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My Childhood

(Autobiography #1)

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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  5,238 ratings  ·  245 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, penguin twentieth-century classics, 240 pages
Published November 1st 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1913)
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Tyler Jones A memoir of growing up in czarist Russia. A young boy's earliest memory is of his dead father being laid out. He and his mother go to live with the…moreA memoir of growing up in czarist Russia. A young boy's earliest memory is of his dead father being laid out. He and his mother go to live with the maternal grandparents, who were once quite well-to-do but have been coming down in the world. The domestic scene is full of abuse of every kind, but the boy learns to seek beauty and truth despite the squalor and violence. (less)

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4.02  · 
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 ·  5,238 ratings  ·  245 reviews


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Jan-Maat
In recalling my childhood I like to picture myself as a beehive to which various simple obscure people brought the honey of their knowledge and thoughts on life, generously enriching my character with their own experience. Often this honey was dirty and bitter, but every scrap of knowledge was honey all the same.

I sat at a table near the door of my English class when I was around thirteen. Hard by the door to its left was a slightly battered steel cupboard which held a modest library of books. T
...more
dely
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-russia, ebook
What a wonderful book! I liked everything of it: the story, which is the autobiographical account of Gorky's childhood, but also the writing style. The language is so simple but powerful and there are wonderful descriptions of everything: the landscapes, the emotions of the people, Russian life and habits of that period and, above all, Gorky's considerations about his childhood.
It's impossible to hate even only one of the characters though sometimes they seem harsh and rude. I liked a lot how Go
...more
Alan
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book in Russian--and a fairly simple Russian it was, as I recall. From Maxim Gorky's Trilogy, (Moskva, 1975), Детство (this book) began it, followed by "Among the People," and "My University." One sentence I admire, even aspire to: at his father's grave he did not cry. "Я плакал редко и толко от обиды, ни от боли" (17) I cry very rarely, and only from insults or outrages, never from suffering or pain. Moreover, his father would laugh at his tears.
When his bereaved mother comes on d
...more
C.
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to C. by: Glenda
The most horrific violence, terrible poverty and degradation is described here, most frighteningly of all, in the indifferent voice of a child. It is terrifying to see how quickly the horror of this reality becomes an accepted, to the point of being almost ignored, part of Alexei's life. Only on two occasions does the voice of the adult Maxim Gorky give us an indication of the true effect of such experiences on a young child.

"...I couldn't believe any longer that all this was in earnest and that
...more
Chrissie
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
NO SPOILERS!!!

Magnificent writing!:

I loved listening to those kind words and watching the red and gold fire flickering in the stove and milky white clouds of steam rising over the vats, leaving a dove coloured crust; like hoar frost, on the sloping rafters of the roof , where jagged chinks let through blue patches of sky. The wind died down, the sun came out, and the whole yard seemed sprinkled with ground glass. The screeching of sleighs came from the street, light blue smoke curled up from chi
...more
Liina Bachmann
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, russian
Nobody writes about death as the Russians do. The scene at the end of the book, a mere page in length, where Gorky describes the death of his mother that he witnessed as a child, will stay with me for a long time. The stuffy smell, wax coloured skin, paper think limbs and dimness of the small room - it is so accurately described with so little words.
The book is very grim. There are no champagne-problems or existential ennui one is used to encountering when reading Russian classics that describe
...more
Nguyen Linh Chi
First read this book when I was a secondary student, then I lost it. I repurchased it recently. This book taught me a lot about independence and affection. One of the books that change my life besides Nobody's Boy
Tony
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Maybe the five stars I awarded this book are because I am so grateful to it. Let me explain. In my late teens, I deliberately turned my back on "cultural" pursuits, thinking that they would be very boring. Strange, seeing that I was training to be a junior school teacher at the time. I remember the child psychology lecturer recommending certain novels, such as "The Member of the Wedding", "A Death in the Family", "The Lord of the Flies" and this, because they were able to enter so completely int ...more
Jenni
If you're looking for a plot of any kind, don't read this book.

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.

