Maxim Gorky is the pen-name of Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, who was born in 1868 in the city of Nizhny-Novgorod, now renamed after him. After his father’s death he spent his childhood with his mother and grandparents in an atmosphere of hostility. He was turned out of the house when his mother died and was left to work in various jobs — in a bakery, in an ikon-maker’s shop, on barges — until his unsuccessful attempt at suicide. For three years he wandered in the south like a tramp before publishing his first story, ‘Makar Chudra’, in a Tiflis newspaper. After his return to Nizhny he worked on another newspaper, in which many of his stories appeared; he quickly achieved fame and soon afterwards his play The Lower Depths was a triumphant success at the Moscow Arts Theatre. By now active in the revolutionary movement, he was arrested in 1905 by the Tsarist government but released following a petition signed by eminent statesmen and writers. While in America in 1906 he savagely attacked American capitalism, and wrote his best-selling novel, Mother. During the First World War he was associated with the Marxist Internationalist Group, and in 1917 he founded New Life, a daily devoted to left-wing socialism, but which outspokenly attacked Kerensky and Lenin’s ‘Communist hysteria’. In 1921 he went to Italy, where he wrote My Universities, the third part of his great autobiographical trilogy: the other parts are My Childhood and My Apprenticeship. He returned to Moscow in 1928, and from then on he was a champion of the Soviet cause. In 1936 he died — allegedly poisoned by political enemies — and was given a hero’s funeral in Red Square.