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6 Historical Novels by Maxim Gorky

Updated on March 25, 2020
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Prachi is a voracious reader and a bibliophile. She has her own library with a collection of more than thousands of books of different genre

Maxim Gorky
Maxim Gorky

Happiness looks small and tiring when you have it in your hand, but the moment you let it go, you realize how big and precious it was.

— Maxim Gorky

Maximovich Peshkov, known by his pen name Maxim Gorky, was the originator of the socialist realism literary method. He was a famous Russian and Soviet writer. Through his writings, he discussed the problems of common people and revealed their hardships and humiliations.

Amazing Facts about Maxim Gorky

  • He was also a political activist and had been nominated five times for Noble Prize in literature.
  • He was associated with other famous writers like Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov.
  • His writings are influenced by his frequent job changes and roaming across the Russian Empire.
  • He was orphaned at the age of 11 and raised by his grandmother. He, once, attempted suicide.
  • He took literature as a moral and political act which could change the world for the better.
  • He was against the Tsarist regime and got arrested several times.
  • The Tupolev ANT-20, the largest aircraft of the 1930s was named after him including the main park and central streets of Moscow.
  • He was the President of the Union of the Soviet Writers.
  • He was against homosexuality.
  • He died of pneumonia on June 1936.

Maxim Gorky is not only known for his successful novels, but also for dramas and plays. Focusing on his major success, here are the best novels that you can add to your reading list:

The I.V. Stalin White Sea - Baltic Sea Canal
The I.V. Stalin White Sea - Baltic Sea Canal

1. The I.V. Stalin White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal

  • It is a non-fiction book describing the construction of the historical White Sea-baltic Sea canal, also elaborating on the labor used.
  • The book shows the power and authority of the state to refine the landscape and people to maintain their goals.
  • Maxim Gorky was not the only writer, but he was the head editor and the leader of the writers’ team of thirty-four.
  • It also deals with the history of labors and how these works helped them change from criminals to useful members of society.
  • Considered to be one of the finest non-fiction work of Gorky, the book was yet criticized by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn through his The Gulag Archipelago, where he called Gorky’s work as the introduction to the glorification of slave labor in the Russian literature.

2. Mother

It’s only mothers who think of the future because they give birth to it in their children.

— Maxim Gorky
  • Mother is said to be the most influential novel of Maxim Gorky. He wrote it while traveling to the United States.
  • Gorky wrote this book to encourage the proletarian movement and raise the spirits to fight against any injustice.
  • The novel took its inspiration from real-life events especially Anna Zalomova and her son Piotr Zalomov, who were distant relatives of Gorky.
  • The protagonist is Pelageya Nilovna Vlasova, who is the mother of a boy and wife of a heavy drunkard. Her husband assaults her and later, leaves her with all the responsibility to raise the son.
  • Pelageya’s son Pavel is the truly revolutionary character of the story. He helps his mother to overcome political ignorance and awakens her soul to bring a new revolution.
  • Mother is often considered the most remarkable novel of the century across the world.

3. Old Izergil

  • Old Izergil is a short story about an old woman, who was very beautiful, once, but is now old and worn out.
  • The story starts amidst the Moldovan vineyards when people are returning from work along with Izergil. On the way, she tells the narrator some stories.
  • She tells him about her turbulent love life, mysterious moving shadow and a leader who died protecting his horde.
  • The idea of writing this book came to Gorky while traveling to Romania and Bessarabia.
  • The word “Izergil” come from “Iggradzil”, which is a term given to the giant ash of the Scandinavian mythology.

Twenty-six men
Twenty-six men

4. Twenty-Six Men and a Girl

  • Twenty-Six Men and a Girl is another short story by Gorky that describes the miserable life of 26 men who work in a sweatshop located in Czarist Russia during the 19th century.
  • Gorky was inspired to write this story by his own working life as an errand boy, watchman and shoemaker’s helper.
  • The book helped him earn huge recognition and thus, gave him enough money to pursue his passion for writing.
  • The men live a mournful life and even when they sing there’s no happiness, they hardly talk but try to cheer each other while singing.
  • The only good thing in their life is a 16-year-old chambermaid who comes every morning in their shop to ask for biscuits. They never say ill about her, but respect her and call her their sunshine who brightens their day with a smiling face.
  • The major conflict is between the men and their jobs and how they try to spend every passing day full of miseries.

5. The Life of a Useless Man

  • The protagonist is an orphan boy named Yevsey Klimkov who sells banned revolutionary books to the customers and then give information about them to the police.
  • He is pressurized to become a spy and informer for Tsarist police.
  • He admires books based on revolutions but is deep down scared of the police.
  • When he fails to gather much information about people, he forces himself to ask some revolutionaries to create illegal work and then, get them arrested.
  • The book was initially banned from distribution, but after eliminating the content that depicted the activities of the tsarist secret police, it was made publicly available in an abbreviated form.

The Life of a Useless Man by Maxim Gorky

The Life of a Useless Man
The Life of a Useless Man
The Life of a Useless Man describes the mental struggle of a young boy, Yevsey Klimkov, who is forced to spy on his friends on the order of Tsarist police. It is a miserable story and journey of a useless life, yet is awkwardly sympathetic and affectionate toward its dumb main character. Due to his profession, he is away from solidarity and genuine closeness with other people.

6. Orphan Paul

  • One of his first novels, Orphan Paul is about an orphan boy, Paul and a prostitute named Natasha.
  • The book describes the endless sufferings of Paul, his helpless moments and protests against life.
  • Gorky explores how the younger generation protested against life in Russia to build a new world.
  • The main theme is thievery, murder, prostitution, and drunkenness.
  • According to some writers, the apt description for the story is “Love betrayed by Love”.

Orphan Paul by Maxim Gorky

Orphan Paul
Orphan Paul
Maxim Gorky has chosen a young orphan boy and a prostitute for his very first novel. Check out how the book explores the various aspects of life including friendship, prostitution, and murder. Paul’s very birth is a miserable event. It is followed by sadness everywhere. Blessing him with a better and comfortable life, his parents threw him into the shelter. Right from this misbehavior, the story proceeds with Gorky’s various literary experiments. The plot is vague and has multiple dialogues, yet holds the readers till the very end. The climax is touching and realistic.

Maxim Gorky was very well-aware of the loneliness and despair of persecuted humanity. He perfectly and vividly describes these issues in each of his works.

His writings were the start of a new era of Russian literature and also made a heavy impact on today’s Russian writers.

© 2019 Prachi Sharma


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