How It All Began: The Prison Novel
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The autobiographical novel and final work of one of the Communist Party's youngest, most popular, and most intellectual members is both an astonishing personal testament and a panoramic view of Russia on the eve of a revolution that transformed the twentieth century.
novel, the only one he ever undertook, can be traced to the literary enthusiasms young Kolya inherited from his underachieving but beloved father. ("He goes out to buy sausage and comes back with a canary.") Though the most surprising of his prison manuscripts, it is consistent with the Soviet leader who wrote extensively about literature and culture, gathered the best writers around the newspapers he edited, and repeatedly did what he could to protect three of Russia's greatest and most
fists, to make sure her mother was alive, that her eyes were open, that, as ever, she was warm, loving, alive; that she could press her little head to her mama's breast and forget everything in the world, all the nasty and the bitter ... But little Manya, swallowing her tears, got hold of herself and waited. Behind the secret door a conversation in low voices was going on. One voice was shaking in anger, squeaking, full of barely contained hatred, constantly broken by fits of coughing and
and Garshin-all this the young boy devoured like a pie filled with the most varied ingredients. However, after his lessons in sexual enlightenment, after the lying of adults had grown in his mind into a fact of monstrous enormity, into one of the principles of life, Kolya no longer asked other people about anything: he wanted now to get at everything with his own mind, because he no longer believed in any explanations from his parents. "Once having lied, who will believe you?" as is said in the
at all inclined toward pessimism, he had become extremely excited and agitated and was already soaring in the clouds of rosy hopes and prospects: everything, it seemed to him, would go easily, much more easily than the way it turned out. He was already making plans, high-spiritedly reciting poetry, setting Kolya on his knee, and, together with him, getting lost in daydreams. Kolya was eager to get to Moscow above all because his latest passion was to obtain some new Devrien publications. He had
Moscow, and sprouting up among them were countless churches with their steeples. Far off in the distance hovered the Sukharyov tower. Visible in the other direction was the light blue of the Sparrow Hills, bounded by the river and the hazy green of suburban gardens. Pigeons and swifts made their nests in the bell tower; its floor was covered with bird droppings. With piercing cries the swifts, with their sharp black wings, would cut through the clear, bright air as they darted to their nests and