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cruel yoke of a shrewish mother-in-law, or puppets in the hands of an ambitious father, like Avdotia, in the comedy 'Everyone in his Place,' who is driven to the verge of desperation by the discovery that she has sacrificed her honour and her father's affection to a worthless fortune-hunter who only eloped with her to secure a rich wife. The heroes, hardly to be called such,
are ineffectual figures, lacking energy to overcome, or al fortitude to endure, adversity.
These are gloomy pictures, but they are alive and arresting.
The same criticism applies to Gorki, who depicts the bourgeoisie with equally relentless realism, but also reveals
, as it were incidentally, a spiritual ideal never wholly eclipsed in the encompassing darkness. His *Foma Gordejev' is a minutely faithful picture of the tragedy of wealth allied to unbridled sensuality. Ignatius Gordeiev, the father of Foma, is a successful merchant, given to coarse pleasures and incapable of generosity or any unselfish action. His advice to his son is shrewd
'It's utterly impossible to walk perfectly straight in a matter of business; one must be politic! So, my boy, when you approach a man, hold honey in your left hand, and in your right-a knife! Every man wants to purchase a fivekopék piece for two kopéks. ... Life, my dear Foma, is very simply regulated : Bite everybody, or lie in the mud.
The life-story of Foma Gordeiev is the story of a man of whom one may say that he never had a chance. But, although he passed through the same stages of debauchery and sensuality as his father before him, there is always a flicker of aspiration towards something higher, which struggles, although too feebly to be effectual
, towards a better life. In the tragic hour when bis reason becomes disordered, he utters the truth that is in him to a group of merchants who have set on him and bound him hand and foot.
What justification have you all in the sight of God ? Why do you live? ... I have lived. I have observed. I have thought. . . . Now I am utterly worn out. . . . Something flared up within me; it has burned out and there is nothing left, nevertheless, although my truth against you is weak, it is the truth. You are accursed I'
By the mental collapse of Foma, his evil gen Mayakim gains control of his large fortune, amas wealth and leaves a flourishing business to his childre
are made to feel that in the despised a degraded Foma there is a spark of the divine fire, fee but unextinguished. It is in this instinctive sympat with moral weakness, with failure and crime itself, tl the Russian writer appears most different from oursel English readers expect to find in fiction the golden pr of success and the happiness which has eluded th grasp in actual life. To men of British race failure abhorrent, almost sinful; and moral lapses may be co doned but are not to be forgiven. Our modern ficti has sometimes sought to exalt the sinner, but the nati as a whole resents the attempt.
In placing Gorki before Uspenski and Zlatovratsky have departed from chronological order, so as to prese the social grades of the Russian people in due sequen from top to bottom. I am led to make this variati from the usual manner of treating my subject, becau it is not merely a question of describing Russi Literature, but of defining its significance. It appea to me in the light of an unending struggle towar political liberty; a struggle originating with t educated upper class and slowly extending to the low strata. It may be traced in the letters of the nob Chiuski written in exile to Ivan the Terrible; strengthened the Freemason Novikov to brave sovereign's displeasure; it led countless men of litera genius to endure exile, imprisonment and death, in tl hope that they might thereby arouse their countrym and free them from ignorance and slavery.
Russian literature is consistently saturated wi politics in some shape or other, and in modern tim has been devoted almost exclusively to the cause of te ignorant and down-trodden peasantry.
The Russie phrase, 'going in among the people,' was not simply a equivalent for 'slumming.' It meant that men and wome of education and refinement were exiling themselves isolated villages far distant from the capital, becomin doctors, teachers, nurses, and fellow-labourers with us taught, uncomprehending moujiks, who were hard
conciliate and slow to believe in their good faith, But the seeds of culture and political unrest sown year by year did gradually penetrate the soil. Revolution became not only inevitable, as it had always been, but imminent; and the signs of its approach were written large throughout the country.
