Leonid Nikolaievich Andreyev often also in Latin transcription Andrejew (Russian: Леонид Николаевич Андреев, August 9, 1871-September 12, 1919) was a Russian playwright who led the Expressionism movement in the national literature. He was active between the revolution of 1905 and the Communist revolution which finally overthrew the tsarist government.
Born in the Oryol province of Russia, Andreyev originally studied law in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but abandoned his unremunerative law practice to pursue a literary career. He became police-court reporter for a Moscow daily, performing the routine of his humble calling without attracting any particular attention. His first story published was About a Poor Student, a narrative based upon his own experiences. It was not, however, until Gorky discovered him by stories appearing in the Moscow Courier and elsewhere that Andreyev's literary career really began.
From that day to his death he was one of the most prolific writers in Russia, producing short stories, sketches, dramas, etc., in frequent succession. His first collection of stories appeared in 1901, and sold a quarter-million copies in short time. He was hailed as a new star in Russia, where his name soon became a by-word. He published his first short story, "In the Fog" in 1902. Although he started out in the Russian vein he soon startled his readers by his eccentricities, which grew even faster than his fame. His best known work in the West, The Seven Who Were Hanged, was published in 1908. Among his better known works on religious themes are the Symbolist plays The Red Laugh, He Who Gets Slapped, and Anathema.
Andreyev's reputation in Russia faded quickly after his death. His death was largely the result of his mental anguish over the Russian débâcle; for his social sympathies were as serious as only a Russian idealist's and mystic's could be. The last years of Andreyev's life formed a tragedy whose bitter pathos he alone could have expressed adequately. Idealist and rebel, he lived to see the Russian revolution, the long-predicted cataclysm to which so many hopes had been pinned, but he saw it evolve in a direction contrary to his aspirations.
Unlike Gorky, Andreyev could not make peace with the new order. He retired to a villa in Finland and addressed manifestos to the world at large against the excesses of the Bolsheviks. Aside from his political writings, Andreyev published little after 1914. A play, The Sorrows of Belgium, was written at the beginning of the War to celebrate the heroism of the Belgians against the invaders. It was produced in the United States, and so were the earlier plays, The Life of Man (1917), The Rape of the Sabine Women (1922), He Who Gets Slapped (1922), and Anathema (1923).
Poor Murderer, an adaptation of his short story Thought made by Pavel Kohout, opened on Broadway in 1976.
He was married to Countess Wielhorska, a niece of Taras Shevchenko. Their son was Daniil Andreyev, a poet and mystic, author of Roza Mira. The American writer living in San Francisco Olga Andrejew Carlisle, is the granddaughter of Leonid Andreyev.
- This article incorporates text from an edition of the New International Encyclopedia that is in the public domain.
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