The first volume of Gorky’s autobiography, My Childhood, was so good I decided to read the second installment ‘In the World’. If anything, ‘In the World’ deepened my appreciation of Gorky. He is brutally honest throughout and nothing is left out because it is too harsh or distasteful. The man must have had real strength of character to deal with such hardship and come out with a positive world view. A large part of the reason for that must be his grandmother who was a formative influence on him. In the Gorky books I have read there are always strong female characters and ‘In the World’ is no exception. This quote from the book seems to explain what he was trying to do.
I am a lover of humanity and I have no desire to make any one miserable, but one must not be sentimental, nor hide the grim truth with the motley words of beautiful lies. Let us face life as it is! All that is good and human in our hearts and brains needs renewing.
There are problems with the the translation – it is very much of its time – 1917. The translation of ‘My Childhood’ was better. Still, it didn’t get in the way too much as Gorky kept me interested. The final volume, ‘My Universities’, doesn’t seem to be in the public domain but I will keep my eyes open for a modern translation to finish the autobiography on a good, well-translated note.
The refrain that sounds through ‘In the World’ is one of education and that books can be a path to a better life. In Gorky’s case this was true and this sentiment is also seen in the novel ‘Mother’ that I am currently reading.
If you have never read Gorky before and want to try reading something brutally honest and quite different, as an antidote to the spin of our consumer culture, then start with ‘My Childhood’ and carry on through the three books.
Soundtrack: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Southern Accents.