Authors: Maxim Gorky

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Russian novelist, short-story writer, and playwright

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Goremyka Pavel, 1894 (novella; Orphan Paul, 1946)

Foma Gordeyev, 1899 (English translation, 1901)

Troye, 1901 (Three of Them, 1902)

Mat, 1906 (Mother, 1906)

Ispoved, 1908 (The Confession, 1909)

Zhizn Matveya Kozhemyakina, 1910 (The Life of Matvei Kozhemyakin, 1959)

Delo Artomonovykh, 1925 (Decadence, 1927; also known as The Artomonov Business, 1948)

Zhizn Klima Samgina, 1927-1936 (The Life of Klim Samgin, 1930-1938; includes The Bystander, 1930, The Magnet, 1931, Other Fires, 1933, and The Specter, 1938)

Short Fiction:

“Chelkash,” 1895 (English translation, 1901)

“Byvshye lyudi,” 1897 (“Creatures That Once Were Men,” 1905)

Ocherki i rasskazy, 1898-1899 (3 volumes)

“Dvadtsat’ shest’ i odna,” 1899 (“Twenty-six Men and a Girl,” 1902)

Rasskazy i p’esy, 1901-1910 (9 volumes)

Orloff and His Wife: Tales of the Barefoot Brigade, 1901

Skazki ob Italii, 1911-1913 (Tales of Italy, 1958?)

Tales of Two Countries, 1914

Po Rusi, 1915 (Through Russia, 1921)

Chelkash, and Other Stories, 1915

Stories of the Steppe, 1918

Zametki iz dnevnika: Vospominaniia, 1924 (Fragments from My Diary, 1924)

Rasskazy 1922-1924 godov, 1925

Selected Short Stories, 1959

A Sky-Blue Life, and Selected Stories, 1964

The Collected Short Stories of Maxim Gorky, 1988


Meshchane, pr., pb. 1902 (Smug Citizen, 1906)

Na dne, pr., pb. 1902 (The Lower Depths, 1912)

Dachniki, pr., pb. 1904 (Summer Folk, 1905)

Deti solntsa, pr., pb. 1905 (Children of the Sun, 1906)

Varvary, pr., pb. 1906 (Barbarians, 1906)

Vragi, pb. 1906 (Enemies, 1945)

Posledniye, pr., pb. 1908

Chudake, pr., pb. 1910 (Queer People, 1945)

Vassa Zheleznova (first version), pb. 1910 (English translation, 1945)

Falshivaya moneta, wr. 1913, pr., pb. 1927

Zykovy, pb. 1914 (The Zykovs, 1945)

Starik, wr. 1915, pr. 1919 (Old Man, 1924)

Yegor Bulychov i drugiye, pr., pb. 1932 (Yegor Bulychov and Others, 1937)

Dostigayev i drugiye, pr., pb. 1933 (Dostigayev and Others, 1937)

Vassa Zheleznova (second version), pr., pb. 1935 (English translation, 1975)

Seven Plays, pb. 1945

Five Plays, pb. 1956

Plays, pb. 1975


Detstvo, 1913 (My Childhood, 1915)

V lyudyakh, 1916 (In the World, 1917)

Vozpominaniya o Lev Nikolayeviche Tolstom, 1919 (Reminiscences of Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, 1920)

Moi universitety, 1923 (My Universities, 1923)

Vladimir Ilich Lenin, 1924 (V. I. Lenin, 1931)

Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Chekhov and Andreyev, 1949

Untimely Thoughts: Essays on Revolution, Culture, and the Bolsheviks, 1968


Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 1949-1955 (30 volumes)

Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 1968-1976 (25 volumes)

Collected Works of Maxim Gorky, 1978-1982 (10 volumes)


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.{$I[AN]9810001431}{$I[A]Gorky, Maxim}{$S[A]Peshkov, Aleksey Maksimovich;Gorky, Maxim}{$I[geo]RUSSIA;Gorky, Maxim}{$I[tim]1868;Gorky, Maxim}

Maxim Gorky

(Library of Congress)

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 married in 1896, while he was a writer for the Samarskaya Gazete, and in 1898 he published his first collection of short stories. These established his fame not only in Russia but in Europe and America as well.

Chekhov’s introducing Gorky to the Moscow Art Players led to a memorable event in world theater, Gorky’s first plays, Smug Citizen and The Lower Depths. Both works were staged in 1902 and aroused controversy when produced, but the experience convinced him that the theater could provide a forum for his beliefs.

Gorky’s social and ideological quest brought him to Marxism. He participated in the revolutionary movement, called for the overthrow of czarism, and in the summer of 1905 joined the Bolshevik Party. In 1906 he left Russia illegally and briefly visited the United States, an experience that spawned a series of stories (The City of the Yellow Devil, 1906), essays, and pamphlets. Upon his return to Europe Gorky lived on the island of Capri, 1906-1913, where he wrote several plays, short stories, and novels.

