Pushkin and Gorky.
Eugene Onegin and Tatiana Larina's relationship ends sadly--the conditions for the happiness of a woman and a man do not exist. But Onegin sees that the heart of this girl, whom he once left in disdain and whom he now cherishes, is still open to him, and that their happiness is still possible. However Tatiana delivers her answer to Onegin:
... You must, I beg you, leave me; I know: in your heart there are Both pride and unbending honor. I love you (why play cunning?) But I am given to another; I will be faithful to him all my life. (2)
Without destroying her love for Onegin, without even struggling against it, without displaying the faintest hint of rage, Tatiana withdraws her love from the clutches of fate and calamity (already well known to her), even from the clutches of her beloved, with a few tender, calm, simple-hearted words. Tatiana's feelings are humanized, are ennobled to the highest conceivable extreme, to a state of incorruptibility. Here she, Tatiana, resembles a certain mysterious entity from an old fairy tale who crawled along the earth her whole life and whose legs were broken so that this entity would perish, but who later finds wings in herself and takes flight above that low place, where she was fated to die.
A simple reading of Pushkin's narrative poem is enough for us all to understand that Tatiana, if only she desired it, could have given her hand to Onegin, all of her love and for her whole life. Such external obstacles as her elderly husband, custom, society, "but I am given to another; I will be faithful to him all my life," and other circumstances are, of course, nothing before the strength of Tania's love: these obstacles are surmountable; we all know Tatiana's character and, especially, her femininity, before which any masculinity is a mere trifle. What is important here is not "the customs of the old days" or even that "I am given to another" (this is, after all, said for Onegin's sake, as a special justification for her rejection, full as it is with purity and respect for the entire world and for herself). (3) What is important is Tatiana's personality, her nature, and, I dare say, that quality of original, fatal, and sacred love, which did not perish before from Onegin's coldness and will not perish but, rather, is elevated now that Tania herself prevails and refuses him, when the power is left in her hands, but Tania never needed this power.
In this respect Tatiana Larina represents the antithesis of that other Russian woman, Anna Karenina.
What is important to us here is that Tatiana Larina, a poor person for whom life is sorrowful, lonesome, and spiritually impossible, finds the strength for her happiness and salvation in her own life development, assimilating every misfortune, in the natural mystery of her heart, in her womanly feeling, which faithfully protects another person and up to now preserves and has preserved the entirety of enraged humanity--with the hands and hearts of many Tatiana Larinas--a humanity, which has many times been on the brink of losing spirit and dropping its head to the earth, to the grave.
But the strength of the dispossessed lies not only in their internal qualities. Their strength, their life can be found everywhere; sometimes nature itself bends down to help them, taking on the most benign aspect.
In Prisoner of the Caucasus, a young Russian man, captured by the Circassians,
... hears suddenly the thundering Of his fettered feet... Forgive me, sacred freedom He is a slave. Behind the saklias he lies By the spiked fence. Freedom! only you was he Still searching for in the deserted world. (4)
But the world turned out not to be deserted at all:
The Russian awoke. Before him With a tender and mute greeting, Stood a young Circassian girl. He does not understand her alien words; But her affectionate gaze, the heat of her cheeks,
But her tender voice says:
Live! and the prisoner comes to life. (5)
And further on:
Day after day passed like a shadow. ... When the horn of the sdver moon Flashes behind the somber mountain, The Circassian girl, walking along a shady path Brings the prisoner wine, Kumis, and fragrant honeycombs, And snow-white wheat. (6)
Here it is as if this "tender voice" of nature, which acts through a person, and the snow-white wheat, which has ripened for all of the hungry, as if the entire world is coming to help the one, who
... is waiting for the sorrowful flame of life to be extinguished with the dusky dawn. And he thirsts for the shelter of the grave. (7)
As a person of reality, Pushkin understood that the people (in the broadest sense: from Tatiana to the gypsies and paupers singing inside the gates of the Sviatogorsky Monastery) live a separate, independent life, bound to the "higher" circles, to "society" only by the chains of their un-freedom. The people possess their own hidden, "secret" means of nourishing their own souls and of saving their own lives from being destroyed by "higher" people. These means of living had nothing in common with the aristocratic, elite society's ways of passing the time (although it is precisely to the people, in the form of an old nanny, a serf, and so forth, that some of the best representatives of this society turn at critical moments in their lives). The people have their own politics, their own poetry, their own consolations, and their own tremendous grief; all of these traits are more authentic and more organic among the people than among the parasitic classes, simply because laboring people have an actual, real, and, moreover, massive experience of work, privation, and struggle against the villainous class of their exploiters. Among the "upper" classes this experience is more or less equal to zero, and for this reason there can be no place for the real truth of life there--they don't earn it there but, rather, live it out and make it meaningless. But as a means of overcoming one's own historical fate and as the happiness of existence, great poetry and the life development of a person can be nourished only from the wellspring of reality, from the praxis of the close, laborious perception of the world--this is the answer to the riddle of the popular origins of true art. It was not just that Pushkin understood this circumstance, he himself lived without averting his mind and heart from reality, his nature was just the most economical and energetic expression of the soul of our people. The people could have gotten by without Pushkin, but they would have needed one hundred or one hundred and fifty years and an immense collective labor to create poetry equal in value to his, and even then it would have been fragmented and spontaneous in form. Through Pushkin's mediation this time was reduced to fifteen to twenty years and completed by one person alone. The people too do not like to waste themselves in vain, and, moreover, their grief is often so great that they have no time to wait, and they give birth to and nourish their gifts in a single, individual person, entrusting him for a time with their living being.
Pushkin was conscious both of his responsibility before the people and, so to speak, his indebtedness to and dependence on the collective life of all of Russia, of the motherland, understood not in a patriotic sense, but in an organic one. After all, he, Pushkin, appeared not out of an abundance, not out of an excess of the people's energies, but out of their privation, from extreme necessity, almost as a form of self-defense or as a sacrifice. This is the root of Pushkin's unique and immense significance, his universality, and the extremely intense and, at the same time, triumphant, free character of his creative work.
