Leonid Leonov Criticism - Essay

Maxim Gorky (essay date 1932)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A foreword to Soviet River, translated by Ivor Montagu and Sergei Nolbandov, 1932. Reprint by Hyperion Press, 1973, pp. v-vi.

[One of the former Soviet Union's most popular authors, Gorky is considered one of the framers and foremost exponents of Socialist Realism. In the following essay, which was originally published in 1932, Gorky remarks on Leonov's artistic development.]

I am not a critic and I do not feel inclined to 'explain' an artist; I well remember that when critics undertook to 'explain' me, they attributed to me intentions of which I was innocent and deeds I had never done. All that is said below is just a note by an old writer on his young...

(The entire section is 659 words.)

Helen Muchnic (essay date 1961)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Leonid Leonov," in From Gorky to Pasternak: Six Writers in Soviet Russia, 1961. Reprint by Vintage Books, 1966, pp. 276-303.

[A Russian-born American educator and critic, Muchnic has written extensively on Russian literature. In the following excerpt originally published in 1961, she remarks on Leonov's influences and his artistic development.]

In 1932 an article on Leonov in the Soviet Encyclopedia spoke disparagingly of his early work as having been "abstract" in the manner of the Symbolists and influenced by Dostoevsky, and congratulated him on having "surmounted" Dostoevsky. Leonov, then thirty-three years old, had been publishing for about ten years. He...

(The entire section is 4982 words.)

Vera Alexandrova (essay date 1963)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Leonid Leonov (1899–)," in A History of Soviet Literature: 1917–1964, From Gorky to Solzhenitsyn, translated by Mirra Ginsburg, 1963. Reprint by Anchor Books, 1964, pp. 203-21.

[A Russian-born critic, Alexandrova originally published the book from which the following excerpt is taken in 1963. Below, she provides an overview of Leonov's career, focusing on his novels.]

Many young writers begin their literary careers with a work they call a novel. On closer acquaintance it quickly becomes obvious that their book can scarcely be called a novel by the standards normally set for this literary form. "In order to construct a novel," said Chekhov, "it is necessary...

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R. D. B. Thomson (essay date April 1966)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Leonid Leonov," in Forum for Modern Language Studies, Vol. II, No. 2, April, 1966, pp. 264-73.

[In the essay below, Thomson examines themes of flight, genius, and morality in Leonov's works.]

Leonid Leonov (born 1899), novelist and playwright, might seem to be the most conventional of Soviet writers. He has written a novel about the Civil War (The Badgers, 1924) and another (The Thief, 1925–7) about the NEP period; in the thirties he produced a novel (The River Sot', 1930) about industrialisation, and devoted another (The Road to the Ocean, 1933–5) to the new "positive hero" of socialist realism. The Second World War drew three...

(The entire section is 4976 words.)

Leonid Leonov with Roland Opitz (interview date 1972)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview, translated by David Marks, in Soviet Literature, No. 10, 1975, pp. 174-82.

[The following interview was conducted in East Germany in 1972 and later published in Sinn und Form and Literaturnaya Rossia. Below, Leonov discusses his writing process and the themes that interest him.]

[Opitz]: Leonid Maximovich, we should like to talk to you about your writing. First of all, may we ask you about the way your novels are conceived. What inspires you to write: experiences or images, ideas or observations?

[Leonov]: I must say that I do not think in political or philosophical categories. I lived in the times I...

(The entire section is 3804 words.)

Marc Slonim (essay date 1977)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Leonid Leonov: The Psychological Novelist," in Soviet Russian Literature: Writers and Problems 1917–1977, second revised edition, Oxford University Press, 1977, pp. 198-212.

[A Russian-born American critic and educator, Slonim wrote extensively on Russian literature. In the following excerpt, he provides an overview of Leonov's works, focusing on psychological themes, and argues that Leonov placated official Soviet tastes to the detriment of his talents.]

In introducing Leonov to the Soviet readers of the 'twenties Gorky called him a disciple of Dostoevsky. What made him say this was not any similarity of ideas—Leonov did not share the political and...

(The entire section is 5600 words.)

George Harjan (essay date 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Leonov's Early Prose" and "Re-evaluation of Values: Second Version of The Thief and Evgenia Ivanovna," in Leonid Leonov: A Critical Study, Arowhena Publishing Co., 1979, pp. 11-25, 181-90.

[An educator, novelist, and critic, Harjan has written extensively on Russian literature. In the following excerpt, he surveys Leonov's early stories, discusses differences between the first and second versions of The Thief, and remarks on Evgenia Ivanovna.]

Leonov stated that his entrance into literature began with a story called "Buryga" ("Buryga"); most editions of his collected works open with this short story. A great deal of effort has been spent...

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Harold B. Segel (essay date 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Gathering Clouds: On the Eve of War" and "The War Years," in Twentieth-Century Russian Drama: From Gorky to the Present, Columbia University Press, 1979, pp. 295-304, 305-17.

[An American educator and critic, Segel has written extensively on Russian literature. In the following excerpt, he discusses The Orchards of Polovchansk and The Invasion, two of Leonov's plays.]

International events in the 1930s were followed with intense interest in the Soviet Union. The triumph of fascism in Italy and Germany and the Japanese invasion of China were viewed as ominous developments of profound potential danger to the Soviet state. The defeat of the...

(The entire section is 3901 words.)

Leonid Leonov with Alexander Lysov (interview date 26 April 1983 and 20 June 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview in Soviet Literature, translated by Evgeni Filippov, No. 5, 1989, pp. 161-65.

[In the following interview, which is based on talks between Leonov and Lysov that took place on April 26, 1983, and June 20, 1987, Leonov remarks on the difficulty of writing and the place of art in the twentieth century.]

Everyone entering Leonov's house leaves the world's mundanities and vanities on the doorstep. The personality of the owner, the feeling of concern he exudes, the time that seems to flow at a different pace in his study lined with books—ancient tomes, "books constantly in use" with worn gilded bindings, and the latest publications and...

(The entire section is 1902 words.)

Valentin Kovalyov (essay date November 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Leonid Leonov's Path," in Soviet Literature, No. 484, November, 1986, pp. 143-49.

[In the essay below, Kovalyov provides a brief overview of Leonov's career and remarks on the themes of his major novels.]

Leonid Leonov is a remarkable writer, a craftsman who has left an important mark in the history of Soviet literature.

The characters he has created (Skutarevsky, Kurilov, Vikhrov, Fyodor Talanov, Vekshin, Evgenia Ivanovna, Gratsiansky, Chikelev) are comparable in stature to the major characters in Russian and world classical literature. They give an idea of this nation and its complex internal development.

Leonid Leonov was...

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The Times, London (obituary date 11 August 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An obituary in The Times, London, August 11, 1994, p. 17.

[In the obituary below, the critic provides an overview of Leonov's career.]

Leonid Leonov, one of the major literary figures of Soviet Russia, received two Stalin Prizes, and was a senior member of the Praesidium of the Union of Soviet Writers. In the 1930s he was a fiction editor of the leading journal Novy Mir. Maxim Gorki spoke of his "strong, clear, juicy prose", and Edmund Wilson wrote that he was possessed of "a literary sophistication very rare in Soviet literature".

But, while widely accepted in the Soviet Union (his books have been published there in editions amounting...

(The entire section is 967 words.)