Alexander Grin

Alexander Grin or Aleksandr Stepanovich Grinevsky (his real name) was born in provincial Vyatka region of Russia in August 23, 1880 and died of stomach cancer in Crimea in 1932. He witnessed a transformation of Imperial Russia into Soviet State, twice he was arrested and exiled, escaped exile and lived illegally in St Petersburg, being a part of its new literary establishment along with such writers as Bryusov, Voloshin, Kuprin and others. Then he moved to the coast of the Black Sea where he lived with his wife suffering oblivion, poverty and hunger, but still writing. The sea had always been Grin’s passion since the time he ran away to Odessa at the age of 16 until the very end of his life. It had also been the source of inspiration, since his most prominent works, such as The Scarlet Sails and She Who Runs on the Waves, are tales of sea adventure in an imaginary coastal land Grinlandia “with Latin American flavor” as blurbs have described it. For this and for the strong fantastic element of his prose it has been labelled as “pro-cosmopolitan” (in a negative sense) by Soviet and as “escapist” by modern Russian criticism. However, lately his oeuvre is being reviewed and reestablished as “deeply philosophical” and allegorically historicist. Grin is now being recognized as a stylist with connections being made to Nabokov’s wiring and Symbolist tradition. There is still much to do in the direction of rescuing Grin’s writing from the niche of young adult literature where to it had been firmly hammered by Soviet literary scholarship and sealed by the high school graduation festival The Scarlet Sail which is based on his novel and has turned into a primary tourist attraction of St. Petersburg. Very few works of Grin’s are available in English translation, the last prominent one reviewed in The New York Times in 1987.

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