Word about me will spread throughout all of Great Rus' And every tongue in it will speak my name. (8)
And far more important still:
... And to my lips he set himself And tore out my sinful tongue Both idle-worded and wily And put the stinger of the wise serpent Between my unmoving lips With his bloodied hand. And he split open my chest with a sword, And pulled out my trembling heart, And placed a coal, ablaze with flame Into my open chest. Like a corpse in the desert I lay... (9)
This is from "The Prophet." As is generally recognized, "The Prophet" belongs to Pushkin's most perfect creations, and in this poem Pushkin's poetic and human self-consciousness unfolds before us in its entirety: a true, burning energy enters into us from without, from the great, magical world; the "coal, ablaze with flame" is lit not inside the single, solitary heart of a person, the "coal" is lit throughout the entire world. Maybe it is collected from every soul like little burning wood chips and combined together into a single, concentrated, terrible fire.
As for the future prophet himself, he is merely a tormented person, one tormented, to be sure, by a special torment; however, this torment is characteristic of every person, even those who will never become a prophet:
Tormented by spiritual thirst, I dragged myself through the gloomy desert... (10)
The light of the people, igni ted in Pushkin's breast, existed before the poet, too--albeit, in a more dispersed form--and it will go on burning after Pushkin, too, because
The earth is beautiful And life is dear-- (11)
and people have always moved towards their own. better fate, they understand the true value of life even on this poor and boring earth, and inspiration never leaves their heart. This is why Pushkin, sensing the end of his existence, trustingly passed that unextinguished "coal, ablaze with flame" on to the young life, which remained behind to "play" at the "entrance to his grave." He knew that death was not to be defeated, but fife too did not deceive him in any way, and Pushkin passed his prophetic message on to the future, into the young hands of an unknown tribe, for
It is my time to rot, and yours to blossom. (12)
But alongside the poet's relationship with the future, a relationship full of simple, deep reason and suppressed, invisible sadness at having to part ways forever, we may clearly perceive Pushkin's conviction and aspirations for the future: those joys and sorrows that visited his soul will visit humankind again, will live again in another breast. And Pushkin, in modest secrecy, remains satisfied with this awareness, as if the future generations were just his younger brothers who would not abandon him in their memory. However, in the remote and distant future reality will take on new, truly unfamiliar traits, and the human breast will be stirred by such a feeling unknown even to Pushkin. And so what! This only increases the meaning of life; history continues.
But Pushkin will not be witness to this new humanity:
... It is not me Who will see your powerful mature age. (13)
This is said without regret; and moreover, for the poet, simple remembrance of him his enough:
But let my grandson ... Full of joyous and pleasant thoughts Pass ... in the dark of night And remember me. (14)
Pushkin was too modest. He overestimated future generations a little. His lamp, his incorruptible, prophetic "coal, ablaze with flame," bequeathed to all of us, was not immediately taken up by another poet. Moreover, even today Pushkin still does not have a worthy heir and successor. It is as if his spirit, that creative, triumphant, and animating energy, once borrowed from the people, has regained its tendency to return to its original sphere, scattered among nameless souls, into entropy. This constitutes a calamity and not the enrichment of the people, because Pushkin himself represented the collective creation of the people, quantity transformed with great difficulty into quality, and so, when Pushkin died, it was as if the blazing coal was dispersed again into smoldering wood chips.
Of course, this ultimate dispersal, this trading away of Pushkin's gift for trifles, could not be achieved in its entirety; the country was not left completely devoid of people. Pushkin "ignited" several heirs and successors, but none of them had such a breast containing enough open space for all of Pushkin's light. Each of Pushkin's successors only managed to light a single wood chip, or a few of them, from the burning flame that they inherited from Pushkin. This is not what we all need: a burning wood chip makes too little light and heat for us. It is too little especially now, when fascism is remaking almost half of humanity into a corpse and, what is more, a corpse that seems to be alive but is, in essence, in its soul, dead. Let us imagine for a moment two forces: Pushkin and fascism. Could there be any two things more opposed to one another, which exclude each other to such a great degree?... There is only one force which is so opposed and antagonistic to fascism as Pushkin, and that is communism. From this brief thought alone it is apparent just how valuable Pushkin is for us, not only as a poet, but as an example of human nature which absolutely does not yield to oppression, a nature capable of being poisoned and even destroyed, but itself incapable of poisoning and debasing someone.
"Like a corpse in the desert. I lay," the majority of humanity could say about itself these days (in China, India, Germany, Italy, Abyssinia, Poland, and the common people of all nationalities from non-Soviet countries).
As a consequence, now more then ever there is a mortal need for the appearance of an inspiring, animating, poetic force equal to Pushkin, and even superior to him, because the state of catastrophe is so great the world over. What I want to say is that communism, strengthened by precise feeling and poetry, would be capable of taking hold of the masses of humanity more quickly.
It is clear that, even if a new Pushkin for some reason does not appear, communism will still prevail over fascism, because, even if it is dispersed, there is still something of Pushkin, something prophetic in all laboring people, but the facts are that one cannon is still stronger than many thousands of fists and that, without an expression of their true essence, concentrated and aflame in a single, red-hot coal, a people (and the decisive part of humanity) cannot become aware of itself in all of its quality and dignity. It cannot be inspired and, as a consequence, powerful. This is why a "new Pushkin" is inevitable; he is a force of communism which is not only desirable but necessary. To put it directly, without Pushkin, the one who has already been killed, and without his heir, the one who may not have been born yet, communism cannot come into being. Great poetry is an essential part of communism.
But what has happened since Pushkin, in a century, d' we count the passing of time?
