Garshin V. M.

Vsevolod Mihailovich Garshin (1855 – 1888) was a Russian writer, poet, and art critic. He came from an old noble Tatar family, whose ancestors allegedly came to Russia with the Golden Horde during the reign of Ivan III.

Garshin’s father, Mihail Egorovich (1817 – 1870), was a military officer. His mother, Ekaterina Stepanovna (1828 – 1897), was considered a “typical emancipated woman” who spoke fluent German and French and was actively involved in literature in politics. Her views and education had great influence on her son. Garshin’s tutor was P. V. Zavadski, a prominent revolutionary leader of the 1860s. Eventually, Garshin’s mother left her husband for Zavadski and accompanied him into exile – a family drama, which impacted Garshin’s health and views for the rest of his life.

Garshin attended a school in St. Petersburg from 1864 through 1874. After graduation, he entered the Institute of Mountain Engineering but did not finish his studies due to the war with the Ottoman Empire. He joined the army, participated in military action, and was wounded in the leg. He received a promotion and resigned.

Garshin’s literary debut took place in 1877 with the story, “Four Days,” which instantly received critical acclaim. This piece was the first in the series of short stories and novellas protesting war and destruction of one human being by another. The subject of social evils and injustices continues to appear in his subsequent works – against the backdrops of war and peaceful, everyday life.
Garshin is credited with establishing novella as its own, independent literary form, to be fully developed utilized by the likes of Chekhov and Kuprin. He became known for the very structured, clearly defined composition of his stories, using letters, diaries, and confessions as narrative devices, and heavy emphasis on mental rather than physical drama and action.

Even as a child, Garshin was exceedingly nervous and impressionable. Later in life, he suffered from bouts of depression – mental torment becoming another ongoing topic in his works. He committed suicide by throwing himself down the stairs and dying several days later from injuries.

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