Grandmo
...more
Erica Wissick
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinarily poignant account of the author's childhood. Gorky tells his story as if one was his friend who he can divulge his experiences of loss, lament, rage, isolation, mischief... Notwithstanding the cruelty of the beatings inflicted on him, the poverty and squalor of the industrial towns known to him as home, and the overall bestial existence of all he knew, Gorky did not end up wearing an iron-collar that prevented him from looking back. Instead, he climbed high enough to view the t ...more
Leonie
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian
A memoir of childhood in a dysfunctional nineteenth-century Russian family. I like the way Gorky shows his experiences; they look like a melting between lived and remembered, worked on with the analysis of both. The sensory detail is well-chosen. There's not too much interruption from Gorky's older, writing self, which I think is good because that tends to emphasise the Russian Soul (TM) side of the enterprise. The story starts with the death of Gorky's father, when he and his mother come to liv ...more
Smitha Murthy
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I had bought Maxim Gorky's 'My Childhood' back in July 2006. For more than a decade, it was on my bookshelf, patiently waiting for its turn. Since I seem to have more patience with books these days, I picked up this classic, despite never having read any of Gorky's works. His most famous work, of course, is 'The Mother.' His own mother features prominently in this autobiographical account of his childhood.

I could scarce believe the kind of childhood that Gorky had! Wild uncles and a tempestous g
...more
Jaci
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The first in a trilogy that is a classic of Russian literature of the 19th century, Childhood is the autobiographical account of Maxim Gorkii's early life. "When his father died of cholera in 1871, three-year-old Aleksey Peshkov went with his mother to live in the home of his maternal grandfather, Vasily Vasilevich Kashirin, a successful artisan and owner of a dye shop in Nizhny Novgorod." Eventually, the child Aleksey would adopt the pen name of Maxim Gorkii(Gorky) as an adult and contribute to ...more
Maryam
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
can you believe I finished bc I Cannot.

Okay so I thought this was a fiction novel which is dumb because I bought it based off of the blurb which very Heavily says it's not but I just see what I want to see so I continued thinking it's fiction:). Turns out not only is it non-fiction but it's also an autobiography woo:)). I've never read any of Gorky's novels or even heard of them (because I am incredibly well read) but apparently, he's like a very famous Russian author and here lied the Problem.
...more
Andrea
I had to read this autobiographical novel for school when I was no older than 12. I remember at that time the depressive, violent writing made me physically sick. I had just read about the fate of the young man nicknamed Gypsy, and couldn't fall asleep all night, instead uncontrollably shaking and sobbing. Never in my life had I such a strong reaction to any book. I think I wasn't of proper age to really appreciate the literary merits of Gorky's writing. Lately, however, I've been sort of curiou ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
What a miserable childhood. Extreme poverty, father dead when he was just four years old, lived with his grandparents, mother married again to a sadistic brute, adults hitting children and husbands beating their wives as a matter of course, his first half brother dying as an infant, his mother dying too most likely of tuberculosis, the sad, sad boy that was Maxim Gorky.


"Long afterwards I came to understand that Russians, as a result of poverty and dullness of their lives, sought diversion in gri
...more
Rob
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, biography
Beautifully written but how saddening. A sort of social realism mixed with the great 19th Century novel. It does not have a story as such, it is more a series of recollections. Gorky does not get much of a mention in the Western Canon but he should. The only writing that I can think of that comes close to the wonder and horror of childhood described so beautifully in this book would be the beginning of 'Great Expectations'. There is none of the mawkish sentiment however that one gets with Dicken ...more
Berit
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really disturbing and really good. This is the other side of Tsarist Russia: while Tolstoy provides a glimpse into the lives of the upper-classes, Gorky does the same for the proletariat (I'm not comparing authors on merit; just on the basis of the historical periods in which their novels are set). Reading them both is like reading about two different countries, but these people and these experiences existed in Russia at the same time. I've never read any account of such abject poverty, but read ...more
Sookie
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Born into poverty and losing his father very early in his life, Gorky is pushed into a life with his grandparents, uncles and cousins where violence lurks in the edges of their daily life. He consciously becomes a sensitive child reacting when a verbal argument breaks between his mother and grandmother or when his cousin gets flogged. The pain that he feels translates impacts on his world view and through the pages Gorky shows how he changes as a child.