Lermontov, Gogol, Goncharov, Chernyshevsky, Shchedrin, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekhov.... None of them has taken Pushkin's place entirely; each one has taken on just a part of his "load," and all of them together owe their artistic perfection to Pushkin. Some of them have used Pushkin's "scraps" and "unused land" widely and have even achieved great significance and worth in this way. It is well known that Pushkin highly appraised Gogol, that he liked Gogol's first stories, but Pushkin liked Zagoskin's "Yury Mdoslavsky" and a whole list of other works by now-forgotten authors just as much. He understood that they were good but far from what he himself, Pushkin, did and not what was really needed. He began to teach Gogol how to write and what to write about.. He gave Gogol the idea for Dead Souls and The Government Inspector. We do not know for sure just how the transmission of these ideas took place, but we know for a fact that Gogol could not complete or resolve this idea, because he was merely a brilliant student of Pushkin's and grasped only one side of his teacher's idea; truly, only Pushkin himself could have completed Dead Souls. Gogol merely wrote a long introduction to Pushkin's idea about the dead souls of humanity, because at the center of this idea was the escape from the condition of death, the seeking out of the dead. (15)
Gogol established the existence of "sorrowful Russia," but it was not only Pushkin and Gogol who could not live in it, but all of the serfs and even Tatiana Larina, in whose fate this very same "sorrowful Russia" is reflected through the figure of Onegin. Pushkin soon felt that he had overestimated Gogol, otherwise how are we to understand his words: "I have to be more careful with this Little Russian: he robs me so blind that I don't even have time to cry out!" (Pavel Annenkov, Literary Memoirs). (16) But, of course, Pushkin could not be "robbed blind": a genius cannot be the object of appropriation, and a rough imitation, even of his ideas, does not convey the intention of the genuine author and does not bring about anything good...
And so, after Pushkin there appeared an entire large group of classic Russian writers among whom not a single one was equal to Pushkin. The "soul in the sacred lyre" was still alive, but there was no one who to play again on the lyre. (17)
Perhaps the external conditions changed in such a way that Russian literature was forced to undergo a certain impoverishment? These external conditions really did change, but in Pushkin's time they were hardly any less difficult: political reality simply killed Pushkin, but this destructive force did not prevent him from appearing and living out his admittedly short fife. This factor instills in us a hope that, if a poet of Pushkin's prophetic talent appears not among us but in the midst of a people oppressed by fascism, even then, his muffled voice will ring out in the world before the poet is destroyed. There are not and cannot be such conditions in the world under which the people's deep, essential needs can remain unsatisfied for long, under which their hearts can beat with no result, and under which their souls can nourish themselves on the stones of demagoguery and futile hopes.
Moving on. Even though they could not replace Pushkin entirely, this large group of Russian classics did carry on Pushkin's task through their collective efforts. But history has changed, that is, the feudal-aristocratic chains binding the people were replaced by bourgeois-capitalist chains; to put it more precisely, the exploitation of the people was intensified, the parasitic class increased in size, and the people, under the growth of pseudo-democratic social forms, actually retreated deeper in their separate lives, into their alienation from the society exploiting them, into their spiritual isolation, than under feudalism. But in reality the people were not left alone. In Russia, the intelligentsia, including writers, was never fully engaged in serving the ruling classes. Even in the era of complete slavery-there were a few intellectuals who wholeheartedly served the people; it is enough to mention the name Aleksandr Radishchev. The facts have convinced me that throughout Russian history there was always a small group of intellectuals that the people could call the intelligentsia of the workers and peasants.
But even this genuine intelligentsia was at a loss and fell in spirits when it became apparent that the tendency was for the exploitation of people by other people to grow and not to be diminished. The environment created by the development of such social and productive relations proved abundant and nourishing for pessimism. Gogol had already perceived this clearly: after all, his Chichikov, an "entrepreneur an organizer," was more predatory and cruel than Sobakevich, Petukh, Korobokha, Nozdrev, and even Pliushkin (Pliushkin may have exterminated his house serfs with hunger, but he himself did not eat either). Dostoevsky showed us the decay of his "poor people's" souls under the influence of the debilitating violence of "masters" of all ranks. He tried to show that the project of human life on earth would not work out: if it did ever exist, in Jesus Christ's day, now the Inquisitor had arrived in the world, and no one here will survive him. Moreover, he, the Inquisitor, is even right. It is easy to detect here Dostoevsky's deep premonition of fascism; however he did not manage to foresee the most important and decisive thing: proletarian revolution and communism. And what Dostoevsky understood by the word socialism had nothing in common with the real thing. Shchedrin understood this state of affairs most accurately and clearly, and he was overcome by rage. He subjected parasitic Russian "society," so to speak, to ideological destruction: it is better to have nothing, he said, than these trifles, than these "minor people of a toy-like affair," which cause real people to cry inaudibly and die. (18)
We could easUy add more examples of this sort. But this will be enough. What is important for us to establish is how the appearance of capitalist, bourgeois relations impacted Russian literature. The Russian classics understood capitalism to be a pessimistic and destructive tendency in the process of historical development. This understanding was correct but not complete, and a certain "great essence," namely, the emergence of the Russian working class and its kinship with the dispossessed majority of the peasantry, remained imperceptible to many Russian writers.
But even then the people had their own intelligentsia, which understood the course of events in its full magnitude: Behnsky, Chernyshevsky, Dobroliubov, Nekrasov, Uspensky, and others. Later Lev Tolstoy appeared and, in his work, rejected the pessimistic phantasmagoria of his predecessors, that is, he penetrated deeper into reality. (Though it is true that reality had by this time become more "perceptible": the revolution was not only coming toget her and accumulating in the depths of the people, but was also testing its strength in a practical sense against the enemies of the people.) This proposition is also applicable in part to Chekhov.
It follows that the "pessimistic tendency" in Russian history mentioned above played a negative role in our literature in the sense that literature began to lose Pushkin's prophetic gift, that clairvoyant relation to reality which nourished Pushkin's creative work and made him into realistic truth. The literature of the post -Pushkinian era began to take on more and more pronounced elements of formalism; in the end, on the eve of 1917, it became completely self-enclosed and short-circuited in the form of decadence, modernism, symbolism, futurism, and so on. But, all the same, Pushkin's line was not worn away, and the main current of literature did not die out... More about this a bit later.
How would Pushkin behave if he lived a half-century later, when Russian capitalism began to eat away at t he body of the people alongside the still-living landed aristocracy? Pushkin would not lose spirit, he would divine the nature of this new period in history and would not have fallen for the temptation of sorrow. He would have remained Pushkin and would have still penetrated into the secret recesses of the people, where the progressive, happy energy of living development is preserved and carries out its activity, even if these recesses were even more remote. Even in his own age Pushkin was engaged in these sorts of enterprises: "The History of the Village of Goriukhin," the work on Pugachev, his deep interest in folklore, the creative transformation he undertook in the form of fairy tales, and so on.
