The Life of a Useless Man

Last updated

The Life of a Useless Man (Russian : Жизнь ненужного человека, romanized: Zhizn nenuzhnogo cheloveka) is a 1908 Russian-language novel by Maxim Gorky. It concerns the "plague of espionage" under the Empire; the protagonist is Yevsey Klimkov, who spies for the Tsarist regime. [1]

Contents

Plot

The orphan boy Yevsey Klimkov is apprenticed to the owner of a shop, who secretly sells prohibited revolutionary books and then informs on his customers to the police. The bookseller is murdered, and the bereft, frail, and weak Klimkov is coerced by the Tsarist police to be a spy and informer. [2] [3]

Klimkov admires the revolutionaries, but lives in fear of being discovered by them. He consoles himself that he is just following orders, but when unable to gather sufficient information, he makes it up. The role of the agent provocateur is commended to Klimkov, and he takes it: he encourages some revolutionaries to produce illegal pamphlets, supplies them with the printing facilities, and then has them arrested. His reward is 25 rubles for sending seven people to prison. [2]

Torn inside, Klimkov confesses to one of the revolutionaries, then tries to assassinate the police chief in revenge of his plight. He fails, and then hangs himself. [2]

History

Maxim Gorky completed The Life of a Useless Man in the summer of 1907, before The Confession, although The Confession was published first. It was not possible to publish the book In Russia, so it was published in Berlin by I. P. Ladyzhnikov. [4]

On February 24, 1910, a report to the Russian Central Committee of Foreign Censorship characterized the book with "The author sets out to contrast the nastiness of the [government] spies and provocateurs on the one hand with the nobility of the revolutionaries on the other... and since the author frequently mentions the Tsar and the revolutionaries' intentions regarding his person, and makes it clear that every bad thing that is done in Russia is done for the glory of the Tsar and at his command... It is clear that this book should not only be banned, but not issued on petition." The Committee classified the novel as "Prohibited, not to be distributed". [4]

In 1914 the publishing house Life and Knowledge (Russian : Жизнь и знание) decided to release The Life of a Useless Man in the tenth volume of Gorky's works. The book was printed but distribution was delayed by censorship. In February 1914 the St. Petersburg Press Committee decided to initiate criminal proceedings against Gorky and seize all copies of the book. On May 19, 1914, this decision was carried out, and most of The Life of a Useless Man was cut out of all 10,400 copies of the volume. [4]

Cuttings – the two thirds of the book that depict the activities of the organs of the tsarist secret police – was published in Russia in 1917, Life and Knowledge noting "The court having upheld the censorship, we managed to save only the first six and a half chapters from destruction. And we could only offer a bland note that 'circumstances beyond our control have forced us to offer this book in extremely abbreviated form' – the Tsarist censor did not allow us to print anything else about this... currently we are releasing, as the second book of the tenth volume, the entire ending, beginning with Chapter 7, of this work by Gorky, guided by the fact that many readers have already purchased the first six chapters which we released in the tenth volume, and which we will now consider only the first book of this volume". [4]

The Life of a Useless Man was translated into English by Moura Budberg, Gorky's secretary and common law wife.

Related Research Articles

Maxim Gorky 19th and 20th-century Russian and Soviet writer

Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, primarily known as Maxim Gorky, was a Russian and Soviet writer, a founder of the socialist realism literary method, and a political activist. He was also a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Around fifteen years before success as a writer, he frequently changed jobs and roamed across the Russian Empire; these experiences would later influence his writing. Gorky's most famous works were The Lower Depths (1902), Twenty-six Men and a Girl (1899), The Song of the Stormy Petrel (1901), My Childhood (1913–1914), Mother (1906), Summerfolk (1904) and Children of the Sun (1905). He had an association with fellow Russian writers Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov; Gorky would later mention them in his memoirs.

Okhrana Secret police force of the Russian Empire

The Department for Protecting the Public Security and Order, usually called "guard department" and commonly abbreviated in modern sources as Okhrana was a secret-police force of the Russian Empire and part of the police department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) in the late 19th century, aided by the Special Corps of Gendarmes.

Bloody Sunday (1905) Massacre in Russia in January 1905

Bloody Sunday or Red Sunday is the name given to the events of Sunday, 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905 in St Petersburg, Russia, when unarmed demonstrators, led by Father Georgy Gapon, were fired upon by soldiers of the Imperial Guard as they marched towards the Winter Palace to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Dmitry Bogrov Ukrainian assassin

Dmitry Grigoriyevich Bogrov was the assassin of the Russian Minister Of The Interior Pyotr Stolypin.

Georgy Gapon 19th and 20th-century Russian Orthodox priest

Georgy Apollonovich Gapon (1870–1906) was a Russian Orthodox priest and a popular working-class leader before the Russian Revolution of 1905. After he was discovered to be a police informant, Gapon was murdered by members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party.

