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My Apprenticeship (Gorky's Autobiographical Trilogy) Paperback – 20 Oct 2000
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Paperback, 20 Oct 2000
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From the Author
"Two beings dwelt within me: one of them, having seen too much of filth and loathsomeness, had become chastened. Lifes dreadful humdrum had made him skeptical and suspicious, and he looked with helpless compassion upon all people, including himself. This individual longed to lead a quiet, retired life far away from cities and people. He dreamed of going to Persia, of entering a monastery, of living in a foresters hut or the lodge of a railway guard, or becoming a night watchman somewhere on the outskirts of town. The fewer the people and the more remote, the better.
" The other individual, baptized by the holy spirit of wise and truthful books, realized that lifes dreadful humdrum exerted a ruthless power which might easily lop off his head or crush him under a grimy heel. And so he summoned all his strength in self- defense, baring his teeth, clenching his fists, ever ready for a fight or an argument."
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
What is most remarkable about My Apprenticeship, I think, apart from the humour and beauty of Gorky's rugged prose, is that the dilemmas faced by Gorky, growing up in poverty, and the dilemmas of those around him, are quite inseperable from the dilemmas facing people today (or at least, facing me), both existential and material. A remarkable passage towards the end of the book rises towards a magesterial outburst from the older writer, in which he explains why he is outlining in such graphic terms the hardship of life, that can force people to acts of such desperate barbarity. His duty it seems, is to make people aware of what is around them, to strip away the illusions that we willingly blind ourselves with, to protect ourselves from uncomfortable truths. In the age of Brass Eye vs tabloid truth-bending, this could not be more topical.
A gripping read on every level. It loses a star, I think, in comparison to the first installment. My Apprenticeship meanders a little, but the characters are as unforgettable.
P.S. Some trilogy's can be read out of order. This one can't.
He sees around him `men with insatiable sexual hunger', `dirt and the inevitable viciousness that came with the hard, half-starved life that people had to lead' and `a corrosive, exasperating boredom enveloping everything'. A world full of promiscuity, obscenities, `where all men are enemies'. Moreover, people were living in an environment of religious fanaticism brought on by a terrifying God.
But, he also made crucial encounters with clairvoyant men, who teach him: `go on, try and find out for yourself.' They force him to take decisions and make him understand clearly: `I must do something, or I'll be finished'. At the end, he tries to enroll himself as a student at the Kazan University.
This book is also a profound laudation on reading which was crucial for Gorky's escape out of darkness: `books made me invulnerable to many things' and that notwithstanding the `deep humiliation and the many insults his passion for reading inflicted on him'.
This work is a dark and terrible portrait of Russia under the tsars at the end of the 19th century.
But it shows how an individual can succeed in keeping his self-esteem and escape a certain intellectual death, here mainly through a passion for reading and knowledge.
Not to be missed.