Pushkin would not have left us common people behind. But his many successors and student s sometimes left us to search for a way out of historical catastrophe alone, as if the people--as the Inquisitor believed in Dostoevski's legend--needed only calm and their daily bread, like animals, as if it was possible to glue together world happiness from this bread-like paste of elementary privation...
And so now let us imagine the entire picture all together: there was Pushkin, a poet of prophetic force, there were writers and poets after him who, in one way or another, carried out Pushkin's task; then it was as if the forces of reality cast a shadow on poetry, wore it away, and brought it to nothing, to Balmont, Igor Severianin, and the rest. Where did that luminous energy of the people, which, in essence, had only recently produced Pushkin, go? Was it really divided into smoldering wood chips and transformed into a smoking darkness? And where is that true reality to be found, which gives birth to Pushkin or which causes even his feeble and detached successors to come to failure. And another thing: did such an inspired, prophetic, and happy poetry as Pushkin's works and as the Russian literature of world significance t hat has come since him fail to influence the course of historical processes? After all, Pushkin himself is a signal and a banner of history (otherwise, from what "void" could he have come from?). This last thought consists of the following: why do we need prophetic works of art if the prophecy remains unfulfilled in real life, in facts? Does the only meaning of such works really consist in directing literature to still greater perfection? (It is good to push poetry toward perfection, but if the matter is limited only to this, then we are left with a sign of the isolation of art from its service to real human needs, a sign of aesthetic formalism and of a bad infinitude in which the effort never pays off.) Pushkin did not write poems so that someone after him, drawing from his experience, could write poems a little better than Pushkin. This was not the main thing.
No, the heat-producing energy of the people was not dispersed into the empty and cold darkness. Pushkin and the great literature he gave birth to did not work in vain, his prophetic works predicted actions and helped them to occur in history. I do not separate poetry or literature as a whole from the politics of the people, the revolution from the people's soul. Active human imagination, directed toward the improvement of one's fate in fife, contains within itself all of the means it needs to reach its goal: poetry, politics, a capacity for the extended endurance of suffering, and outright revolution. And depending on the circumstances, on the demands of privation, these elements of human progress manifest themselves to varying degrees.
Even if one hundred years after Pushkin there has not been a poet equal to him in strength, it is clear now that the "coal, ablaze with flame" was put into a different breast so that the prophecy of poetry could come true, so that the people's intentions could be realized. Now we all know where this coal was burning and is burning to this day: it was placed in the revolution and burst into flame in the breast of Lenin. The people never did grow so exhausted that only smoldering embers of the coal remained. And the fact that the "coal" was transferred from literature to the revolution can be proven only by the truth of Pushkin and of great Russian literature. Pushkin and his successors did not work for themselves or for their art.
However poetry itself, as a certain original, primary form of the people's inspiration, should not and cannot fade; otherwise, the revolution itself would fade and, more broadly, the entire movement of humanity in history. Having bestowed Lenin with the gift, so to speak, of active prophecy, the people, without a doubt, did not extinguish their light in poetry either. On the contrary...
Let us continue developing our previous thought. When the post-Pushkinian literary tradition, ending with Tolstoy and Chekhov, began to degenerate after them into decadence, the people immediately "intervened" and gave birth to Maksim Gorky: Pushkin's line was immediately restored.
Gorky began the third period of Russian (and now Soviet) literature, if we consider Pushkin the first period and the entire large, post-Pushkinian group of writers the second.
In the figure of Gorky the great literary tradition was saved from being corroded and decomposed by the cadaverous poison of imperialism.
Like Pushkin, Gorky might have said of himself:
The helmsman and the crew have perished,--Only I, mysterious singer, Cast out onto the shore by the storm, I sing the hymns of old And dry my damp robe In the sun beneath the cliff (19)
It was precisely Maksim Gorky who turned again to the "hymns of old," that is, to Pushkin's.
I will prove this. At first it might seem that there is very little of consequence in common between Pushkin and Gorky. Both the one and the other were great writers, but, in terms of certain characteristics, it is as if they are entirely different people. Pushkin was an entirely aristocratic soul, a person with Gothic handwriting, passionate, sensitive, joyous and sad at the same time, and not long for this world. But Gorky is "Fat-Faced Passions," he is a person with round, slow writing, an artisan from the Volga, awkward, kind, and sullen, but durable and persevering. (20)
These are a few of their external features. But let us compare, for instance, Pushkin's "Bacchic Song" and Gorky's "Song of the Falcon" or "Song of the Stormy Petrel." What do these works have in common in terms of form? Very little. What do they have in common in terms of theme and spirit? They share everything, they are made up of one and the same passion and thought.
But we do not at all want to take the easiest path, to seek out thematic likenesses and consider them evidence that the two writers are of equal value. Pushkin's glory does not need to be increased by Gorky's name, and Gorky will not become greater if we call him a proletarian Pushkin. Gorky is not Pushkin and is not his equal. What interests me is a modest problem: the extent to which Gorky was the heir and successor to Pushkin and his work, not in a formal respect, but in essence and spirit. After all, Pushkin is our standard for all assessments and judgments in literature, and we are justified into relating all phenomena to him.
First of all, historically and in an organic sense, Gorky was the heir not only to Pushkin but to all of the Russian classics who worked after Pushkin. But far from everything in the post-Pushkinian writers was beneficial, for the reasons I have discussed above.
By his nature and in accordance with his origins, Maksim Gorky was a simple and pure person from the people with an innately "Pushkinian" relation to the life, a person who, moreover, mastered the Russian culture of the nineteenth century with all of its goodness and with all of its poison. And this circumstance explains the long, many-year conflict in Gorky's soul, explains some of his literary failures, and, sometimes, his political mistakes as well. At times the slogan of the people and of Pushkin, "long live reason," was worn away in Gorky by the dark depths of Dostoevsky. (21)
In his article about Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Gorky writes of his own moods in 1917 and 1918: "I have trouble believing in the reason of the masses in general and in the reason of the peasant masses in particular." (22) Here Gorky is mistaken in his words: after all, he himself was a representative of that very reason of the masses, in which he supposedly did not believe.
