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The Art of Compromise

The Art of Compromise: The Life and Work of Leonid Leonov, 1899-1994

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 464
  • Book Info
    The Art of Compromise
    Book Description:

    Leoniv's beliefs and values were incompatible with the Soviet version of Marxism but he tried to affirm them indirectly in his work through structure, imagery, and allusion, while outwardly conforming to official demands.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8050-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. chapter one Early Years and Literary Debut
    (pp. 3-31)

    Like many other Soviet writers of his generation Leonid Maksimovich Leonov (1899–1994) came of an urban and petty bourgeois family.¹ His paternal grandfather, Leon, was of peasant origin (from the village of Polukhino in the Kalugaguberniya) and had moved to Moscow in 1882. There he took over a small shop in Zaryad′e, a district traditionally associated with the merchant class. The business was successful, and his son Maksim (1872-1929) was clearly expected to follow him into it. The boy was taken out of school at the age of ten, but he was a bookish child and managed to...

  6. chapter two The Badgers 1924
    (pp. 32-51)

    The growing length and complexity of the stories of 1922-3 indicated that Leonov was moving away from shorter forms. Indeed, apart from five short stories written in 1927-8, he now virtually abandoned the genre in favour of the novel, the novella, and the full-length play.

    He worked on his first novel,The Badgers,¹ from 1923 to 1924. The stead trend towards contemporary events, discernible in the preceding stories, is here carried a stage further. The action covers a period of thirteen years (1909-22), but the greater part of the book is set in the months between the summer of 1921...

  7. chapter three The Thief 1927
    (pp. 52-77)

    The Thief(Vor), the first of Leonov’s novels to deal with contemporary life, was written between 1925 and 1927.² It is set in the period from the autumn of 1924 to the spring of 1926, and so ends after the time that Leonov began composition. The greater part of the action takes place in Moscow; but whereas inThe Badgersthe city scenes had been confined to Zaryad'e, the merchants’ quarter,The Thiefis set for the most part in Blagusha,³ an area to the north-east of the centre and one traditionally associated with the underworld. Leonov had been introduced...

  8. chapter four Stories and Plays 1927–1928
    (pp. 78-98)

    Soon after the publication of the last instalment ofThe Thiefin July 1927 Leonov and his wife went abroad to visit Gor'ky in Sorrento. The meeting led to a close friendship, which was to be of great importance to Leonov in the next few years. He shared his ideas for future works with the older writer, in particular his plans for the novel that eventually becameThe Road to Ocean, and gained his approval.¹ For his part Gor'ky was as impressed by Leonov as by his books, and he was later to recommend him to Stalin as one ‘who...

  9. chapter five The Sot' and Locusts 1930–1931
    (pp. 99-124)

    By the end of 1928 Stalin had succeeded in crushing his rivals to the Left and Right, and he proceeded to impose a series of policies that in many respects effected an even greater revolution in the social, economic, and political life of the country than the events of 1917 had done. The year 1929 was dubbed ‘the year of the great breakthrough’ and it was to shape the face of the Soviet Union for the next sixty years.

    The relatively free market of the NEP period was now replaced by a centralized planning authority that controlled every aspect of...

  10. chapter six Skutarevsky 1932
    (pp. 125-148)

    Leonov’s fourth novel,Skutarevsky, continues many of the themes and concerns ofThe Sot', but the setting now shifts from the proletariat and the construction of a factory in a remote province to high intellectual circles in Moscow and grandiose schemes for harnessing the nation’s energy resources. The subject matter thus enables Leonov to reflect on the changes that had affected the intellectual life of the country in the recent past.

    The success of the November Revolution had persuaded the Russian Communists that they had indeed mastered the science of history, and that they had therefore little to fear from...

  11. chapter seven The Road to Ocean 1935
    (pp. 149-172)

    The earliest ideas forThe Road to Ocean¹ can be traced back to 1927, when Leonov shared his plans for the novel with Gor'ky in Sorrento. He did not begin work on the novel, however, until 1933, and it was completed only in 1935. In its subject matter it is loosely related to its predecessors,The Sot' andSkutarevsky, and in some respects it is even more topical than they were.

    The action of the novel takes place between the autumn of 1933 and the spring of 1934, and the immediate context is the major purge of the Party that...

