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Leonid Andreyev

Leonid Andreyev

Leonid Andreyev was a Russian author and playwright. He was born on 1871 in the provincial town of Oryol. After his father’s death in 1889, he had to provide for his mother and younger siblings. While pursuing a career in law, Andreyev tried his hand as a police-court reporter and found this line of work much more engaging. In 1898 his first short story, a Dickensian Christmas story titled “Bargamot and Garaska,” was published in Kuryer newspaper, marking the beginning of his quick ascension to literary fame. Less than ten years later, in 1907, he would be dubbed “Russia’s foremost man of letters – except for Tolstoy, of course.” His body of work includes two novels, five novellas, and a number of short stories and plays. Andreyev’s style defies easy labeling. During his lifetime he was ranked among realists, then symbolists, sometimes romanticists and even pulp fiction writers. Naturally inclined to the fantastic and grotesque, Andreyev went through a shift toward realism due to his longtime friendship with Maxim Gorky, Russia’s leading social-realist writer of the time. However, even his down-to-earth stories hint at another, darker reality which exists beyond everyday experiences. Leonid Andreyev’s life was filled with extravagancies: he had five children with two wives; was considered a handsome and flamboyant man, and had over 100 colored photographs of himself. He also had his portraits made by Russia’s premier painters of the time. As he grew rich, he designed a grand villa for his family, which would eventually be built in Finland, due to Andreyev’s grave disappointment of the Russian Revolution in February 1917. In 1918, he moved to Finland to spend the rest of his life in poverty and misery, struggling to draw the world’s attention to the outcome of the Bolshevik revolution. He died of a heart failure in 1919, most likely as a result of stress and anguish. His last major work was Satan’s Diary, an account of the Devil’s misfortunes in the treacherous world of humans. It is little wonder that Andreyev’s works were hardly known during the Soviet period. It was only in the late 1980s that Leonid Andreyev returned as a full value classic. His popularity has been growing steadily ever since.

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