Where did this mistake come from? Gorky himself explains:
"The scientific, technical, and, in general, skilled intelligentsia is, from my point of view, revolutionary in its very essence." (23) We now know from experience that this is phrased imprecisely. Such a "mechanical" revolutionary character does not exist in the world, and, in the present case, it is Vladimir Ilyich Lenin himself, and not, Gorky, who is the bearer of Pushkin's legacy, of Pushkin's understanding of the people, that is, his understanding of the fact that it is precisely the people who stand above the intelligentsia in terms of reason and revolutionary character.
Not always, but in certain years of his life, Gorky only believed in reason as something condensed in the intelligentsia, as if t he physical labor of the people does not require reason and it, this labor, can be completed by mindless beings, too, as if reason is not found closest of all to praxis, and as if people tormented by oppression do not reflect about their fate more than t he intelligentsia. After all, the people have never entrusted someone else with being concerned about their lot, and the communist workers' party is merely a part of the people, and not an emanation of pure reason torn off from them. Moreover, there never was a united intelligentsia. Chernyshevsky and Dobrohubov, for instance, are one thing, and Merezhkovsky and Bunin, for instance, are another. There are as many intelligentsias as there are classes. But if we are talking specifically about the scientific and technical intelligentsia which is led to socialism, it is thought, by its very profession, by the automatic expediency of the labor of engineering, which requires a global perspective and a harmonious society, then what Gorky probably had in mind was the few, rare aristocratic natures of engineers and scientists like Timiriazev, Einstein, and a few others. This does not correspond to Gorky's thought. What leads to socialism is historical necessity and living, rational feeling; there is no other path, even for intellectuals.
But even misunderstandings of this sort, on Gorky's part demonstrate the extraordinary nobility of his character, because these misunderstandings originated in the trust which he placed in the educated person, in his belief in the honesty and seriousness of conscious people and in the rational, albeit , for the time being, hidden splendor of the world. Gorky was too quick to ascribe that which was innate to him to the wider world of reality. This charmingly trusting nature often makes up a necessary element of the working person from the people, it stems not from an insufficiently developed consciousness but from its strength. Such a person, observing the material and spiritual culture created before him, becomes idled with the greatest respect for it, because he knows, from his own experience with labor, what it cost, how arduously entire generations had to labor before him. A person who imagines, for instance, the history of the creation of cities only "in thought" but not on the basis of experience will not understand this.
And Gorky, with almost religious devotion born precisely of the ethical purity of his nature, bowed down before all human culture and reason, not always distinguishing within culture and reason that which is cleverly hidden in them for the sake of oppressing people and not for the sake of t he development of beautiful life.
The simple-souled nature of this giant was characteristic not only of Gorky but also of Tolstoy (albeit, in another, opposite quality).
Pushkin related to reason and culture in a more ordinary way: they entered into the composition of his soul and his worldview as miraculous but common elements. Pushkin had a broader conception of life. We cannot say whether this was better or worse than Gorky's concentrated conception. But this difference between Pushkin and Gorky's spiritual configurations lies somewhere here.
It seems to me that in Gorky the innate, Pushkinian folk consciousness of life was sometimes distorted by the hostile psychological forces of the past, of a society that was dying and has died. A tiny, alien, egotistical person ate away at Gorky's breast, Gorky grappled with him in a struggle to the death, and the terrible blows of this battle could be heard throughout the entire world. Sometimes Gorky finally managed to strangle this enemy of his, but, having rested at the bosom of death, the latter would come at Gorky again... Gorky was always at the very front line of the battle for the future fate of the proletariat, he was one of the first to take all of the attacks of the bourgeois and, later, fascist enemy onto himself. And, naturally, Gorky's consciousness was "distorted," as it were, because in battle, the victor too sustains wounds. Here, the battle took place inside of the person, because it was necessary to destroy the enemy in his very spirit and reason, and in order to do this he had to let him get extraordinarily close to him, even into himself. So Gorky's "distortions" and "mistakes," about which he himself spoke many times (exaggerating their significance), are, most likely, merely the results of many years of battles with the bourgeois-fascist enemy of working humanity. These are the wounds without which, apparently, it would have been impossible to achieve the destruction of one's enemy and victory. Let us recall, for example, how Gorky, having made a mistake in his appraisal of the intelligentsia's "monopolistic" revolutionary role, made amends for it in the figure of Klim Samgin. (24)
In Pushkin's time, of course, there was not such a historical situation, humanity had not approached this critical threshold. But Gorky had to live and act at the cusp of two, principally different epochs, to be the poetic herald of the epoch of communism, to strangle the enemy, penetrating into the heart of the people and into his own soul, and, for this reason, he was often bloodied himself. Otherwise t his would have been a joke and not battle, and we know the kinds of "jokers" our enemies are.
Gorky's task consisted in saving and preserving the human being that he loved from the landslides of bourgeois society and in cultivating that person for the true, future life. He searches for and finds the people of the future in the same space, the only possible one, where Pushkin too had found them, among the people, plagued by sorrow and privation, grown weak from back-breaking work, and nevertheless preserving in themselves the secret of their endurance and existence and the light of that inspiration, which Pushkin had once transformed into a "a coal, ablaze with flame."