  12. chapter eight Three Plays 1936–1940
    (pp. 173-190)

    Leonov’s reputation stood at its peak during the years 1929-36. Throughout this period he enjoyed large sales and widespread respect not only at home but also abroad, where his works were quickly translated.² In Russia seven editions ofThe Sot' were published between 1931 and 1935, seven ofSkutarevskybetween 1932 and 1935, and five ofThe Road to Oceanin 1936 alone. Even the two earlier novels were frequently reissued (The Badgersin five new editions andThe Thiefin three). None of them, however, was to be published again until after the war. One of them,Skutarevsky, only...

  13. chapter nine The War Years 1941–1945
    (pp. 191-202)

    The nightmare of the Great Purges seemed to be winding down when the German invasion of 22 June 1941 brought new sufferings to the people of Russia, the appalling loss of life in the early campaigns, the acute food shortages that followed the devastation and loss of the Ukraine, and the physical hardships of evacuation. Even so the mass of the population regarded this new ordeal almost with relief. After the pall of fear and suspicion of the preceding years it was a comfort to rediscover mutual trust and unity in the common cause of repelling the invader. In literature...

  14. chapter ten An Ordinary Man and A Golden Coach 1940–1946
    (pp. 203-214)

    The playsAn Ordinary Man(Obyknovennyy chelovek)¹ andA Golden Coach(Zolotaya kareta)² are the finest of Leonov’s dramatic works, and reveal s skill in dramatic construction that it is surprising that he wrote no more plays after them. Perhaps the difficulties in getting them produced played a part in Leonov’s subsequent loss of interest in the form.An Ordinary Manhad to wait four years for its first performance;A Golden Coachwas accepted for performance by the Malyy Theatre in 1946, but was soon afterwards banned by Zhdanov,³ and has still not been performed in its original version....

  15. chapter eleven The Russian Forest 1953
    (pp. 215-238)

    Leonov’s standing had improved during the war years largely as a result of the success ofInvasionand his many patriotic articles, and in 1945 he was selected asPravda’scorrespondent at the Dresden and Nurenberg war trials. Such honours brought with them certain obligations, and Leonov came under increasing pressure to write panegyrics to Stalin; to this end he was subjected to two hours of ‘massage’ from Polikarpov, the official who had organized the campaign againstThe Snowstormsix years earlier. A single quotation from the resulting article, ‘A Word on the First Deputy’ (‘Slovo o pervom deputate,’ 1946)¹...

  16. chapter twelve The Late Revisions 1955–1962
    (pp. 239-264)

    The years after the death of Stalin witnessed a gradual liberalization in the cultural climate of the Sdviet Union. Authors who had been disgraced or executed were rehabilitated; works that had been suppressed were reissued; writers who had been almost forgotten began to find their way back into print. For all artists it was a period of greater freedom of expression, even if dangerously ill-defined. It may seem surprising then that after producingThe Russian Forestwith its comprehensive indictment of Soviet Communism, Leonov was to contribute nothing further to the literature of the ‘Thaw,’ unless we count the unimportant...

  17. chapter thirteen The Pyramid 1994
    (pp. 265-284)

    In spite of the success ofThe Russian Forest, the award of a Lenin prize, and semi-official recognition as the senior Soviet writer, Leonov remained under some suspicion throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His activities on behalf of forestry and other ecological causes had made him enemies in high places and in 1968 his refusal to sign the Writers’ Union letter in support of the invasion of Czechoslovakia incurred further displeasure. This took the form of various petty humiliations. He was persuaded, against his better judgment, to let his name go forward for nomination to the Academy of Sciences, only...

  18. chapter fourteen The Art of Compromise
    (pp. 285-294)

    Leonid Leonov lived an exceptionally long life; more than eighty years passed between his first publication in an Archangel newspaper and the release of his last novel. He lived in a century that witnessed revolutionary changes in almost every aspect of life, artistic and scientific, social and political. He spent his formative years under Tsarism, while almost his entire creative life was passed under the Soviet system, whose ignominious collapse he yet lived to see. Despite these upheavals his works are remarkably consistent in their concerns and values. They abound in cross-references to one another, they quote from one another,...

  19. Appendix: ‘Zapis′na bereste’
    (pp. 295-302)
  20. Abbreviations
    (pp. 303-304)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 305-360)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 361-400)
  23. Index
    (pp. 401-407)