Tuesday, June 23, 2020

237. Mother

Maxim Gorky
Around 500 pages

There have been quite a few social justice novels lately, I suppose those are the novels with the staying power. This one adds a fun twist, because it is a Russian novel, so there's a character named Vyesovshchikov and way too many Nickolays.

The Mother in the title refers to Pelageya Nilovna Vlasova, a world-weary Russian woman who is repeatedly "treated to cuts" by her husband (her words, obviously, not mine). After her husband dies unexpectedly, her son Pavel is the breadwinner and it appears he will be condemned to same miserable workman's life as his father's. Soon, however, he starts to read revolutionary materials and surround himself with a new type of a people, much to the dismay of Pela- his mother.

Weirdly enough, the story is not from the point of view of Pavel, who is arguably driving the story, but his mother. I suppose this is done because Gorky thought Russian readers would be less receptive to a story where Pavel is the protagonist, since he is educated and well-read. In every one of these socialism novels, there's always that one character that is just there to give rousing speeches to a crowd of admiring onlookers who feel the truth of the words all the way to their bones, and often times this character is not the protagonist. I guess this is to elevate those particular characters to "prophet" status, which requires putting some distance between them and the average Joe (or, in this case, Josephine) that picks up your novel. I still maintain that Germinal did this best (fight me).

So another important novel that is not very fun at all.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Adapted in a 1932 play.

Gorky had a rivalry with Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy was a jealous bee-otch.

Met Lenin, but Lenin didn't like any of his ideas and Gorky's relationship with the Soviet Union only grew worse over time.

UP NEXT: The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.

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