Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

7
Maxim Gorky: Feminist

I did not discover Maxim Gorky in school, where he was included in the curriculum as a Proletariat writer.We wrote essays on his revolutionary novel Mother, and mine was as formal as the others.I discovered Gorky for myself later.Having come to know the man who said, "The power of the Woman of the World is coming ..." I have still not parted with him.He accompanies me even to this day. In my youth, having swallowed his Collected Works (in thirty volumes), I dreamt of writing about his feminism. However, as a student at the dogmatic VUZ (an institute of higher education) and after that working in the official culture in Leningrad, I could not imagine such an article being accepted for publication.So now I have returned to this cherished idea in the hope of fulfilling my dream.

Starting with the earliest of his stories Gorky gives special attention to the woman and depicts her quite uniquely.She, that very Woman of the World, appears throughout this writer's works, changing her name and face, but remaining free and proud.Let's consider his famous piece "Old Izergil" ( 1895). The life of Izergil was full of hardships.She changed lovers several times. Let us hear what she says about one of them — a Polish monk: "He was a mean and despicable thing.When he wanted a woman he used to sidle up to me like a tomcat and speak to me with words that flowed from his lips like hot honey; but when he did not want me he used to snarl at me, and his words sounded like the crack of a whip." 1 Later old Izergil relates that they were once walking along the bank of a river, and her lover, in turn, insulted her.That time she didn't take it:

I bubbled like boiling pitch! I took him up in my arms like a child — he was only a little fellow — held him and squeezed his sides so hard that his face became livid. And then I swung him round and threw him into the river. He yelled. It was so funny to hear him yell. I looked down at him struggling in the water and went away. I didn't meet him again after that. 2

Another story of that same period, " My Fellow Traveler," is about a Georgian prince who by chance has become a barefooted vagabond. Alesha

-55-

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