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Fedin, Konstantin Aleksandrovich
Born Feb. 12 (24), 1892, in Saratov; died July 15, 1977, in Moscow. Soviet Russian writer. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1858). Hero of Socialist Labor (1967). Corresponding member of the German Academy of Arts (1958).
The son of a member of the middle class, Fedin spent his childhood and youth in Saratov. He graduated from the Moscow Commercial Institute in 1914. At the beginning of World War I (1914–18), Fedin was in Germany, where he remained until the war’s end. Returning to Russia in 1918, he edited a local newspaper in Syzran’ in 1919 and edited the newspaper of the Seventh Army during the Civil War. In 1921 he joined the Serapion Brothers, a literary group. Fedin published several early literary works in 1913 and 1914.
Fedin’s first book was the short-story collection The Desert (1923). His novel Cities and Years (1924; film of the same name, 1930 and 1973) dealt with the fate of the intelligentsia during the Revolution and Civil War. In the novel the revolutionary will is personified in the figure of a staunch Bolshevik who administers historical justice to the hero, a confused, idle intellectual. The novel’s complex composition corresponds to the spirit of a turbulent time and to the profound reflections of the author, who sought a new understanding of the meaning of humanism.
In 1925 and 1926, Fedin published short stories and novellas about the peasantry, including Morning in Viazhno, The Transvaal, and Peasants. His novel The Brothers (1927–28) revealed the unity of national art and the new revolutionary art and stressed the importance of struggling for this new art. The novels The Rape of Europe (books 1–2, 1933–35) and Arktur Sanatorium (1940) attacked the political and moral foundations of the bourgeois world.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Fedin wrote the play A Test of Feelings (1942) and short stories and sketches that were included in the cycles Several Populated Areas (1943) and Rendezvous With Leningrad (1944). He began work on a trilogy of novels whose first two parts were First Joys (1945; film of the same name, 1956) and An Unusual Summer (1947–48; film of the same name, 1956; State Prize of the USSR for both novels, 1949). The final novel of the trilogy was The Bonfire (books 1–2, 1961–65). The trilogy dealt with the origins of Russian revolutionary psychology and with the inevitable revolutionary renewal of Russian society. First Joys, whose action begins in 1910, is charged with the anticipation of an abrupt, redeeming change in society. The novel’s many themes are united by the idea that only a struggle to reorganize the world can form a human personality of value and integrity.
The events of An Unusual Summer take place in the Volga region in 1919. The novel presents penetrating depictions of two Bolsheviks, a worker and an intellectual, both leaders of a powerful historical movement as well as men whose profound inner world is in harmony with the unprecedented social tasks they are faced with. The novel also portrays members of the former intelligentsia of the world of art who free themselves of class prejudices and take part in the life of the new Russia. Both An Unusual Summer and The Bonfire, which is set during the Great Patriotic War, make use of abundant historical and journalistic material.
In The Writer, Art, and Time (1957; expanded edition, 1961), Fedin portrayed such contemporaries as M. Gorky, S. Zweig, R. Rolland, and L. Frank, discussed writers of the past, and reflected on writing and literary craftsmanship. The book of memoirs Gorky Among Us (1941–68) depicted the literary and social life of the 1920’s and presented valuable portrayals of Gorky, A. Blok, F. Sologub, A. Remizov, Vsevolod Ivanov, N. Tikhonov, and M. Zoshchenko.
Fedin’s works combine an epic sweep with lyricism and satire, and unite realistic details with philosophical speculation. These characteristics are linked to Fedin’s view of art as a creative force that finds and verifies its own paths and goals even while it presents a many-sided reflection of life. The “humaneness of the new world” is the main theme of the work of Fedin, who believed that a writer’s devotion to his vocation could be measured according to his adherence to this principle. Fedin’s works have been translated into the national languages of the USSR and into many foreign languages.
Fedin served as first secretary of the Writers’ Union of the USSR from 1959 to 1971 and as chairman of the union’s administrative board beginning in 1971. He was a deputy to the sixth through ninth convocations of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. He was awarded four Orders of Lenin, an Order of the October Revolution, two Orders of the Red Banner of Labor, several medals, and two orders of the German Democratic Republic.
WORKSSobr. soch., vols. 1–10. Moscow, 1969–73.
REFERENCESBrainina, B. Konstantin Fedin: Ocherk zhizni i tvorchestva, 5th ed. Moscow, 1962.
Bugaenko, P. Maslerstvo Konstantina Fedina. Saratov, 1959.
Zagradka, M. O khudozhestvennom stile romanov Konstantina Fedina. Prague, 1962.
Tvorchestvo Konstantina Fedina: Stat’i, soobshcheniia, dokumental’nye materialy, vstrechi s Fedinym, bibliografiia. Moscow, 1966.
Kuznetsov, N. I. Konstantin Fedin: Ocherk tvorchestva. Moscow, 1969.
Oklianskii, Iu. Konstantin Fedin: Vstrechi s masterom. Moscow. 1974.
Russkie sovetskie pisateli-prozaiki: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’, vol. 5. Moscow, 1968.
B. IA. BRAININA