Maxim Gorki Additional 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.)


(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.)


(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.)