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Maxim Gorky: What in war is honorable, in peacetime is criminal


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Maxim Gorky: Selections on war


Maxim Gorky
From Other Fires (1933)
Translated by Alexander Bakshy


Next day he woke up early and lay long abed, musing about a trip abroad. The pain was no longer so severe, probably because one can grow used to it; whereas stillness in the kitchen and the street was not customary and was disturbing. Soon, however, it began to be shaken by the jolts on the pink panes of the windows, coming from the street; after each jolt there came a dull, powerful drone unlike the sound of thunder. It was possible to imagine that instead of clouds a skin was stretched over the sky, upon which, as on a drum, something beat with an enormous fist.

“These are very big cannon,” Samghin concluded and said in a low voice, protestingly, “Swine!”

He jumped to the floor – the action nearly making him scream with pain – and began to dress, but lay down again, wrapping himself up to the chin.

“It’s madness and cowardice, to fire cannon, to destroy houses, the town. The hundreds of thousands of people are not responsible for the actions of a few dozen.”


“You, as a civilian, think it’s very simple: you flog seventeen, or nine, or four men – whatever the number – and it’s all over. You go to bed and sleep until the next expedition. So? No, sir. That is not such a simple matter. Before starting it, you have to drink, and after – drink again, drink long and deep…Captain Tatarnikov – you perhaps read about it – shot some peasants, reported himself, and there and then put a bullet through his head. That was called a scandal. The question was raised: should he be buried with music or without? And yet, in the Japanese War, he commanded a battalion and was awarded two crosses of St. George. Such a clever man and so full of fun…Played billiards divinely – ”

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