Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov (SHOH-loh-kof), epic novelist of the Cossacks, was born in Kruzhilino, a small village near Veshenskaya on the river Don; he was the eighth child in the family. His father was a farmer, a cattle buyer, a clerk, and later the owner of a power mill. The family was of modest means, but the parents nevertheless managed to send the boy to school near Moscow. Sholokhov’s mother, half Turkish and half Cossack, was an illiterate woman of strong determination; she learned to read and write in order to be able to correspond with her son while he was away at school.
Sholokhov, forced to leave his school at Voronezh because of the German invasion, returned to his home when he was fifteen. His plans to teach school upset by the revolution, he was assigned by the Bolsheviks to various jobs, among them assignments in a statistical bureau, as a freight handler, as a food inspector, and as a mason. In 1922, during bandit raids in the region, he participated in some of the fighting.
When he was eighteen he began to write for various newspapers and magazines, and he wrote some short fiction before beginning his long novel and eventual masterpiece, the Don Cossack tetralogy, which was translated into English as And Quiet Flows the Don and The Don Flows Home to the Sea before the whole was combined as The Silent Don in 1942. This monumental work, composed over a ten-year period, appeared in Russia in four separate volumes in 1928, 1929, 1933, and 1940. With...
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