Perepiska. 1916-1936

Article excerpt

A.D. Mikhailov, V.S. Barakhov, L.A. Spiridonova, eds. M. Gor'kii i R.Rollan: Perepiska. 191S1936. Arkhiv Gor'kogo, Vol. XV. Moscow: Nasledie, 1996. 543 pp. Illustrations. Indices.

This publication of the correspondence between Gorky and Rolland is part of a growing literature on Gorky inspired by glasnost revelations. Romain Rolland (1866-1944), a French author, playwright and biographer, and Maxim Gorky (1868-1936), a Russian writer, publicist and public figure, were friends. The correspondence they conducted for a period of twenty years shows their concerns and ideas in a crucial period in the history of Russia and the West. Compiled, translated and edited by members of the A.M. Gork'ii Institute of World Literature, the collection under review contains 216 letters written between 1916 and Gorky's death in 1936.

As the editors explain, Rolland left express instructions that the letters be published fifty years following his 1935 visit to the Soviet Union. Rolland was obviously concerned that some of Gorky's letters would be considered not "politically correct," and would endanger Gorky's position in his country. The same instructions applied to the Moscow Diary which Rolland wrote after returning from the Soviet Union. Its Russian translation was published in 1988.

The letters were taken from originals held at the Gorky Archive in Moscow, the National Library in Paris, and the Public Library in the Department of Nevres, France. Some of the correspondence became previously available in the multivolume edition of Gorky's works, but the letters were censored and the commentaries brief. In France, an edition of the collection appeared in 1991, edited by the Rolland scholar Jean Perus, and entitled Correspondance entre Romain Rolland et Maxime Gorki, in the series Cahiers Romain Rolland, Cahier 28. While acknowledging the cooperation and the help of the late Jean Perus, the editors of the Russian edition consider their work to be more complete. Indeed their annotations constitute one third of their work.

There is much that is new in the letters published here for the first time. Of interest are Gorky' s views on the Revolution following his departure from the Soviet State in 1921. One might say that these are written in the vein of articles published in his newspaper Novaia zhizn' (New Life), in 1917, 1918. However, when addressing Rolland, he is more candid and shares his bitternes and disappointment with the course the Revolution was taking. He also writes about his alienation from his native land: "I am a man without a fatherland" (p. 87). And, when in 1924 the news reached Gorky that Krupskaia, Lenin's wife, ordered the removal from libraries of so called "forbidden books"-including well known Western and Russian philosophers, historians, writers (among them L. Tolstoy) and labelling them as counter-revolutionary-he denounced her actions in rather strong terms going as far as considering her mentally unbalanced (sic). …