Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 592
Dromov (droh-MOV). Russian town in which the Artamonov family establishes its business. Located on the Oka River in central Russia, not far from Nizhny Novgorod, it is based heavily upon many of the towns Gorky himself knew in his difficult youth, when he was working various menial jobs to survive while honing his literary powers. The novel begins not long after 1862, when Czar Alexander II abolished the institution of serfdom—the time when the Artamonov patriarch Ilya brings his family to Dromov, whose name means “sleepytown” in Russian.
A large, brusque man full of raw animal energy, the elder Ilya Artamonov makes his first appearance by barging in on a church service. Not long afterward, he barges in on the mayor just as presumptuously and announces his intention to marry his eldest son to the mayor’s daughter. Artamonov’s forwardness alienates many of the established figures of the town, and he runs roughshod over their various objections to build his factory. However, he is soon removed from the action, killed in an industrial accident at his factory, and the business is taken over by his son Peter. Yet Peter lacks his father’s essential characteristics, and from that point the success of the factory wavers and declines. Several times Peter comments upon the steady coarsening of the residents of Dromov, and ponders what relationship that has to the presence of his family’s business.
*Oka. River on which Dromov is located. One of the major rivers of central Russia, it is upon its banks that the elder Ilya Artamonov builds his linen factory, upon which the family fortune rests. Thus the factory is on the edge of the town of Dromov, but is never truly integrated with it, and in fact is often regarded with hostility by the more respectable citizens of the town.
Monastery. Russian Orthodox religious community in which Nikita becomes a monk. After the elder Artamonov’s hunchback son, Nikita, attempts to kill himself in a fit of despair, it is decided that he is more suited to the religious life and sent to the monastery on the outskirts of Dromov. There he finds a place, and is actually spoken well of by the abbot. However, when Nikita is old, he returns to his family, against the rule of his order, and attempts to evade the necessity of being taken back to the monastery to die and be buried.
Vorgorod (vorh-goh-rod). Nearby town from which police and other authorities come to Dromov. Several of the major characters visit it, but it is never actually seen in the narrative.
*Moscow. Traditional capital of Russia until 1712. Although it would not be Russia’s political capital again until 1918, when the Bolsheviks restored the seat of government to Moscow’s Kremlin, Moscow remained in many ways a cultural capital. Several of Gorky’s major characters visit the city repeatedly. Yakov complains after one such visit that middle-class Muscovites care nothing but to ape the manners of the nobility and are buying their betters’ cast-offs to further their ambitions.
*St. Petersburg. Political capital of Imperial Russia at the time in which the novel is set. In this northern city, built by orders of Czar Peter the Great to be his “window on the West,” the czar and his government rule. Although some of the characters of the novel write letters of protest to various government officials in St. Petersburg, or discuss political events going on there, it remains a distant city, never seen in the narrative.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 230
Levin, Dan. Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maxim Gorky. New York: Appleton-Century, 1965. The best interpretation of Gorky’s life and literary activity. Chapter 34 gives a brief and very precise analysis of The Artamonov Business as a bitter statement about the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Ovcharenko, Alexander. Maxim Gorky and the Literary Quests of the Twentieth Century. Moscow: Raduga, 1985. Gives a detailed analysis of Gorky’s literary work. Chapter 3 gives a comprehensive analysis of The Artamonov Business, the history of its creation, the effect it had on world literature.
Scherr, Barry. Maxim Gorky. Boston: Twayne, 1988. Gives a brief biography of Maxim Gorky, literary analysis of his short stories, novels, plays, autobiographical writings, and essays on literature. Examines Gorky’s depiction of historical changes in Russia by comparing The Artamonov Business with Gorky’s last novel, The Life of Klim Samgin (1927-1936). A detailed bibliography is included.
Troyat, Henri. Gorky. Translated by Lowell Blair. New York: Crown, 1989. Gives the author’s interpretation of Gorky’s life and activity as a writer of the revolution, the founder of Socialist Realism. Brief reference to Gorky’s literary canon, including The Artamonov Business.
Weil, Irwin. Gorky: His Literary Development and Influence on Soviet Intellectual Life. New York: Random House, 1966. An appreciation and evaluation of the social context and artistic merits of Gorky’s works, including a brief and comprehensive analysis of The Artamonov Business.