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Maxim Gorky Mother
by Margaret Wettlin
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MAXIM GORKEY - MOTHER PREFACE There are books in every language mat are landmarks, even turningpoints, in the history of the literature in that language. Such a book for Russians is Maxim Gorkys Mother, for, though it was written ten years before the establishment of Soviet power in Russia, we count it the first stone laid in the foundations of Soviet literature. Mother was first published in Russia in 1907, When Gorky wrote it he was a mature craftsman, fully aware of his historical mission. He was, at that time, almost forty years old. For fifteen years he,had devoted himself to liter ature and public activities. He had already written novels, stories and plays that had brought him internation al recognition. For his political activities and close ties with the Bolshevik Party he was persecuted by the tsarist government. More than once he was arrested But this did not deter him. During the Russian revolution of 1905 that is, two years before Mother came out in Russiarjie first met Vladimir Lenin, who was to become his great friend. His vagabond roving in Russia in the nineties of the last century, his social awareness and his revolutionary prescience enabled him to see and understand Russia as few of his contemporaries were able to at that time. He was overwhelmed by the vastness of his native land arid by the beauty and variety of its scenery, and at the same time he was appalled by the ignorance, poverty and need less suffering of his countrymen. The social awareness in all of Gorkys work was not exceptional in Russian literature. It is to be found in the works of the poets among the Decembrists, whom Gorky called the first generation of Russian revolutionaries These poets, participants in the uprising against the monarchy and serfdom which took place on M December, 1825, were republicans at heart and looked upon thcir creative efforts as a means of serving the people and supporting their hopes in a better future. The Decembrists greatly influenced the thinking of such Russian writers as Push kin, Lermontov, Herzcn, even of Lev Tolstoy, who intend ed writing a novel about them and touched on the revo lutionary theme in War and Peace. Even closer to Gorkys way of thinking were the nnno chintsi revolutionaries of the middle of the century, headed by Chernyshcvsky and Dobrolyubov and sup ported by outstanding writers such as Nckrasov and Sal tykovShchedrin. Men of this literary generation held wider social views and were bolder in declaring them. Russian novels of the second half of the 10th century brought fame to Russian literature. Varied us these novels were, they all sought a way out of the impasse Russian social life had come to. This applies equally to Tolstoy and to Dostoyevsky, the greatest writers of sociopsychological novels at the end of the century it also applies to Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgencv and Goncharov at an earlier period, Maxim Gorky cherished the social traditions of Russian classical literature.
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