Maxim Gorky was dubbed the father of socialist realism in the Soviet period, but he had forged his career as an internationally known novelist and dramatist some three or more decades earlier. Posing questions that Soviet critics found difficult to confront, the author examines the effects of exile and religion on the content and form of the plays as well as the role played by women, and the personal and political implications of motherhood. All sixteen of Gorky’s published plays are covered, and the book explores whether this body of work has themes and styles to unify it. While conflict is central to the core political themes and also infiltrates many aspects of the dramatic style (cartoonish and grotesque), other less expected themes and styles emerge. Viewing the post-revolutionary plays as a development of earlier work leads to a question rarely posed: are the plays written by Gorky in the process of defining the new Party-inspired socialist realism in fact less about socialist realist issues of conformity, and more about Gorky’s own painful life experience? And what is equally under the microscope is a search for the monumental style frequently associated with socialist realist theatre: the proposed origins of the spatial grandeur in Gorky’s plays come as a surprise.
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2006. 382 pp.
Contents: Putting on the style: Gorky as playwright – Debut: 1882-1905 – The theatrical context – On the attack: Philistines
(1902) – Truth, lies and theatre: The Lower Depths (1902) – Gorky and the intelligentsia: Summerfolk, Children
of the Sun and Barbarians – Off-stage: 1906-1917 – Abroad – Claiming spaces: Enemies – A tragic sideshow:
The Last Ones, Eccentrics, The Reception and Vassa Zheleznova – Polemic and melodrama: Counterfeit
Coin, The Zykovs, The Old Man and Iakov Bogomolov – Peripeteia: 1917-1936 – Soviet dramatist – Back to the
future: Egor Bulychev and the Others and Dostigaev and the Others – Representing the present: Somov and the
Others and Vassa Zheleznova.