So what does that secret consist of if in its concrete individuality? In the short story, "Fat-Faced Passions," Gorky depicts a child; his mother is an impoverished prostitute, whereas the child is the keeper of their dwelling and, in a certain sense, the director of the production of his mother's "love" (he lights and puts out the lamp when it needs to be done, takes care of the house, and so on). This child, Len'ka, is also witness to her "love"; he sits alone in the dark, and his heart dies of horror and melancholy. Then he creates a "menagerie" in some little boxes, and in them there lived a spider, a cockroach, a fly, and a beetle. (25) During his mother's "passions" the child probably listened to the sound of his "animals" stirring in the boxes to calm himself down: he was not alone, he lived together with them as equals. The child did not only breathe life into these insects, he made of them a copy of the humanity that was familiar and close to him:
That's a little spider sitting there, the scoundrel! His name is Drummer! He's a wily one! And here's the little cockroach, Ansim, the braggart, a soldier, by the look of him. That's the fly. An official's wife, a bastard of the sort you won't even find any more. She buzzes around all day, scolding everyone, she even dragged mama by the hair... And this one, the black cockroach, a big old fellow, he's the Boss; he's not bad, only he's a drunk and completely shameless... Here's the beetle, Uncle Nikodim, I caught hold of him in the courtyard, he's a wanderer, of the swindling sort... my mama calls him Cheap Guy; he's her lover, too. (26)
These little boxes--this "menagerie"--serve as a consolation to the child, but also as a supplementary means of perceiving the world. And later on in the same story Gorky suddenly approaches the matter directly, as if casting off all literary, belletristic conventionality: "He (Len'ka) charmingly smiled such an enchanting smile that I wanted to roar, to cry out to the entire city out of unbearable, burning pity for him." (27)
Here Gorky was more of a prophet demanding the transformation of life than a writer in the usual sense. In "Fat-Faced Passions" and in many other works of Gorky's, the foreboding and tender tension, which, in Gorky, suddenly bursts forth in unaffected, open rage, in a summons and a prophecy, make these works akin, in spiritual essence, to Pushkin's "Prophet," which is not only a poetic masterpiece, but also a special word which transforms hearts into physical movement, into practical action, into politics ... Gorky found a child, abandoned and forgotten "in the barren world" like a corpse, picked him up into his arms, warmed him and warmed himself next to him, that is what is written about in the story "Fat-Faced Passions." (28) To write something like "Fat-Faced Passions" is something very few writers can do, and to act like the man who share's Len'ka's name--Aleksei Maksimovich--is something only prophets and true teachers of humanity are capable of doing. (29)
Alongside the child lives his mother (the same story), the closest relative of all people. Follow the relations between mother and son in this story. She gave birth to him, she feeds and loves him, and her child, the son, already helps her about the house, keenly adoring his mother with the unerring heart of a child, and yet he relates to her in a completely healthy, rat ional way, with a complete understanding of her lot, and even attempts to educate his mother like a child, to affect a change in her life.
What is ad this? Here, in a very concise form, in this small model, as if "through a magical crystal," an enormous theme begins to take shape: that of the relations bet ween a mother and a son acting together in life like comrades, and yet not ceasing to be mother and son. (30)
Did Pushkin sense the significance of the mother, as the origin of life and as a poetic image?... He was practically an orphan (his mother did not love him), but orphans find themselves mothers on their own, they too cannot live without them. The woman who took the place of Pushkin's mother was his nanny, Arina Rodionovna. And he did not only love her with tender feeling, as a grateful son, he considered her his true friend and comrade. This is exactly what Pushkin called her:
Friend of my severe days, My decrepit dear one. (31)
In these two lines we can immediately appreciate Pushkin's relationship to Arina Rodionovna. both as a comrade--"Friend"--and as a nanny and a mother--"My decrepit dear one."
This nanny and mother told fairy tales, and Pushkin wrote the fairy tales down himself. They were "professional" comrades as well, both of them poets.
And here, in these century-old depths, in the works of Pushkin, who barely left anything on earth untouched by his gaze and his feeling, we see the genesis of the great theme of the mother, a theme which almost none of the classics undertook seriously and for its own sake. Gorky unpacked this theme into a novel of principal global significance; in this respect he completed the task which Pushkin merely sketched out in its general features. Arina Rodionovna raised our land's first poet, sang the songs of the Russian people over his cradle, told him fairy tales when the boy began to understand words, and in the future Pushkin never ceased to listen to her, Ar in a Rodionovna, his poetic helper, nanny, friend, and mother. She remained together with him in poetry forever. Pelegeia Nilovna Vlasova (Mother) gave birth to and raised her son Pavel, treated his comrades, an entire generation of Bolsheviks, with affection, wittingly and unwittingly cultivated her son into a revolutionary and herself learned how to live from him, followed his footsteps into the workers' movement and took part it not only for her son's sake, but for the sake of all chUdren, until gendarmes began to strangle her, but even then she did not die.
Gorky too, like Pushkin, did not really have a mother. "Your mother cast you out onto the earth, brother," his grandfather told him (Childhood) (32) Instead he had his grandmother, Akulina Ivanovna (from Childhood), "a mother as real as the earth." This grandmother, who looked like all of the Russian people and like Arina Rodionovna, played the same role, if not. a greater one, than Arina Rodionovna played for Pushkin. But, in this novella, in Childhood, Aleksei Maksimovich also has a physical, living mother, and it is strange that, Gorky depicts her only as a beautiful woman and his grandmother as his mother. This strange feature can be explained easily: it is precisely through his grandmother that Gorky saw the entire world, kind, mysterious, and bent over him with love for his protection and joy...
Childhood is, without a doubt, one of the best works about the Russian people. The image of the grandmother is the highest, most true-to-life depiction of a woman, and in world literature there can be found at most two or three images of an old woman equal in value to this one... The well-known idea that women are probably more important people than men. more valuable, in essence, and not just because they can give birth to children, this idea is almost objectively demonstrated in Childhood.
All of the secrets of life, all of the sadness and hopes of human hearts, are open to grandmother Akulina Ivanovna. She is practically the manager of the human world surrounding her, although she does not rule over it, but to manage, after all, is more important, than to rule. She is her own person even with God. She speaks with him like the manager of life, and, though she is not conscious of it, like a force, if not superior to God (in her understanding), then one that is more necessary and important than he is, because it is only her lot, a woman's lot, to give birth to people, to project them, and to bring them joy. Hers is a serious task, whereas God and devils live only for enchantment, for the interesting mysteriousness of the world.
Akulina Ivanovna gives direct instructions, like a supervisor: "Couldn't you smile down on Varvara with a little joy? What did she do to anger you, how is she more sinful than the rest? What do we have here? A young, healthy woman, but she lives in grief. And don't forget Grigory, Lord ... He'll go blind, go walking around the world, it wouldn't be good!" the grandmother reproaches her God. (33)
'"What else?' she asks aloud, trying to recall and furrowing her brow." (34)
So as not to forget anything, so to speak: God is not very perceptive, he is something like her old husband, she has to remember everything herself in order to keep life in order.
Recall her story, astonishing in its concrete, plastic strength, about heaven, angels, and devils living alongside people in everyday situations, on the same level as cockroaches, her calm, natural heroism during the fire, when the men and the horses took fright, a heroism which proves that Akulina Ivanovna is a true mother and manager of her household, of the people close to her and, if the necessity and occasion should arise, of the whole world. "She was just as interesting as the fire," Gorky said of his grandmother. (35)
The image of Akulina Ivanovna in Childhood--life-producing, bright, and casting light on all of the Russian people and their land--is entirely of a Pushkinian nature. What we are talking about is the essence of Gorky's own relationship with his grandmother; if we were to talk about the original, Pushkinian image of t he "grandmother"--though it is not necessary in this case--then it would be Tatiana's nanny in Eugene Onegin, But what we are concerned with here is not a likeness (there is none in the execution of these two works), but with Pushkin's relationship to women and to reality.
