Our City - Visitors Guide
arts and culture
Foreign Office button
Contact Us
Arts and Culture level 1 bar
Level 2 Arts and Culture bar
Konstantin Paustovsky

Paustovsky, Konstantin Georgievich was born on May 19, 1892 in Moscow. His father, descendant of the Zaporizhia Cossacks, was a railroad statistician, and was "an incurable romantic and protestant". His mother came from the family of a Polish intellectual. Konstantin grew up in Ukraine, partly in the countryside and partly in Kiev. In 1912 he entered the University of Kiev, the physics and mathematics faculty, but then switched in favor of philosophy, where he was the classmate of Mikhail Bulgakov. In 1914 Konstantin Paustovsky transferred to the University of Moscow, but World War I interrupted his education. He served as a paramedic in a hospital train. During 1915, his medical unit retreated all the way through Poland and Byelorussia. After two of his brothers died on the frontline, Konstantin returned to his mother in Moscow, but later he left and wandered around, trying his hands at many jobs in Yekaterinoslav (now: Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine) and Taganrog. In 1916 he lived in Taganrog, where he worked at the Taganrog Boiler Factory of Albert Neuve-Wilde (now: Krasny Kotelschchik). Later Konstantin Paustovsky joined a cooperative association of fishermen (artel) in Taganrog, where he started his first novel "Romantiki" ("Romantics") to be published in 1935. The novel, its content and feelings agreed with its title. It was author's story of what he had to see and feel in his youth. One of the heroes, the old Oscar, was an artist who resisted all of his life to people forcing him to become a moneymaker. The main theme throughout "Romantics" - destiny of an artist who strives to overcome his loneliness - was later used in other works of Paustovsky. In his later works, as "Razgovor o ribe" ("Conversation about the Fish"), "Azovskoe podpolie" ("Azov Underground"), "Port v trave" ("Seaport in The Grass") and others, Paustovsky described the time spent in Taganrog. Konstantin Paustovsky revisited Taganrog during the fall of 1952 and stayed at the Kumbaruli hotel.

Paustovsky started writing while still in Gymnasium. His first works were imitative poetry. He then tried prose and his first stories to be published were "Na vode" ("On The Water") and "Chetvero" ("The Four") in 1911 and 1912. The first books were influenced by Alexander Grin as well as the writers of the "Odessa school" (Isaac Babel, Valentin Kataev, Yuri Olesha). During World War I, he created some sketches relaying his impressions of life at the frontline, and one of them was also published. His first book, "Morskiye Nabroski" ("Sea Sketches") was published in 1925, but was little noticed. It was followed by "Minetoza" in 1927, and the romantic novel "Blistaiushie Oblaka" ("Shining Clouds") in 1919. In 1930s Paustovsky visited various constructions sites and wrote in praise of the industrial transformation of the country. To that period belong the novels Kara-Bugaz (1932) and Kolkhida (1934). Kara-Bugaz won particular praise. It is essentially a tale of adventure and exploration around and near the Kara-Bugaz Bay, where the air is mysteriously heavy. It begins in 1847 and moves to Russian Civil War period when a group of Red Guards are abandoned to near-certain death on a desolate island. There are, however, survivors, who are rescued by an explorer. Some of the survivors continue on to help in the exploration, development and study of the natural wealth of the region.

Paustovsky continued to explore historical themes in Severnaya Povest ("Tale of the North") (1938). In this tale, following the anti-Tsarist Decembrist uprising in Saint Petersburg, a wounded officer who took part in the uprising and a sailor try to make it by foot across the ice to Sweden. They are captured amid a series of dramatic events. Years later, in Leningrad of the 1930s, the great-grandsons of the participants in the events unexpectedly meet. During late 1930s, Russian nature emerged as a central theme and leitmotif for Paustovsky, for example, in Letniye Dni ("Summer Days") (1937) and Meshcherskaya Storona (1939). For Paustovsky, nature was a many-faceted splendor in which man can free himself from daily cares and regain his spiritual equilibrium. This focus on nature drew comparisons with Mikhail Prishvin. And, in fact, Prishvin himself wrote in his diary, "If I were not Prishvin, I would like to write like Paustovsky."

During World War II Paustovsky served as a war correspondent on the southern front. From 1948 until 1955 he taught at the Gorky Institute for Literature. In 1943 Paustovsky produced a screenplay for the Gorky Film Studio production of "Lermontov", directed by A. Gendelshtein. Another work of note is Tale of the Woods, 1948. This story opens in remote forest in the 1890s, where Tchaikovsky is working on a symphony. The daughter of the local forester often brings Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky berries. Half a century later, the daughter of this young girl is now a laboratory technician at the local forest station.

Perhaps Paustovsky's most famous work is his autobiography "Povest o Zhizni" ("Story of a Life"). It is not a historical document; it is a long, lyrical tale, focusing on his personal perceptions of event. In 1965, Paustovsky was nominated for a Nobel Prize for literature, but due to pressure from Soviet authorities, the prize was awarded instead to Mikhail Sholokhov as more loyal to the Soviet regime.

Paustovsky also edited a few literary collections, Literary Moscow (1956) and Pages from Tarusa, in which he tried to bring new writers to the public's attention and to publish writers suppressed during the Stalin years.

Other major works include "Snow", Crossing Ships (1928); The Black Sea (1936); Summer Days (1937); and The Rainy Dawn (1946). He is also the author of several plays and fairy tales, including "Steel Ring".

In February 1966 he was one of more than 125 prominent figures from science and the arts who signed a letter to the 23rd Communist Party of the Soviet Union Congress appealing against re-Stalinization. He died in Moscow on July 14, 1968.

azov sea old postcard

blank space corner spacer goes here