Grin A. S.

Alexander Grin (1880 – 1932) is the pen name of Alexander Grinevky – one of the few representatives of romanticism and symbolism in Russian literature.

A dreamer since early childhood, Grin was driven by his love of travel and adventure all his life – from trying to run away from home and become a sailor to pouring his wanderlust into his fascinating and richly detailed books.

A consummate nomad, Grin tried many professions and lived in many places. Army service during World War I brought him into politics. Seeing the war for what it was – an unwinnable conflict run by ambitious governments and resulting in tremendous loss of life among people who had no say in the events – Grin began participating in anti-war and anti-government propaganda, for which he was arrested, imprisoned and exiled several times.

Ever the adventurer, Grin managed to turn one of his arrests to his advantage by getting his guards drunk on cheap vodka, escaping, getting a fake passport and traveling to Moscow, just long enough to publish a political essay and get into trouble again.

After a period of political prose, Grin’s focus shifted, as he searched for his own style. His first romantic pieces appeared in print in 1909, setting the stage for a vast body of work and outlining the boundaries of the imaginary country, where new stories would take place, Grinlandia.

While growing as a romantic writer, Grin did not abandon his political activities and continued to have run-ins with the law. Fleeing persecution, Grin traveled to Finland in 1917, but returned after the revolution in February of 1917, when Russian monarchy was replaced by what was then perceived a more democratic and progressive government. Grin’s hopes for the better future were in vain, as neither the February Revolution, nor the Socialist October Revolution resulted in much improvement for the country.

He struggled on through the difficult post-revolutionary years and the civil war that followed. These years of hunger, sickness and war yielded an unexpected treasure – Grin’s first and most famous novella The Scarlet Sails (published in 1923). It is said that the character of Assol’ was inspired by Grin’s wife Nina.

Grin continued to work steadily from 1924 through 1931, publishing short stories and novels, including The Glittering World, The Golden Chain and The Waverunner. As his illness progressed, he moved to Crimea in hopes of improving his health and winning a few more years of writing. Sadly, even the magical tropical air had no power to help him.

Alexander Grin died on July 8, 1932 in the town of Old Crimea and buried at the city cemetery. Sculptor Tatiana Gagarina created his tombstone. The design she created included the writer’s name, but no traditional portrait of the deceased. Instead, the statue of Frasie Grant – the Waverunner – was set atop a pillar to forever watch over the great dreamer and adventurer.

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