March 28 marks 150 years since the birth of classic Russian and Soviet literature, the main proletarian writer and the “writer” of Aleksey Maximovich Peshkov, better known under the pseudonym of Maxim Gorky. Few people know that Bitter was a major publisher and a fairly wealthy man. Not only after the revolution, but long before that he lived in a big way and could afford long overseas journey.
To illustrate the bitter craving to travel, we must remember that in his younger years, he walked through the entire Russian South: the Volga, the don, Ukraine, Crimea, the Caucasus,… Impressions from these travels formed the basis of the cycle of stories “In Russia”.
Photo: Young Maxim Gorky / Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky. Yalta, 1902 / © RIA Novosti
But abroad the Bitter first came, already being a world-famous writer and part-time member of the RSDLP. In January 1906, shortly after the defeat of the first Russian revolution, Gorky on Lenin’s order went through Finland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and France in America, to raise money for party funds. He was accompanied by a civil wife, the actress Maria Andreeva and bodyguard Nikolay Burenin. From France to America a Bitter sailed on the liner “Friedrich Wilhelm the Great”, where he had a cabin-Suite with a Desk, living room, bedroom, bath and shower. Visiting new York, Boston and Philadelphia, where he participated in meetings organized by the Americans sympathized with the Russian socialists, the Bitter has collected $ 1200, a considerable for those times the sum.
Photo: Gorky, Maria Andreeva at a dinner in his honor in Boston, 1906 / © RIA Novosti
And then settled on Staten island, at the mouth of the Hudson river, the estate of American patrons, spouses Martin, where he began to write his most famous novel “Mother”. Soon, however, in the American press raised a scandal: the bitter was called a bigamist (he really was divorced from his first wife), and he had to leave the United States.
Photo: Maxim Gorky and mark TWAIN at a dinner at the writers club / Coutesy Image
In September of 1906 Gorky briefly returned to Russia, and in October, serving a long exile in Italy. On the pier in Naples Gorky was greeted by crowds of people. It is hard to believe that in the beginning of XX century the fame of the writer could be akin to the current fame of a movie star, but it is a fact. For Italians Gorky was a Martyr of the revolution in the spirit of Garibaldi, who miraculously escaped from the bloody clutches of tsarism and is now in hiding abroad. Although this was not the case, the Italians were ready to wear bitter on hand.
After spending some time in Naples, Gorky moved to a small island of Capri. After a few days he wrote to Leonid Andreev: “Capri — piece tiny but tasty. Even here in one day, see so many beautiful, drunk, bastard and can’t do anything…”
First, Gorky and Andreeva settled in the hotel “Quisisana” (Quisisana). Today, the hotel is called Grand Hotel Quisisana 5* and is a member of The Leading Hotels of The World. It was Ernest Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre, Tom cruise, sting and other famous people.
Many believed that Gorky on Capri a private Villa, but it was not so. Seven years on the island of Bitter had three places of residence. In November 1906, Gorky and Andreyev had rented a Villa “Bless” (Villa Blaesus), belonging to the family of Cattani. It was in one of the most beautiful places in Capri. Today it houses the hotel “Villa Krupp”, which has a terrace offering stunning views of the sea and the Bay of Marina Piccola. Here to Gorky came to visit Lenin, who at that time was in exile, but in France.
Photo: V. Lenin visiting Gorky playing chess with Alexander Bogdanov, Y. A. Zhelyabuzhsky / “proletarian revolution”, 1926, №1.
In the spring of 1909, Gorky moved to the Villa “Spinola”, built by Nobel prize winner in medicine Emil Behring. Today it is called the Villa Behring. It is located at the end of the street Langano (via Longano). To know her is quite easy because of the other houses she has bright Burgundy color. Here Gorky lived for two years, until February 1911.
The life of Gorky on Capri was not the life of a hermit. His house was constantly crowded by some people. Some time on Capri was a party school, where Russian workers and students were trained in the basics of the revolutionary struggle.
Italian journalist Mario Boccardo in the article “island sirens” in “Il Giornale d’italia” wrote: “In Capri come in large numbers, a lot of Russian, but not noblemen but servants, teachers, students from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vilnius, Kiev. They are able to make the trip due to the long savings… They come in Capri because living here Maxim Gorky. They come here and live as one family, help each other, learn common books.”
Gorky was attended by many guests from Russia, Bunin, Shalyapin, Novikov-Surf, Leonid Andreev, Lunacharsky, Dzerzhinsky and many others. Gorky was a very welcoming host: “Come, — he wrote artist Vasily Kachalov, — will be swimming in the blue sea to catch sharks, to drink white and red Capri and generally live… Nice rest…”.
Photo: Maxim Gorky and Feodor Chaliapin / © RIA Novosti
And finally, the third residence of Gorky on Capri is a Villa “Serpina” (now renamed the Villa “Pierina”). Here he lived from spring 1911 to the end of 1913. In a letter to his adopted son, Zinovy Peshkov, he wrote about the Capri: “Here is amazing, some kind of tale endlessly-varied unfolds in front of you. Beautiful sea, island, its cliffs, and people do not spoil this impression carefree, cheerful, colorful beauty. What musicians, if you heard it!.. They are very much natural gaiety, naivety, lust beautiful and there is nothing that would remind you about the Italians of America… Very captivating democracy, which is — especially after America — strongly evident”.
Photo: House on Capri, where Gorky lived for many years / A. P. N.
Been on the island too Bitter not sitting. He visited Florence, Rome, Genoa… In 1907, he visited London as a delegate of the V Congress of the RSDLP, and in 1912 in Paris, where he met with Lenin. Of course, Bitter, remembering his youth, walked and the whole of Capri. Even climbed his highest mountain, Monte Solaro.
And, of course, Gorky wrote. The story “Childhood” and “Confession”, the play “Vassa Zheleznova”, 27 short stories, constituting the cycle of “Tales about Italy” — all this was written on Capri.
In 1913 in honor of 300 anniversary of the Romanov dynasty was declared Amnesty for political exiles, and Gorky returned to Russia. However, seven years later, the writer again went abroad. Lived in Helsinki, Berlin, Prague, and then moved back to his beloved Italy. Officially — for the treatment of chronic phthisis, but in fact he was just shocked by the brutality of the revolution, which was so called in his works.
Photo: In Berlin, 1921 / Finland 1904 — 1905 / © RIA Novosti
In the spring of 1924 Gorky with his new girlfriend Maria Budberg and many households settled in Sorrento. “Capri was not going to, — he wrote in one of his letters home. — They became very noisy, trendy and expensive. To Tailors, of Posillipo, Pozzuoli and Baia — haven’t found anything for yourself. I’m in a hurry to work and sit down at the table immediately as soon as you move in Sorrento, and young people seeking housing”.
Housing was at the Villa “Il Sorito”, located on the rocky promontory of Capo di Sorrento. The view from the balcony of the Villa, as always, was stunning: the Vesuvius, Bay of Naples and the picturesque town of Castellammare.
In may 1928, yielding to the insistent requests of Stalin, Gorky arrived in the USSR, but up until 1932 (when he finally returned to the Soviet Union) each fall and spent the winter in Sorrento.
Photo: Maxim Gorky holding his niece. Sorrento, 1928 / ©Bettmann/CORBIS
In the end, Bitter abroad spent a total of more than 18 years, including 15 years in Italy. Interestingly, during this time, he has not mastered any foreign language, learn Italian just one sentence — “buona sera” (good evening).
Author: Dmitry Rzhannikov
Photo preview: © RIA Novosti