Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Maxim Gorky, icon of the Soviets

Maxim Gorky
It is the birthday of Russian writer Maxim Gorky (1868), who became an icon as a Soviet writer and a friend of the Bolsheviks after his death in 1936, even though he had his issues with the revolutionaries during his lifetime. As a young man, Gorky worked for newspapers throughout Russia. He wrote essays critical of the czarist regime and became a voice of the downtrodden at the bottom of society. He associated with Marxists and supported social reform, and became a personal friend of Vladimir Lenin. He wrote plays depicting the plight of the poor, most notably The Lower Depths (1902). He came to America in 1906 to help raise money for the Bolsheviks. While staying in the Adirondack Mountains, he wrote his novel, The Mother. He had a falling out with the Bolsheviks over censorship issues. He lived in exile in Capri for many years, partly because of the political climate in Russia. He returned to Russia in 1932 to stay after Joseph Stalin personally invited him to do so. The circumstances surrounding his death gave rise to speculation that he had been killed by Stalin's security forces. However, Stalin was among those who carried his coffin. Bertolt Brecht based his play, The Mother (1932) on Gorky's novel.

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