Andrei Upit

Upit, Andrei Martynovich

 

(Andrejs Upīts). Born Nov. 22 (Dec. 4), 1877, in Skrīvers, in what is now Ogre Raion, Latvian SSR; died Nov. 17, 1970, in Riga. Soviet Latvian writer, literary scholar, and public figure; founder of Soviet Latvian literature. People’s Writer of the Latvian SSR (1943); member of the Academy of Sciences of the Latvian SSR (1946); Hero of Socialist Labor (1967). Member of the CPSU from 1917.

Upit published his first poem in 1896 and his first short story in 1899. His aesthetic views were greatly influenced by the Revolution of 1905–07, by his acquaintance with Marxism, and by the works of M. Gorky. Upit opposed decadence in Latvian literature and firmly supported critical realism; these trends are evident in his short stories about peasant life and the two-volume work consisting of The Bourgeois (1907) and The Last Latvian (1912). His novel The New Sources (1908) was the first part of the series The Robežnieks, an exceptionally significant work of Latvian literature dealing with the Latvian peasantry during the Revolution of 1905–07.

Influenced by a new upsurge in the workers’ movement in 1910–11, Upit openly took the side of the proletariat in a bold series of publicist writings and works of literary criticism. He exposed the urban bourgeoisie and lower middle class in his novels Woman (1910), In a Silken Web (part 2 of The Robežnieks, 1912), Gold (1914), and The Renegades (1915–16). He also became the first in Latvian literature to depict worker revolutionaries realistically, in the plays The Call and the Echo (1911) and One and Many (1914).

After the February Revolution of 1917, events of which are described in the short-story collection The Thaw (1919), Upit was elected to the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies of Riga and to the executive committee of the soviet.

During the period of bourgeois rule in Latvia (1920–40), Upit developed the principles of socialist realism, for example, in the novel North Wind (part 3 of The Robežnieks). He exposed the decadent mores of the bourgeois republic in the novels Over the Rainbow Bridge (1926), The Death of Janis Robežnieks (1933), and The Smiling Leaf (1937) and in satirical comedies, of which Zuzanna the Bather (1922) and Flight of the Seagull (1926) enjoyed particular success.

Upit’s skill as a writer of short fiction is most evident in the collections Metamorphoses (1923), Naked Life (1926), and Stories of Pastors (1930). The tragedies Mirabeau (1926) and Joan of Arc (1930) were the first in a historical trilogy that examines the interrelationships between heroic leaders and the popular masses. The series of four novels entitled At the Border of Centuries (1937–40) is also based on historical themes. Upit was the chief author of the four-volume History of World Literature (1930–34).

The fascist coup of 1934 prevented Upit from participating openly in the socioliterary struggle. During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) he lived in the village of Kstinino, near Kirov, and completed his historical trilogy in 1943 with the tragedy Spartacus. He also wrote a two-volume work consisting of the historical novels The Green Earth (1945: State Prize of the USSR, 1946) and Break in the Clouds (1951), which depicts Latvian village life in the late 19th century and the early events of the Latvian workers’ movement in the 1890’s.

After 1951, Upit devoted himself entirely to literary scholarship, writing such works as Questions of Socialist Realism in Literature (1951; Russian translation, 1959). He also translated works by A. S. Griboedov, N. V. Gogol, M. Gorky, A. N. Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Heine, G. B. Shaw, G. Flaubert, and H. Mann.

During the Soviet period, Upit was engaged in many diversified public activities. He was deputy chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR from 1940 to 1951 (remaining a member after 1951) and became chairman of the administrative board of the Writers’ Union of the Latvian SSR in 1957. He was awarded 5 Orders of Lenin, four other orders, and various medals.

WORKS

Kopoti raksti, vols. 1–22 Riga, 1946–54.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–12. [Introductory article by K. Krauliñ.] Moscow, 1956–59.

REFERENCES

Kalve, M. Andrei Upit. Riga, 1957.
Zelinskii, K. “Realizm Andreia Upita.” In his Oktiabr’ i natsional’-nye literatury. Moscow, 1967.
Krauliņš, K. Andrejs Upits: Dzive un darbs. Riga, 1963.

K. KRAULIŅŠ