My Childhood, Paperback Book

My Childhood Paperback

Part of the Penguin Modern Classics series

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Coloured by poverty and horrifying brutality, Gorky's childhood equipped him to understand - in a way denied to a Tolstoy or a Turgenev - the life of the ordinary Russian.

After his father, a paperhanger and upholsterer, died of cholera, five-year-old Gorky was taken to live with his grandfather, a polecat-faced tyrant who would regularly beat him unconscious, and with his grandmother, a tender mountain of a woman and a wonderful storyteller, who would kneel beside their bed (with Gorky inside it pretending to be asleep) and give God her views on the day's happenings, down to the last fascinating details.

She was, in fact, Gorky's closest friend and the epic heroine of a book swarming with characters and with the sensations of a curious and often frightened little boy.

My Childhood, the first volume of Gorky's autobiographical trilogy, was in part an act of exorcism.

It describes a life begun in the raw, remembered with extraordinary charm and poignancy and without bitterness.

Of all Gorky's books this is the one that made him 'the father of Russian literature'.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: general
  • ISBN: 9780140182859

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If you're looking for a plot of any kind, don't read this book.<br/><br/>With that said, this book celebrates the beauty of nature and at the same time indifferently reveals the often senseless cruelty of humans. Gorky--a celebrated Russian writer--writes autobiographically of his childhood with his Grandfather, Grandmother, and Mother. His mother is an absent figure for most of Gorky's childhood, be it physically or emotionally. His Grandfather is a practical man, stubborn, and violently abusive. <br/><br/>Grandmother is one of the two reasons this book holds value to me. She is the classic "wise old woman" figure in literature: accepting, loving, respected, and, of course, wise. She prays to her own mystical God, and this is what brings the story its praise of nature. Grandmother's God is a pagan god of sorts; he lives in the trees' branches as they flow in the wind, or in the blooming of the flower, or in the kindness of Gorky himself as a child. Gorky's writing on this topic lends itself naturally to the reader's fuller appreciation of these things, even if you may not (as I didn't) view them as "filled with God" but rather simply as beautiful.<br/><br/>Another facet of this novel that I enjoyed was Gorky's message: that, though Russia's lower classes may be riddled with violence and senseless, harmful actions, they hold infinite promise and wellness of heart deep within them. That Russian culture has spawned a generation of dynamic individuals that are in the midst a huge possibility of change. Though he doesn't quite state this outright, it came through to me as I read his autobiography.<br/><br/>I didn't rate this higher because it bored me to no end. It simply went nowhere. Gorky goes back and forth from his Grandfather's, to his Mother's; they move from one boarding house to another; he gets in trouble in one school and two pages later he's in a childish street gang, only seven pages later to be top student; I found it all hard and somewhat useless to follow because, honestly, the plot never reached any sort of resolution for me. (Weird, too: for me it's been three books in a row that I haven't fallen into any sort of love with. Unusual!)<br/><br/>Overall, though, a good read, and a great insight into Gorky himself if you're a fan of his other writings.

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