In the figure of grandfather Vasily Vasilievich we are given the image of the growing brutality which inherits the earth alter women and mothers, although it, this brutality, never has and never will inherit the earth in full: grandfather Vasily Vasilievich even loses that which he had when the grandmother was still there, and he dies an impoverished person who has returned to a wild state.
In this original and completely realistic type of person Gorky follows the thematic tradition, developed by certain post-Pushkinian writers, of depicting the fall of a person under the influence of a reality which is "going dark." This reality really did go dark for the grandfather: with the exception of Varvara, his children were, to use contemporary language, ethical fascists at the very least (it was by mere accident that one of the sons, Mikhail, did not manage to kill his father), his commercial affairs were not stable, he went bankrupt, and so on. But at one point at the beginning of his life, in his youth, the grandfather too was a kind and interesting person who resembled the grandmother.
"Tell me something different!" little Aleksei asked a storyteller, when he had gotten tired of stories about brutality and sadness. (36) Aleksei felt that it was monotonous and uninteresting to live in brutality. But the storyteller, changing the topic, again began tell about something boring. Likewise, in Childhood it would have been possible to say "something different" concerning the grandfather's line, that is, something Pushkinian. If Maksim Savvateich, Aleksei's father, had been alive, he would have simply taken the grandfather into his hands, just as he had once taken the grandmother, only not in love, but as part of that "boring" business, and he would have shaken his entire soul out of him, or that part of it which had died and become slag, that "rancor, which, like ice, lives on until it warms up." (37)
And this "something different" is spoken and enacted through the grandmother, Aleksei, Varvara, Maksim Savvateich, Vanya Tsyganok, and a few other people. This "something different" is the very same "Long live the muses, long live the sun" of Pushkin. (38) The aggressive force of the grandfather, in whose person the entire kulak-bourgeois reality is given, wages war with the grandmother, with the muse, for decades, and he did not defeat her, because the grandmother represents the very same enchanted life that was discovered by Pushkin. The grandmother transforms any and all aggressive devils and demons into cockroaches, she cultivates the revolution in the person of Aleksei Peshkov. But, all the same, the "grandfather" persistently threatened Gorky from Childhood on and continued to scare him from time to time, until Gorky defeated the last of his descendants in Klim Samgin. The "Pushkinian" and the "anti-Pushkinian" (conventionally speaking, of course) waged war Gorky's soul and in his work for his whole life: his goal was to overcome the anti-Pushkinian and the irrational in reality and in himself, a self into which the irrational penetrated from the very same reality. This titanic battle is now over; as a result of this battle there appeared new masterpieces of world literature and a few works of prophetic significance.
But, from the perspective of young Soviet humanity, was Maksim Gorky a writer equal in worth to Pushkin? Not yet, it is better not to give the creative powers of socialism any sort of final, complete image so as not to constrict the development of these forces. Gorky was the most perfect and original student of Pushkin's, and, in terms of the humanistic understanding of his literature, he went further than his teacher. He reached the prophetic heights of art; he was a tutor to the proletariat and warmed it with his breath throughout the long years, comforting it in its calamities, even back when the proletariat was in the basement of history, in its obscure and voiceless state of existence. He, Gorky, did everything possible in order that the new Pushkin, the Pushkin of socialism, the Pushkin of light and space the world over, should know, immediately and unerringly, what he needed to do. And the eternal memory' of Maksim Gorky will be preserved forever, because young life remained at the entrance to his grave, a life happier and more certain than it was at the entrance to Pushkin's grave. It may be that the "mysterious singer' who will not betray the trust either of Pushkin or of Gorky may already be present among this life.
Translated by Jason Cieply
"Pushkin i Gor'kii," Literaturnyi kritik, no. 6 (1937): 63-84.
(1) References are provided to Aleksandr Pushkin's seventeen-volume complete collected works, A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, ed. M. A. Tsialovskii, B. V. Tomashevskii et al. (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1937-59) (hereafter PSS) in the following format: "volume.sub-volume :page, lines." Pushkin, "Brozhu li ia vdol' ulits shumnykh...," in PSS, 3.1:195, lines 29-30; Pushkin, "Ia pamiatnik sebe vozdvig nerukotvornyi..," in PSS, 3.1:424, lines 5. All translations are my own.
(2) A. S. Pushkin, Evgenii Onegin: fioman v stikhakh, in PSS, 6:188, Canto 8, XLVII, lines 8-14.
(3) Platonov writes "v obychaiakh stariny" but is likely referring to "the mores of our olden days" (nravy nashei stariny) from stanza XIII of Canto 3. Pushkin, Evgenii Onegin, PSS, 6:57, Canto 3, XIII, line 14.
(4) A. S. Pushkin, Kavkazskii plennik: Povest', in PSS, 4: 94-95, lines 44-45, 48-50, 83-84.
(5) Ibid., 4:96, lines 114-16, 129-32.
(6) Ibid., 4: 97, lines 149, 154-59.
(7) Ibid., 4:96, lines 96-98.
(8) A. S. Pushkin, "la pamiatnik sebe vozdvig nerukotvornyi..," in PSS, 3.1:424, lines 9-10.
(9) A. S. Pushkin, "Prorok," in PSS, 3.1:30, lines 15-25.
(10) Ibid., 3.1:30, fines 1-2.
(11) A. S. Pushkin, Andzhelo, in PSS, 5:123, lines 181-82.
(12) Pushkin, "Brozhu li ia vdol' ulits shumnykh...," 3.1:194, hne 16.
(13) "... Vnov' Andrei Platonov ia posetil...," PSS, 3.1:400, lines 46-47.
(14) Ibid, 3.1:400, lines 50, 53-55.
