Authors: Mikhail Artsybashev

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Russian novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Smert’ Lande, 1904 (novella; Ivan Lande, 1916)

Sanin, 1907 (Sanine, 1914)

U posledney cherty, 1912 (Breaking-Point, 1915)

Dikie, 1923 (The Savage, 1924)

Short Fiction:

The Millionaire, 1915

Rasskazy, 1917

Tales of the Revolution, 1917


Zakon dikarya, pb. 1912 (The Law of the Savage, 1921)

Revnost’, pr., pb. 1913 (Jealousy, 1923)

Vragi, pb. 1913 (Enemies, 1923)

Voyna, pr. 1914 (War, 1916)


Zapisky pisatelya, 1925


Mikhail Petrovich Artsybashev (ur-tsih-BAH-shihf) lived through some of the darkest years that Russia has known. As a writer he was affected by his troubled times and by the literary influence of Fyodor Dostoevski, and he is considered one of the most pessimistic writers of his era.{$I[AN]9810000257}{$I[A]Artsybashev, Mikhail}{$I[geo]RUSSIA;Artsybashev, Mikhail}{$I[tim]1878;Artsybashev, Mikhail}

Artsybashev’s parentage was partially Tartar, and he early demonstrated a rebellious, nihilistic spirit. His early education was in art, and he had achieved some fame as a caricaturist when he turned to writing fiction and drama. Although he did not become recognized as a first-rank writer, his short stories, particularly his first one, “Pasha Tumanov” (1901), were popular. With the publication of his first novel, Sanine, in 1907, he became an overnight international sensation. The revolt against social traditions and the excessively vivid pictures of vice he presented appealed to his unsettled Russian readers, especially to the young people, who formed Sanin cults and organized their defiance of tradition and restraint. Sanine was written when Artsybashev was not yet thirty years of age, but his maturing years brought no relaxation of his frank, brutal, vision. The themes of his second novel, Breaking-Point include death, sexual irregularity, and suicide. The plays War and The Law of the Savage resemble the novels in tone, except that they have the advantage of being more direct in structure.

Artsybashev was imprisoned by the czarist government in 1912. After the revolution of 1917 he was almost equally unpopular with the Bolsheviks, even though he had written scathing stories about imperialistic tyranny. He was often berated for the “immorality” of his works, and in 1923 he left Russia permanently. After his departure his novels were often confiscated and burned, and his popularity declined. Although he never gained critical favor, his work cannot be dismissed. He had a direct style, a good sense of plot, and an attitude toward life which, if not widely accepted, must be understood for literary and historical reasons. As Janko Lavrin has pointed out, Artsybashev spoke for and to a demoralized intellectual and political generation. He died in exile at Warsaw, Poland, in 1927, still advocating his doctrines of individuality and the illusoriness of love.

BibliographyGlicksberg, Charles I. The Literature of Nihilism. Lewisberg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1975. Discusses the aspects of nihilism in Artsybashev’s works.Lavrin, Janko. Russian Writers: Their Lives and Literature. New York: Van Nostrand, 1954. A brief study of Artsybashev in English.Luker, Nicholas. “Artsybashev’s Sanin: A Reappraisal.” Renaissance and Modern Studies 24 (1980). Re-evaluates Artsybashev’s main work.Luker, Nicholas. In Defence of a Reputation: Essays on the Early Prose of Mikhail Artsybashev. Nottingham, England: Astra Press, 1990. A full-length monograph in which Luker attempts a rehabilitation of Artsybashev from a late twentieth century point of view.Luker, Nicholas.“‘Wild Justice’: Mikhail Artsybashev’s Mstitel’ Collection.” New Zealand Slavonic Journal, 1993. Deals with Artsybashev’s later work.Pachmuss, Temira. “Mikhail Artsybashev in the Criticism of Zinaida Gippius.” The Slavonic and East European Review 44 (1966). A critical appraisal and an evaluation of Artsybashev by a leading critic.Slonim, Marc. Modern Russian Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972. A brief study of Artsybashev in English. Includes bibliography and index.
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