Konstantin Georgiyevich Paustovsky (poh-STAWF-skee), a short-story writer, novelist, playwright, and essayist, has an important place in postrevolutionary Soviet literature. He is highly respected for his inimitable late Romantic style and for his integrity, especially toward the end of his life. The son of a railway statistician of Cossack origin, Paustovsky was born in Moscow but spent his childhood and early youth in Kiev, where he graduated from a classical Gymnasium and where he also published his first story, in 1912. During World War I and the revolution he was a tram conductor and driver, a factory worker, a fisherman, a teacher, and a newspaper correspondent. He was in the Red Army from 1919 to 1921. After the revolution, he returned to Moscow, where he spent the rest of his life working as a journalist and editor and, after the publication of The Black Gulf, as a professional writer.
In his early career Paustovsky concentrated on short stories, in which he gave expression to his yearning for exotic lands and unusual experiences. The greatest passion of his life was traveling, and he traveled widely, both in the Soviet Union and abroad. In his writing he drew mostly from his own experiences. Many of his early stories are highly romantic, full of unfulfilled dreams and desires. Soon, however, he changed the tone of his stories and began to depict more realistic themes, although the romantic vein remained throughout his writing career. A fascination with nature is another constant in his writings. Paustovsky recorded his visceral responses to nature directly and forcefully. His depiction of the natural beauty of his land, in all of its simple splendor, is highly lyrical, even emotional. He treats his characters in a similar fashion, seeing them as integral parts of nature, simple and unspoiled despite the harshness that often marks their lives. In this sense Paustovsky upholds the humanist tradition of the nineteenth century Russian writers.
As Paustovsky entered his mature years, he spent most of the time writing his vast autobiography—undoubtedly his most...
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