(15) "The Seeking Out of the Dead" (Vzyskanie pogibshikh) is the name of a famous icon of the Virgin Mary. As Elena Kolesnikova notes, a copy of the icon, to which many miracles have been attributed, was located in Voronezh, where Platonov grew up. Contemporary, secular usage of the term vzyskanie implies punishment or the collection of taxes, debts, or penalties; however, the Orthodox sense means "finding" or "saving." "The Seeking Out of the Dead" is also the name of a 1943 story by Platonov about a mother mourning the deaths of her children during the war. As Kolesnikova argues, in this context, the word vzyskanie implies not prayer to the icon but the remembrance of the dead. E. I. Kolesnikova, "Dukhovnye konteksty tvorchestva Platonova," in Tvorchestva Andreia Platonova: Issledovaniia i materialy, book 3, ed. Kolesnikova (St. Petersburg: Nauka, 2004), 35, 52-53; Platonov, "Vzyskanie pogibshikh," in Smerti net: Rasskazy i publitsistika 1941-1945 godov. Sobranie, ed. N. V. Kornienko (Moscow: Vremia, 2012), 213-330.
(16) Platonov bases these judgments on memoirs of Pavel Annenkov. Annenkov, the first major Pushkin scholar, collected memoirs about the poet and transcribed the first volume of Gogol's Dead Souls, which the author dictated to him from his manuscripts. Annenkov writes: "Pushkin gave an example of the correct appraisal of Gogol. It is well known that Gogol took the idea[s] for The Government Inspector and Dead Souls from Pushkin, but it is not as well known that Pushkin was not happy about ceding his treasures to him. However, among his house servants, Pushkin would say, laughing 'I have to be more careful with this Little Russian: he robs me so blind that I don't even have time to cry out!' Pushkin understood the unwritten rights of a public figure. At the same time, Gogol treated people with the fervor of such sincere love and goodwill that people did not complain, but, on the contrary, rushed to meet him. Never, perhaps, did Gogol employ such a large amount of everyday living experience, knowledge of the heart, ingratiating affection, and feigned ire as in 1842, when he began printing Dead Souls." P. V. Annenkov, Literaturnye vospominaniici (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1983), 12, 59, 74.
(17) Pushkin, "la pamiatnik sebe vozdvig nerukotvornyi...," 3.1:424, line 5.
(18) Platonov is referring to Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin's story "Minor People of a Toy-Like Affair": M. E. Shchedrin, "Igrushechnogo dela liudishki," in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 16 tomakh, 16: Skcizki (Moscow: AN SSSR, 1974), 89-116.
(19) A, S. Pushkin, "Arion," in PSS, 3.1:58, lines 10-15.
(20) The title of Gorky's story does not translate well into English. It comes from the rhyming Russian phrase strasti-mordasti, which can be traced to a folk song used to frighten children. Literally, it translates to something like "passions-big, animal-like face." I have borrowed Boris Khazanov's apt translation, "Fat-Faced Passions." Alexander Boguslawski, "Annotations," in Sasha Sokolov, Between Dog and Wolf, trans. Alexander Boguslawski (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 238; Boris Khazanov, "Leviathan, or the Grandeur of Russian Literature," Russian Studies in Literature 38, no. 1 (2001): 62.
(21) A. S. Pushkin, "Vakkhicheskaia pesnia," in PSS, 2.1:420, line 10.
(22) Unless otherwise noted, references are provided to Maksim Gorky's twenty-five-volume complete collected literary works: M. Gor'kii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii: Khudozhestvemiye proizvedeniia v dvadtsati piati lomakh, ed. L. M. Leonov, A. I. Ovcharenko et al. (Moscow: Nauka, 1968-76) (henceforth PSSKhP), in the following format: "volume:page"; Gor'kii, "V. I. Lenin," PSSKhP, 20:27.
(23) Ibid., 20:28.
(24) Platonov is referring to the four-part epic novel The Life of Klim Samgin. which Gorky conceived of as a critical portrait of a typical representative of the Russian intelligentsia over the course of four decades, beginning in the 1880s and culminating in 1918. As Gorky explained in 1931 at a meeting of the editorial board of the publisher of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, the "intelligentsia, which considered itself revolutionary, really did, to a degree, participate in a factual way in the organization of the first, revolution but then started to make a drastic move to the right in '07 and '08.... 1 was taken with the desire to provide the figure of what., in my opinion, was a typical intellectual... This type of individualist, a person who is inevitably of average intellectual abilities [and] deprived of any remarkable qualities, passes through the literature of the entire nineteenth century.... This person, a member of a revolutionary group, then entered the bourgeois state in the capacity of its defender... Were there so few people who made this drastic turn and for whom social revolution was organically unacceptable[?] They considered themselves a group that was above class. This turned out to be false, because as soon as what happened happened, they immediately turned their backs on one class and their faces to another. What else is there to say? I wanted to depict in the figure of Samgin such an intellectual of average worth who passes through an entire series of moods, seeking the most independent place in life for himself, [a place] where he would be comfortable both materially and internally." Gor'kii, commentary to Zhizn' Klima Samgina (sorok let): Povest', part 1, in Sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1952), 19: 541--42.
(25) M. Gor'ku, "Strasti-mordasti," in PSSKhP, 14:521.
(26) Ibid, 14: 521-22.
(27) Ibid, 14: 522.
(28) Platonov is referring again to line 84 of Prisoner of the Caucasus (Pushkin, Kavkazskii plennik, 4:95, line 84).
(29) Confusingly, Platonov appears to willfully conflate the author, Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov (pseudonym Gorky) with the narrator of the story, who tells the boy Len'ka that they share the same name. Ibid, 14:522-523.
(30) Pushkin, Evgenii Onegin, 6:190, Canto 8, L, Une 13.
(31) A. S. Pushkin, "Niane," in PSS, 3.1:33, lines 1-2.
(32) M. Gor'kii, Detstvo, in PSSKhP, 15:69.
(33) Ibid, 15:52.
(35) Ibid, 15:59.
(36) Ibid., 15:119.
(37) Ibid., 15:163.
(38) This is an inexact reference to Pushkin's "Bacchic Song," which was referenced above. Line 10 of Pushkin's poem actually reads: "Long live the muses, long live reason!" (Pushkin, "Vakkhicheskaia pesnia," 2.1:420, line 10).
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|Title Annotation:||Alexander Pushkin and Maksim Gorky|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
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