Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 211

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The Story of a Life, which Paustovsky wrote near the end of his career, displays the maturity and wisdom acquired through a long and active life. For that reason, among others, it is considered his most important work. Clearly, however, The Story of a Life is closely related to Paustovsky’s other works, in that it contains the same basic qualities—directness, poetic tone, dramatic quality, a strong understanding of human nature, and a belief in ethical principles—which are found in many of his short stories, plays, and essays.

As a memoirist, Paustovsky was working in one of the richest genres in Russian literature. Since Russian writers are generally considered the conscience of their people, often speaking out when others are silent, their autobiographical writings have added weight. This has been especially true during the Soviet period, when writers, censored more than at any other time, have still managed to speak their minds. Thus, Paustovsky joins such memoirists as Boris Pasternak, Korney Chukovsky, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Lev Kopelev, Evgeniya Ginsburg, and many others. The significance of Paustovsky’s contribution derives primarily from his artful depiction of his personal experiences and from his role as a highly respected writer whose integrity as a defender of the artist’s dignity is beyond reproach.