Uspenski and Zlatovratsky are among those whose peasant stories are most instinct with reality. Of the two, the latter is on the whole the more optimistic ; but neither writer gives way to sentiment. Each is giving utterance to his political faith disguised as a work of fiction. Zlatovratsky founded his hopes for the betterment of Russia on the communal life of the moujik. He rejoiced in all that made for unity of purpose, in the artel or workman's unions, in the co-operative farms and the mir or village council. He desired to see the Intellectuals associating themselves with the peasantry, and devoting themselves less exclusively to their own culture. But he makes no attempt to idealise the moujik. Foundations, the Story of a Village,' and 'Rural Weekdays,' are two novels in which he puts forward these ideas with characteristic force. Peter, the hero of Foundations,' after receiving a rudimentary education, has been placed by his father in a business house in Moscow. His affairs prosper, and he presently returns home, becoming the owner of a farm and a man of substance. In this position he grows arrogant and merciless towards the poor and the drunken and unthrifty. The villagers grow restive when he wishes to reserve the communal land for those who will work it most profitably. He returns in disgust to Moscow. Zlatovratsky points out that his failure is due to want of education, and to a false idea of his own superiority,
Uspenski, a contemporary of Zlatovratsky, goes still further in the direction of unvarnished realism. Tolstoy in his short stories of peasant life had given the world many beautiful and pathetic pictures. He described the miserable condition of the moujëk and at the same time beld him up as worthy of imitation. In stories such as "The Death of Ivan Ilitch' and The Snowstorm, it is the servant and the man of humble birth who appears As a type of simple unconscious heroism and self-sacrifice. Cspenski
saw the peasant as a less lovable being. In
his earlier works he describes him as a drunken sot, w hardly a redeeming quality. To him we owe a repuls picture of the village bully, a word which, however, d not accurately define the exact meaning of the origin A Kulak is a well-to-do peasant, of a usurious turn. I whole village is under his thumb.
• What is this phenomenon ? What is a Kulak ? I opinion obtains that the village is being ruined by a m who comes from outside. In truth, wonders are being acco plished before our eyes. Here is the Barin losing thousan of roubles on his estate, not knowing what to do; and he is a moujik making a fortune out of tallow candles. Y. literally out of tallow candles. How is it possible to make profit on a tallow candle, the price of which is a penn Well, as every one knows, there are soirées on winter evenin organised by the village girls. As the young men ha nowhere to go, they perforce attend these entertainments, t cost of which is borne by the girls, so that the prospecti bridegrooms may be put to no expense. The girls pay f
. the hire and lighting of the room. For the former the char is not high, about forty kopéks (1s.] a month, but the lightin is another matter; for this they go to the one practical ma of the village. He provides the candles, doling out to each gi two or three, which she must pay for in labour, at the ra of five kopéks a candle. For each five kopéks' worth lighting the girls undertake to cut ten sheaves of corn. No
how many candles are burned and with how muc labour they are purchased. This practical man of the villag knows everything-when the hens lay, when the wome want money ; in a word, he knows the most secret thought of the village, and on this knowledge he thrives.'
And Uspenski sums up the Kulakchestvo as a pheno menon that is native to village life; not a blot to b effaced, but an ulcer, a disease.'
Uspenski's best novel is considered by Russian critic to be The Power of the Soil.' Written under happie auspices than his first novels, it sets forth a mor sympathetic view of peasant life and character, although like his predecessors, he still surveys the peasant fron above. The hero of this story, Ivan Petrov, from leading a life of prosperity in a good position, becomes as agricultural labourer, and by close contact with nature is redeemed from the moral abyss into which he wa
talling. He embodies, in fact, the new faith in The Power of the Soil' which Uspenski had learnt to feel. At the same time he is under no illusions as to the moujik's vaunted patriotism in war-time.
'No one ever explains anything to him and he himself has lost the habit of asking or finding out. I should tell an ontruth if I were to assert that a desire to go to fight or the childish wish to defend the right is concealed in that absence of deliberation which we see in the people. There is nothing of the kind in him. No one knows why, nor what is the matter, but every one goes without a murmur, because he is accustomed to go; he is accustomed to pay when he is told to pay, and has quite lost the habit of asking whither, why, or wherefore. For the idea of a gre ter or lesser phenomenon happening in the general life of the empire has never reached his village. The village never even knows the circumstances which react on its own economical position.'
It is noteworthy that Russian realism has undergone a process of change during the past twenty years. The novels of Turguenev, Tolstoy, and others of their generation depicted the peasant in a light which the later writers regard as sentimental or unreal. Tolstoy, in particular, fell a victim to his own ideals. He drew the peasant, as Landseer drew dogs and horses, with super-senses to which they had no claim. He brought to the surface qualities that might be and probably were latent, but of which the ordinary observer could see little or nothing. In the novels of to-day another method is apparent.
The peasant is still, or more than ever, the central dominant figure, but he is shorn and denuded of every vestige of false sentiment. Modern realism has retained the detailed description of nature, of dress and appearance, but the classical synthetic vision has given place to a thirst for individualism, to a beclouded dream of a free unfettered existence where the naked truth is to be enthroned and worshipped. Among the leading representatives of this atest development of Russian literature are to be Blumbered Veresaev, Saitsev, and Yushkevich,
of the representatives of the younger generation, Pushkevich is one of the most gifted. He presents the sufferings of the individual, the stupefying effect of daremitting toil, the wail of the hungry, in a way that