Written brilliantly in a very matter-of-fac
...more
Elaine Searle
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An unforgettable memoir of Maxim Gorky’s childhood. While it portrays poverty and violence, it is still, for me however, a beautiful book. The language (well done translator) and subtle but powerful descriptions, despite the brutality, make it a piece of writing which will live with me always.
Vivek
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This classic transports you visually to a historical Russia right into Gorky's life as he paints a colorful kaleidoscope of his life with numerous dark tones and shades of violence, poverty and diseases that manifest through his surroundings. His ability to describe in detail without it sounding like a dictionary of adjectives is nicely done (though part credit should go to the translator as I am reading the English version) .
Khoa Dang
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Maxim draws a vivid picture of ordinary Russian lives in the 19th century. Vivid, not necessarily beautiful.
What makes life life is the melange of glitzy beauty, euphoric happiness, sad tragedies and searing pains. This is a good book since it captures that essence. It describes the harsh reality in which the author was born and grew up, a constant struggle for survival. Yet, amid seemingly utter desperation, the young Maxim still knew how to appreciate and enjoy the little things in life. Bit
...more
Anoop Chatterjee
Beginning with a queer journey to live with his grandparents to finally leaving the house, the childhood of Maxim has been brought out with great effectiveness. The partial autobiographical work brings out the suffering and hope of contemporary Russia very well.

The childhood of Maxim is greatly influenced by three strong characters, his mother, grandmother and lastly his grandfather. The central influence of his grandmother can also be seen in another writing of Gorky ‘Mother’ which is a story p
...more
Guy Portman
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5 Stars

My Childhood is the first volume of Russian author Maxim Gorky’s autobiographical trilogy. The book begins with the young Maxim viewing the dead body of his father, who has just died of cholera. Maxim is then sent to live with his grandparents. With an errant mother, abusive grandfather and quarrelling uncles, Maxim’s childhood is a tumultuous experience; its one saving grace being an affectionate grandmother, who becomes his closest friend.

This is a precarious existence where life mirr
...more
Supriya
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
"The Childhood" is the autobiography of Russian Thinker, Writer and Political Activist Maxim Gorkey. He had written this book after a failed suicide attempt (a bullet wound to his chest). Maxim vividly describes his childhood, his growing up in Russia in late 19th century. The rigid ways he was brought up, coloured by poverty and brutality, the beatings and lashings. The life of his mother after his father dies and the life of common people in general at that time from the eyes of a 10 year old. ...more
Chris
The only thing I really have to compare this to is Tolstoy's series of autobiographical sketches : Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. In that regard, I definitely preferred Gorky's version. Gorky maintains the character of the child throughout, with the exception of a few flashback like reflections. In Tolstoy's version, the character is constantly slipping back and forth between a child and a child making adult-like realizations. It got very tedious and annoying. Also, Gorky is much more concise and le ...more
Randy Henson
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the beginning of the story, he's a child at a funeral (his mother's maybe? I read this twenty years ago.) and he's not worried about who's getting buried, he's worried about the frogs stuck in the grave that are trying to get out as dirt is getting thrown in. After you read a bit more you realize the frogs are Gorky's idea of the russian people in general. One of the most powerful passages I've read in fiction. Stuck with me for a long time.
Efe Karakaş
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
my childhood is the best autobiography I've ever read. it is a really strong story and shows us how cruel one's life can be. it takes place in a post-war atmosphere, the French versus Russian empire. so simple and easily readable. as I really enjoyed it it left me thinking how can a person's life be so painful, what could it have done to him, how did it effect it in his life? after reading the first part of the biography I can say I surely will continue to Gorky's biography's next part, "mom".
Ajay Gautam
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The way Maxim described the events from his childhood is as real as it gets.
You read this book and than you realize that he saw and suffered in his childhood more than we do in a lifetime.

You will always be an inspiration.
Ruby Emam
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the most amazing books I have ever read! When living conditions get that bad, the next step is unavoidable...
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Aleksey Maximovich Peshkov (Russian: Алексей Максимович Пешков, better known as Maxim Gorky, Russian: Максим Горький), was a Soviet author, a founder of the socialist realism literary method and a political activist.He was also a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

From 1906 to 1913 and from 1921 to 1929 he lived abroad, mostly in Capri, Italy; after his return to the Soviet Union
...more

Other books in the series

Autobiography (3 books)
  • My Apprenticeship
  • My Universities
“When the life is monotonous , even grief is a welcome event...” 30 likes
“In the monotony of everyday existence grief comes as a holiday, and a fire is an entertainment. A scratch embellishes an empty face.” 23 likes
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