In 1913 Gorky returned to Russia and worked on a literary magazine. At first he sided with the Bolsheviks, but he broke with them immediately after the revolution, and in 1921 he left the country in disagreement over censorship.

In 1925 he published The Artomonov Business, a bitter statement about the Bolshevik Revolution, and started working on his final novel, The Life of Klim Samgin. In 1928 and 1929 he came to the Soviet Union for a visit, and in 1931 he returned to his homeland to engage in literary and public activity in which he hoped to use his authority to save lives and promote cultural values.

The genius of the writer is seen through the frankly autobiographical works; his observations of Russian life are highly colored by his own emotional and intuitive responses. Soviet critics praised Gorky, claiming him as the father of Soviet literature and the founder of Socialist Realism. After the collapse of communism and the Soviet empire, Gorky’s reputation suffered at the hands of those critics who disregarded the complex personality of the great writer who was against any form of oppression and who tried to capture the confusion and tragedy of his time.

This viewpoint gives some credence to the belief that he was actually murdered–not by the anti-Stalinists who suffered the death penalty for alleged complicity in the plot–but by order of the Communist Party.

BibliographyBarratt, Andrew. The Early Fiction of Maksim Gorky: Six Essays in Interpretation. Nottingham, England: Astra Press, 1993. Excellent essays on Gorky’s early works. Includes bibliographical references and an index.Borras, F. M. Maxim Gorky the Writer: An Interpretation. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1962. One of the more astute interpretations of Gorky’s works, especially his novels and plays. Unlike many other books that concentrate either on biography or political issues, Borras’s book emphasizes Gorky’s artistic achievements. Chapter 2 analyzes his short stories.Figes, Orlando. “Maxim Gorky and the Russian Revolution.” History Today 46 (June, 1996): 16-22. Argues that Gorky’s journalism and correspondence revealed in Soviet archives shows Gorky was not a devout Bolshevik and had doubts concerning the revolution and the course it took after 1917, all of which forced him into exile in 1921.Gorky, Maxim. Maxim Gorky: Selected Letters. Edited and translated by Andrew Barratt and Barry P. Scherr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. An important collection of letters beginning in 1889 and ending with Gorky’s death in 1936. The letters reveal Gorky’s life story in his own words, shed light on many writers, including Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy, and are representative of the development of Russian literature.Gorky, Maxim. Untimely Thoughts: Essays on Revolution, Culture, and the Bolsheviks: 1917-1918. Translated by Herman Ermolaev. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995. A splendid collection of critical articles that denounce the Bolshevik system of government, depict the Russian national character, and render a vision of the future.Hare, Richard. Maxim Gorky: Romantic Realist and Conservative Revolutionary. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. The first substantial study of Gorky in English since Alexander Kaun’s book (listed below). Hare combines the political aspects of Gorky’s biography with critical analyses of his works, with the latter receiving the short end. Contains some interesting observations obtained from (anonymous) people who knew Gorky well.Kaun, Alexander. Maxim Gorky and His Russia. New York: Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, 1931. The first book on Gorky in English, written while Gorky was still alive and supported by firsthand knowledge about him. It covers literary and nonliterary aspects of Russia’s literary life and the atmosphere in Gorky’s time. Still one of the best biographies, despite some outdated facts, corrected by history.Levin, Dan. Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maxim Gorky. New York: Schocken Books, 1985. This reprint of the author’s 1965 work contains the detailed notes he excised from the original edition. An engrossing biographical and literary interpretation.O’Toole, L. Michael. “’Twenty-six Men and a Girl.’” In Structure, Style, and Interpretation in the Russian Short Story. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982. A structuralist analysis of the story.Peterson, Dale E. “Richard Wright’s Long Journey from Gorky to Dostoevsky.” African American Review 28 (Fall, 1994): 375-387. Discussion of the influence of Gorky and Dostoevski on Richard Wright. Notes similarities between Gorky’s and Wright’s writing, but claims that Wright moved away from Gorky’s faith in collectivist culture and social engineering.Scherr, Barry P. Maxim Gorky. Boston: Twayne, 1988. Chapters on the writer and revolutionary, his literary beginnings in the short story, his career as a young novelist, his plays, his memoirs, and his final achievements. Includes a chronology, detailed notes, and annotated bibliography. The best introductory study.Terry, Garth M., comp. Maxim Gorky in English: A Bibliography. 2d rev. ed. Nottingham, England: Astra Press, 1992. An indispensable aid for any student of Gorky.Troyat, Henri. Gorky. New York: Crown, 1989. A translation of a Russian biography of Gorky that presents his life and works. Bibliography and index.Weil, Irwin. Gorky: His Literary Development and Influence on Soviet Intellectual Life. New York: Random House, 1966. The most scholarly book on Gorky in English, skillfully combining biography with critical analysis. Valuable especially for the discussion of Soviet literary life and Gorky’s connections with, and influence on, younger Soviet writers. Contains select but adequate bibliography.Yedlin, Tova. Maxim Gorky: A Political Biography. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999. A biography of the Russian writer that focuses on his political and social views. Bibliography and index.
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