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Read by David Shaw-Parker (Unabridged: 43mins)
Leonid Nikolaievich Andreyev was born on 21st August in Oryol, Russia to a middle-class family of Polish, Ukranian and Finnish ancestry.
He studied law in Moscow before working as a police-court reporter for a daily newspaper. His literary efforts at this time were confined to poetry and those he did try to get published were all rejected.
In 1898 his first short story ‘Bargamot and Garaska’, published in the ‘Kurier’ newspaper caught the attention and friendship of Maxim Gorky. Andreyev now discarded any other career path apart from that of author.
His first collection of short stories appeared in 1901 and sold over a quarter of a million copies. He was a sensation. Using his interest in psychology and psychiatry gave him an almost unrivalled ability to delve into the human psyche and create astonishing characters.
During the first Russian revolution Andreyev was a staunch defender of democratic ideals and many of his stories reflected the heated mood of the times. With the 1905 Revolution’s failure his work became pessimistic and despairing. By the beginning of the following decade he began losing his audience to new literary movements such as the Futurists.
He published little after 1914 except political writings, instead working as the literary editor of the ‘Russian Will’ newspaper. When the Bolsheviks took power he sensed catastrophe was coming and moved to Finland where he spent his last years in poverty distraught at the outcome of the Revolution.
Leonid Andreyev died of heart failure on 12th September 1919 at the age of 48 in Mustamäki, Finland.
His classic story ‘Silence’ is a haunting and a desperately sad account of a family broken by death and unable to reconcile their feelings.