Famous Russian Authors Worth Reading: a chronological list – Part 4


The list of famous Russian authors worth reading continues. Don’t forget to check out the other parts, too!

Anton Chekhov – 1860 – 1904

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is a very well-known artist from the Russian authors list. He is a playwright and short-story writer whose trademark is satire and irony. Some of this Russian author’s most acclaimed works include the plays The Seagull, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard and the short stories The Chameleon, Ward No.6, The Death of a Clerk and Fat and Thin.

In his works, Chekhov emphasizes human flaws such as hypocrisy or greed, but without creating positive or negative heroes, every character being a collection of both virtues and vices. As a narrator, he remains impartial and emphasized the subjective nature of truth. The form of his works innovated Russian literature, the writer proving to have an unsurpassable capacity of avoiding any useless details or information.

His writings are short and lack complex plots, the language is simple and can be understood easily, but every word carries a special meaning and is highly significant. This can be observed even when reading the characters’ names, as they often predict the qualities attributed to Chekhov’s heroes. His works are rich in symbols, which can take the form of sounds, words or colors.

Often referred to as one of the figures who played a major role in the emergence of modernism, Chekhov does not respect a clear structure in his writings and many of them have a highly interpretable ending. The conflict is also not a traditional one, some recurrent conflicts being carried between man and the imperfect life or between ideals and reality.  As a humorist, Chekhov is best known for his fine irony, aiming to provoke not only laughter but also to invite the reader to reflect upon more serious matters.


Maxim Gorky – 1868 – 1936

From an early age, Maxim Gorky, another incredible name on the Russian authors list, was highly acclaimed both in and outside Russia, being appreciated by writers such as Romain Rolland, Mark Twain or Stefan Zweig, and compared to Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy, whom he considered to be his disciples. His works are highly influenced by the enlightenment and materialism of Goethe, the romanticism of Ruskin, the pessimism of Schopenhauer, and the ideas of Marx, Hartman, and Nietzsche.

Many of Gorky’s works have an autobiographical character; in the trilogy My Childhood, In the World, My Universities, and in the short story Twenty-six Men and a Girl, he describes the hardships he had to face as an orphan whose life was dominated by poverty. However, the autobiographical writings are devoid of subjectivity and the narrator becomes only a pretext to offer an overall picture of the realities of the time and present an array of vivid characters.

The theme of religion is recurrent in Gorky’s works, the author aiming to distance his readers from the poisonous influence of the church. In creations such as A Confession or Mother, God becomes a collectivity and the new religious cult is socialism. Gorky takes Nietzsche’s “God is dead” and offers a continuation to the quote, implying that God must be rebuilt from people’s faith. Other themes of great interest include the provincial Russian life and the unjustified cruelty, the blindness of people in relationship with the historical context, and the intertwining of love and hatred. Through his brave approach and bold ideas, Gorky became one of the most prominent figures in Russian literature.


Leonid Andreyev – 1871 – 1919

Another one from the list of Russian authors is Leonid Andreyev begins writing under the influence of Tolstoy, Hartman, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, the death of the latter being perceived as a personal loss. His style combines elements of realism, symbolism, expressionism, and neo-romanticism.

At seventeen, he writes in his diary that he aims to destroy the existent morality, interhuman relationships, love, and religion through his writings and then end his life through total destruction. His first book of short stories is published in 1901 with financial aid from Gorky and features short stories such as The Little Angel, The Grand Slam, The Lie or Silence, writings influenced by Tolstoy and Gorky.

Andreyev’s writings are best known for their psychological and philosophical nature, the writer’s interest being to discover the contradictions of human existence. He emphasizes the tragedy of everyday life, which is subordinated to greater forces that decide human destiny. Thus said, Andreyev’s characters’ rebellion is not a result of their free will, as they are forced by circumstances to renounce their former selves and turn to their fundamental condition.

In his writings, Andreyev presents different types of human reactions when confronting the hazard of life or the imminence of death. In writings such as The Story of Sergey Petrovich or The Idea, the characters revolt against the absurdity of existence by turning to murder or suicide, but they are ultimately unable to find a new viable life philosophy. In short stories such as Once Upon a Time or Grand Slam, the futility of existence leads to characters regarding all aspects of life with great indifference or, on the contrary, with great excitement.

Another theme of great interest is the moral decay of society, which is best presented in the novel Satan’s Journal, where humans are able to outmatch even the devil when it comes to lies and deception. Biblical elements can also be found in the novella Judas Iscariot, which develops the motif of treachery.


If you want to read about other Russian authors, the previous part of the list can be found here.


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