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The Man Who Was Afraid   By: (1868-1936)

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FOMA GORDYEFF

(The Man Who Was Afraid)

By Maxim Gorky

Translated by Herman Bernstein

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.

OUT of the darkest depths of life, where vice and crime and misery abound, comes the Byron of the twentieth century, the poet of the vagabond and the proletariat, Maxim Gorky. Not like the beggar, humbly imploring for a crust in the name of the Lord, nor like the jeweller displaying his precious stones to dazzle and tempt the eye, he comes to the world, nay, in accents of Tyrtaeus this commoner of Nizhni Novgorod spurs on his troops of freedom loving heroes to conquer, as it were, the placid, self satisfied literatures of to day, and bring new life to pale, bloodless frames.

Like Byron's impassioned utterances, "borne on the tones of a wild and quite artless melody," is Gorky's mad, unbridled, powerful voice, as he sings of the "madness of the brave," of the barefooted dreamers, who are proud of their idleness, who possess nothing and fear nothing, who are gay in their misery, though miserable in their joy.

Gorky's voice is not the calm, cultivated, well balanced voice of Chekhov, the Russian De Maupassant, nor even the apostolic, well meaning, but comparatively faint voice of Tolstoy, the preacher: it is the roaring of a lion, the crash of thunder. In its elementary power is the heart rending cry of a sincere but suffering soul that saw the brutality of life in all its horrors, and now flings its experiences into the face of the world with unequalled sympathy and the courage of a giant.

For Gorky, above all, has courage; he dares to say that he finds the vagabond, the outcast of society, more sublime and significant than society itself.

His Bosyak, the symbolic incarnation of the Over man, is as naive and as bold as a child or as a genius. In the vehement passions of the magnanimous, compassionate hero in tatters, in the aristocracy of his soul, and in his constant thirst for Freedom, Gorky sees the rebellious and irreconcilable spirit of man, of future man, in these he sees something beautiful, something powerful, something monumental, and is carried away by their strange psychology. For the barefooted dreamer's life is Gorky's life, his ideals are Gorky's ideals, his pleasures and pains, Gorky's pleasures and pains.

And Gorky, though broken in health now, buffeted by the storms of fate, bruised and wounded in the battle field of life, still like Byron and like Lermontov,

" seeks the storm As though the storm contained repose."

And in a leonine voice he cries defiantly:

"Let the storm rage with greater force and fury!"

HERMAN BERNSTEIN.

September 20, 1901.

FOMA GORDYEEF

Dedicated to

ANTON P. CHEKHOV

By

Maxim Gorky

CHAPTER I

ABOUT sixty years ago, when fortunes of millions had been made on the Volga with fairy tale rapidity, Ignat Gordyeeff, a young fellow, was working as water pumper on one of the barges of the wealthy merchant Zayev.

Built like a giant, handsome and not at all stupid, he was one of those people whom luck always follows everywhere not because they are gifted and industrious, but rather because, having an enormous stock of energy at their command, they cannot stop to think over the choice of means when on their way toward their aims, and, excepting their own will, they know no law. Sometimes they speak of their conscience with fear, sometimes they really torture themselves struggling with it, but conscience is an unconquerable power to the faint hearted only; the strong master it quickly and make it a slave to their desires, for they unconsciously feel that, given room and freedom, conscience would fracture life. They sacrifice days to it; and if it should happen that conscience conquered their souls, they are never wrecked, even in defeat they are just as healthy and strong under its sway as when they lived without conscience.

At the age of forty Ignat Gordyeeff was himself the owner of three steamers and ten barges. On the Volga he was respected as a rich and clever man, but was nicknamed "Frantic," because his life did not flow along a straight channel, like that of other people of his kind, but now and again, boiling up turbulently, ran out of its rut, away from gain the prime aim of his existence... Continue reading book >>




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