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Friday, September 26, 2014

The Artamonov Business (1927) by Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky: literary favorite of the Russian Communist regime


Book Review
The Artamonov Business (1927)
by Maxim Gorky

   Perhaps best described as a Russian version of a multi-generational family late Victorian book by Anthony Trollope grafted onto a Russian scene, Gorky's characters are unabashedly earthy, with a "just liberated from serfdom by the Czar" feel.   Like We by Yevgeny Zamytin, The Artmonov Business was tough to track down  Given how familiar the plot of the multi-generational family owning a factory feels to anyone familiar with 19th or 20th century English/American/French literature, it is surprising that The Artmonov Business isn't better known, but that may relate to Gorky's status as a pet of the Russian Communist dictatorship.

   Along with the earthiness comes a lustiness, which certainly is not reminiscent from late-Victorian/Edwardian English prose. Gorky's characters drink, carouse, kill bears for fun, screw, etc, etc, etc. In one particularly memorable scene the head of the second generation of the family heads to all Russian trade fair and goes on a week long bender, drinking and whoring like a world champion.

  The Communists would ultimately wipe out the nascent industrial class of Czarist Russia, and that gives the Artmonov's and their linen factory a certain elegiac quality, like a glimpse into a vanished past.

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