Vladimir Burtsev Russian revolutionary activist

Vladimir L'vovich Burtsev was a revolutionary activist, scholar, publisher and editor of several Russian language periodicals. He became famous by exposing a great number of agents provocateurs, notably Yevno Azef in 1908. Because of his own revolutionary activities and his harsh criticism of the imperial regime, including personal criticism of emperor Nicholas II, he was imprisoned several times in various European countries. In the course of his life, Burtsev fought oppressive policies from Tsarism in Imperial Russia, followed by the Bolsheviks and later Adolf Hitler's National Socialism.

The Song of the Stormy Petrel Russian revolutionary piece written in 1901 by Maxim Gorky

"The Song of the Stormy Petrel" is a short piece of revolutionary literature written by the Russian writer Maxim Gorky in 1901. The poem is written in a variation of unrhymed trochaic tetrameter with occasional Pyrrhic substitutions.

Moscow Art Theatre theatre company

The Moscow Art Theatre is a theatre company in Moscow. It was founded in 1898 by the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. It was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to the melodramas that were Russia's dominant form of theatre at the time. The theatre, the first to regularly put on shows implementing Stanislavski's system, proved hugely influential in the acting world and in the development of modern American theatre and drama.

Zhizn was a Russian magazine published first in Saint Petersburg (1897-1901), then in London and Geneva (1902).

<i>August 1914</i> (novel) novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

August 1914 is a Russian novel by Nobel Prize-winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn about the defeat of the Imperial Russian Army at the Battle of Tannenberg in East Prussia. The novel was completed in 1970, first published in 1971, with an English translation the following year. The novel is an unusual blend of fiction narrative and historiography, and has given rise to extensive and often bitter controversy, both from the literary as well as from the historical point of view.

<i>Mother</i> (1926 film) 1926 film by Vsevolod Pudovkin

Mother is a 1926 Soviet drama film directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin depicting one woman's struggle against Tsarist rule during the Russian Revolution of 1905. The film is based on the 1906 novel The Mother by Maxim Gorky. It is the first film in Pudovkin's "revolutionary trilogy", alongside The End of St. Petersburg (1927) and Storm Over Asia (1928).

Moura Budberg Russian noble

Maria Ignatievna Budberg, also known variously as Countess Benckendorff, Baroness Budberg, born in Poltava, was the daughter of Ignaty Platonovitch Zakrevsky (1839-1906), a Russian nobleman and diplomat. She was an adventuress and suspected double agent of OGPU and British Intelligence Service.

<i>Mother</i> (Gorky novel) novel by Maxim Gorki

Mother is a novel written by Maxim Gorky in 1906 about revolutionary factory workers. It was first published, in English, in Appleton's Magazine in 1906, then in Russian in 1907.

<i>At Daggers Drawn</i> (novel) novel by Nikolai Leskov

At Daggers Drawn is an anti-nihilist novel by Nikolai Leskov, first published in 1870 and 1871 by Russky Vestnik. In November 1871 the novel was released in book form. The novel's original text was severely edited by the magazine's staff.

Maxim Gorky bibliography Wikimedia list article

This is a bibliography of the works of Maxim Gorky.

Pravda is a Russian broadsheet newspaper, formerly the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, when it was one of the most influential papers in the country with a circulation of 11 million. The newspaper began publication on 5 May 1912 in the Russian Empire, but was already extant abroad in January 1911. It emerged as a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union after the October Revolution. The newspaper was an organ of the Central Committee of the CPSU between 1912 and 1991.

<i>The Story of an Unknown Man</i> Novella by Anton Chekhov

The Story of an Unknown Man, translated also as The Story of a Nobody and An Anonymous Story, is an 1893 novella by Anton Chekhov first published by Russkaya Mysl, in Nos. 2 and 3 1893 issues. In a revised version Chekhov included into Volume 6 of his Collected Works, published by Adolf Marks in 1899–1901.

The Griboyedov Prize was a Russian literary award established in 1878 by the Society of Russian Dramatists and Opera Composers to honor Alexander Griboyedov. The opening ceremony was held on 11 February, on the anniversary of the great Russian playwright's death. The prize, collected through private donations, was awarded to the best play of the year, produced in Saint Petersburg and Moscow by either Imperial Theatres or their private counterparts. Despite of the fact that the Prize was launched in 1878, it was first awarded in 1883.

A Confession is a 1908 novel by Maxim Gorky. It first appeared in the Znaniye compilation and almost simultaneously came out as a separate edition via the Ladyzhnikov Publishers in Berlin.

The Russia We Lost is a 1992 Russian documentary film directed and narrated by Stanislav Govorukhin, dedicated to pre-revolutionary Russia.

References

  1. Moissaye J. Olgin (January 18, 1919). "Maxim Gorky". The New Republic. p. 334. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 Danny Morrison (1992). "The Life of a Useless Man". Danny Morrison – Writer. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  3. "The Life of a Useless Man". Goodreads. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Жизнь ненужного человека" [Life of a Useless Man]. Sinn.ru. Retrieved April 29, 2017.(in Russian)

Further reading