Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Konstantin Paustovsky, a Russian writer who is not ranked with such luminaries as Boris Pasternak, Mikhail Sholokhov, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn but who nevertheless commands much respect, was born and intellectually formed before the Revolution. In his long career, he wrote short stories, plays, and essays, but his best writing is contained in the six-part autobiography The Story of a Life. Although he showed considerable talent as a fiction writer, he was much more successful when drawing directly from his plentiful experiences. No doubt his storytelling acumen served him well in writing his autobiography, because the accounts of his personal experiences often read like fiction. His flowing narration and his ability to experience deeply and thoroughly everyday occurrences gives his autobiography an aura of authenticity and immediacy.

The Story of a Life is divided into six parts, coinciding roughly with important periods in Paustovsky’s life. The first part deals with his boyhood up to his graduation from high school. The second covers the interval leading to World War I and the first three years of it. The third part takes the author through the Revolution. The last three parts, Years of Hope, Southern Adventure, and The Restless Years, follow his life up to World War II. The chapters, of uneven length, usually present a well-rounded episode or story.

Paustovsky begins his autobiography by...

(The entire section is 536 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Alexandrova, Vera. A History of Soviet Literature, 1963.

Bliven, Naomi. Review in The New Yorker. XL (January 2, 1965), p. 70.

Salisbury, H.E. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXIX (May 3, 1964), p. 1.

Sendich, Munir. “The Translator’s Kitchen,” in Babel. XVII, no. 3 (1971), pp. 10-21.

Slonim, Mark. Soviet Russian Literature: Writers and Problems, 1917-1977, 1977 (second edition).

Viereck, Peter. Review in Saturday Review. XLVII (May 16, 1964), p. 38.