Kuprin, Aleksandr Ivanovich
Born Aug. 26 (Sept. 7), 1870, in Narovchat, present-day Penza Oblast; died Aug. 25, 1938, in Leningrad. Russian writer.
Kuprin was the son of a civil servant of modest means. He spent ten years away from home at closed military academies and served with an infantry regiment in Podol’ia Province for four years. In 1894 he left the service, moved to Kiev, and devoted himself to literary work. His works were first published in 1889. Kuprin traveled throughout the country, primarily southern Russia, and tried many different occupations. In 1901 he moved to St. Petersburg.
Kuprin became acquainted with Chekhov in 1899 and with Gorky and the Znanie association of writers in 1902. In 1905 his best work, the novel The Duel was published in the association’s collections (Sborniki tovarishchestva “Znanie”).
During the period of political reaction after the defeat of the Revolution of 1905–07, Kuprin’s creative powers declined. He spent the autumn of 1919 in Gatchina, which was cut off from Petrograd by General Iudenich’s White Guard forces. From there, he emigrated with his family and lived abroad for 17 years, chiefly in Paris. Throughout these years he suffered from poverty and from nostalgia for Russia. Gravely ill, he returned to his homeland in the spring of 1937.
Kuprin’s creativity was at its height during the years before he went abroad, especially during the era of social ferment before and during the Revolution of 1905–07. He earned a place in the history of Russian national literature with his novellas and novels— Moloch (1896), Olesya (1898), The Duel (1905), The Pit (part 1, 1909; part 2, 1914–15)—as well as with his masterful short stories. Among them were “At the Circus” and “The Swamp” (both 1902), “The Coward” and “The Horse Thieves” (both 1903), “A Peaceful Life” and “Measles” (both 1904), “Staff-Captain Rybnikov” (1906), “Gambrinus” and “The Emerald” (both 1907), “Sulamif’” (1908), “The Garnet Bracelet” (1911), “Listrigony” (1907–11), and “Black Lightning” and “Anathema” (both 1913).
As an émigré he wrote the novellas Junkers (1928–32) and Jeanette (1932–33), a few sketches, and some short stories based primarily on his memories.
Kuprin belonged to the pleiad of the writers of critical realism. Most of his works are topical and are pervaded by keen civic feeling and social consciousness. Moloch is a biting exposé of bourgeois “progress,” and The Duel is an exposé of the tsarist army. The Pit describes an attempt to help modern society heal the ulcerated wound of prostitution. Kuprin’s works reflect the influence of Chekhov, Gorky, and in particular, Leo Tolstoy.
A truthful and realistic artist who wrote only about what he saw, experienced, and felt, Kuprin addressed himself to a broad democratic audience. Usually, his writings focus on an “average” member of the Russian intelligentsia: a hard-working, sin cere man of conscience, gravely wounded by life’s contradictions. Colorful images of the common people also occupy an important place in Kuprin’s writing. He was inclined to describe “group” and “occupational” psychology, which are stable and common phenomena. His love of life, humanism, vivid power of description, and rich language make him one of the most widely read writers even today. Many of Kuprin’s works have been adapted for the stage and screen and translated into a number of foreign languages.
WORKSSobr. soch., vols. 1–6. [Introductory article by K. Paustovskii.] Moscow, 1957–58.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–9. [Introductory article by K. Chukovskii.] Moscow, 1964.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–9. [Introductory article by F. I. Kuleshov.] Moscow, 1970–73.
Zabytye i nesobrannye proizvedeniia: Podgot. teksta, prim, i materialy k biografii E. M. Rotshteina. Penza, 1950.
O literature. [Introductory article by the compiler, F. I. Kuleshov.] Minsk, 1969.
REFERENCESVorovskii, V. “A. Kuprin.” In his book Literaturno-kriticheskie stat’i. Moscow, 1956.
Berkov, P. N. A. I. Kuprin: Kritiko-biograficheskii ocherk. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Afanas’ev, V. A. I. Kuprin: Kritiko-biograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1960.
Volkov, A. Tvorchestvo A. I. Kuprina. Moscow, 1962.
Kuleshov, F. I. Tvorcheskii put’ A. I. Kuprina. Minsk, 1963.
Kuprina-Iordanskaia, M. K. Gody molodosti. Moscow, 1966.
Kuprina, K. A. Kuprin—moi otets. Moscow, 1971.
Istoriia russkoi literatury kontsa XIX-nachala XX veka: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
I. A. PITLIAR