Maxim Gorki Biography


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Maxim Gorky was born Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov on March 28, 1868, in a central Russian town, Nizhniy-Novgorod, into a small-merchant family. The family became impoverished in his childhood, and when Gorky was three, his father died and his mother remarried. After she died, he went to live with his grandparents but left home at fifteen, looking for work. He wandered through Russia for several years. At one time, he attempted suicide because of his hard life. Then, he met one of the leading Russian writers, Vladimir Korolenko, and his life was changed forever, as he discovered an ability and urge to write. He published his first story, “Makar Chudra,” in 1892, under the pseudonym of Maxim Gorky (“Maxim the Bitter”), a name that he kept throughout his career. He continued to write at a steady pace for the rest of his life.

He was arrested as a political activist in 1898, an event that foreshadowed a lifetime of revolutionary activity. The publication in 1899 of his first novel, Foma Gordeyev, established him as a leading younger writer and brought him the friendship of Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and other well-known writers. He was arrested again but released at Tolstoy’s intervention. He fled to Finland, visited the United States in 1906, and settled on the Italian island of Capri, where he met Vladimir Ilich Lenin and other Russian luminaries, who flocked to him as on a pilgrimage. He returned to Russian in 1913, continued the...

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Maxim Gorki Biography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Maxim Gorky presents the would-be biographer with a paradox. On one hand, vast amounts of information exist about certain periods in his life. Gorky himself composed, in addition to his autobiographical trilogy, numerous memoirs as well as sketches and stories that are directly based on his life. In 1930, replying to a questionnaire that had been sent to a group of prominent writers, he noted that autobiographical material served as the basis for most of his works. Further, from the late 1890’s on, he lived an extremely public life. As a literary celebrity his every pronouncement was recorded, his letters saved by his correspondents, his deeds recalled and described by countless memoirists. On the other hand, not all the material is reliable. Memoirists can be self-serving. Gorky himself treated his autobiographical writings as literary rather than purely factual works, and even the correspondence sometimes reveals contradictory information. Also, several aspects of Gorky’s biography—his activities just after the 1917 revolution, his life in the Soviet Union following his return, and the circumstances of his death—remain clouded by a paucity of factual records and obfuscation caused by efforts to make him a sacred figure within the Soviet literary establishment.

Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov (Gorky, his nom de plume, means “bitter”) was born in 1868 in Nizhny-Novgorod, a major trading and manufacturing center on the Volga River, famous for its annual fair. When he was three years old, the Peshkovs moved to Astrakhan, another town on the Volga. The young Aleksey contracted cholera during an epidemic. Although he recovered, his father caught the disease and died. The mother and son returned to Nizhny-Novgorod and moved in with her parents, the Kashirins. Vasily Kashirin owned a dye-works in the town and was stern with both his workers and his family. Aleksey, however, became extremely close to his grandmother, Akulina, who instilled in him a fondness for folktales that remained with him all his life and had a great influence on his work. After his mother’s death in 1879, the eleven-year-old Aleksey worked as an apprentice in various shops and began his education, which consisted largely of reading works of fiction. In 1884, he went to Kazan, where he hoped to enter the university. Lacking sufficient knowledge or funds, however, he worked instead at a number of different jobs and, in 1887,...

(The entire section is 985 words.)

Maxim Gorki Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Maxim Gorky, champion of the poor and the downtrodden, was born Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov in Nizhny-Novgorod (a town that would bear the name Gorki after 1932), on March 28, 1868. His father, who died three years later from cholera, was a joiner-upholsterer and later a shipping agent; his mother’s family, the Kashirins, were owners of a dyeing establishment. After his father’s death, Gorky’s mother left young Gorky to be reared by her parents, with whom he lived until the age of eleven, when his recently remarried mother died. Gorky recounts his childhood experiences in brilliant anecdotes and dialogue in his autobiographical Detstvo (1913; My Childhood, 1915). The influence of his grandparents was great: His grandfather was a brutal, narrowly religious man, while his grandmother was gentle and pious; her own peculiar version of a benevolent God, sharply in contrast to the harsh religiosity of her husband, marked the impressionable child.

The frequent wanderers in Gorky’s works are a reflection of his own experience. In 1879, his grandfather sent him “into the world.” He went first to the family of his grandmother’s sister’s son, Valentin Sergeyev, to whom he was apprenticed as a draftsman. Gorky hated the snobbishness and avarice of this bourgeois family, which became the prototype of the Gordeyevs and the Artamonovs in his fiction. For the next ten years, he filled many other minor posts, from messboy on a Volga steamer to icon painter, reading when and where he could. Other than an idealistic admiration for a neighbor whom he named Queen Margot, there were few bright spots in this period, which he describes in V lyudyakh (1916; In the World, 1917).

In 1889, after an unsuccessful suicide attempt that left him with a...

(The entire section is 734 words.)

Maxim Gorki Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
0111206323-Gorky.jpg Maxim Gorky (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

In the work of Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov, who renamed himself Maxim Gorky (gawr-KEE) or Gorki (which means “bitter”), the late nineteenth and early twentieth century history of the Russian people, their politics, and their literature can be discovered. More than any other author he succeeded in mirroring the hectic times in which he was born and that defined his style and supported his efforts. Orphaned at an early age from his upholsterer father and peasant mother, he was brought up by a tyrannical grandfather and a sympathetic grandmother. At the age of nine he was apprenticed to a shoemaker, from whom he ran away to become a cabin boy on a Volga River steamer. A genial cook taught him to read, the most important single event in his life. He had only two years of formal schooling, and his early life was attended by so much hardship that he later attempted suicide by shooting himself through the lung. The succession of jobs, wanderings, and hardships makes up a bitter anthology of misery, which he described not only in his reminiscences but in his novels and plays as well.{$S[A]Peshkov, Aleksey Maksimovich;Gorky, Maxim}

Gorky’s love of wandering and fascination with observing people and events led to his traveling to new parts of Russia, which gave him confidence in his ability to turn his experiences into words. He turned to journalism and wrote his first story, “Makar Chudra,” for a newspaper in Tiflis in 1892. From that time on he made his way by his pen. He attracted the interest of two great literary men, Vladimir Korolenko and Anton Chekhov, both of whom proved influential in developing his talents in fiction and drama respectively. He...

(The entire section is 684 words.)

Maxim Gorki Biography

(Drama for Students)

Maxim Gorki was born Alexei Maximovich Peshkov in Nizhy Novgorod, Russia, on March 16, 1868. His father died when Maxim was five years old,...

(The entire section is 512 words.)