two fleeting returns to Sorrento, in 1931 settled definitively in Moscow, where took the helm of the prestigious magazine our successes and continued displaying an intense campaign of education and literacy, which led him to become the "honorary master" of millions of workers and peasants who, until then, had never had access to education and culture.

Consecrated, in the end, as the crest figure of Russian letters of the time - or "the Pope of Russian literature", as the own Gorky referred to humorously - received letters and visits not only young writers eager to have your support, but also hundreds of humble workers who, just clinging to the universe of literary creationthey needed the opinion of the master to know if they were able to navigate the rough trails that lead to the top of Mount Parnassus. He/She wore to gala respond personally to all the Epistles that he/she received, and this despite the fact that, in those years, was engaged in the drafting of an ambitious narrative project, started in Sorrento in 1925, resulted finally in the tetralogy entitled the life of Klim Sangin, consisting of the novels the spectator (1930), the magnet (1931), other games (1933) and spectrum (1938). The last one, that Gorky had left unfinished at the time of his disappearance, was topped by a Committee of writers appointed for this purpose by the Soviet Government.

Both its literary texts and their letters, lectures and written critical were used to lay the groundwork for the new aesthetics of the Soviet regime, the socialist realism, which became the greatest exponent. In those last years of its existence, its figure had recovered such prominence in the political and cultural life of the USSR that the own Stalin (1879-1953) summoning evenings with other writers in the Moscow residence of Gorki, with the purpose of setting these revolutionary aesthetic values (which, on the other hand, so many sorrows brought the authors who, for various reasonsthey do not comulgaban with them). It is not surprising, therefore, that the first Congress of Soviet writers (1934), in which it paid him honours of the great Patriarch and founder of Soviet literature, met with the Honourable custom to read the preliminary report, which could hardly move the positions of the remaining members.

Literary recognition enjoyed around the world allowed him to, at that time, take up residence at any point from abroad which granted a more favourable climate for his tuberculous disease to rigorous Moscow cold. But he/she chose to continue living in his beloved homeland, where lost his life at the end of the spring of 1936, after having returned to his cherished hometown.

Other works of Gorki not mentioned in previous paragraphs are twenty-six men and a girl (1899) - a compilation of short stories-, the ex-hombres (1905) and decay (1927).


GOURFINKEL, girl. Gorki according to Gorki (Barcelona: Editorial Laia, S. A., 1972) [tr. de Manuel Castillo Molina].

SLONIM, Marc. Writers and problems of Soviet literature, 1917-1967 (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1974) [tr. of Aurora Bernárdez].

TROYAT, Henri. Gorki (Barcelona: Noguer y Caralt Editores, S. A., 1990) [tr. of Guillermo Solana Alonso].