Leonid Andreyev - Biography

Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Portrait of writer Leonid Nikolayevich Andreyev
Leonid Andreev was a Russian playwright and short story writer. Considered the first and leading expressionist in Russian literature, Andreev was also one of the most prominent representatives of the so-called Silver Age.

Leonid Nikolaevich Andreev was born in Oryol. His father was the son of the head of the local nobility and his mother a serf girl from the family of a bankrupt Polish landowner. His father worked as a land-surveyor. The family struggled with poverty but shortly before Leonid was born his father had attained a position in a bank and had bought a house. Leonid’s father was famous for his exceptional physical force as well as his strong sense of justice and straightforward character that never failed him even in his most notorious drunken fights and pranks. Later Leonid explained that his own difficult character and inclination to drinking was hereditary. His mother was a simple woman with no education and her greatest merit was her endless and unconditional love for her children. She often told them stories. She was a talented storyteller and it was difficult to discern between what was real and what was made up.

Leonid Andreev remembers his childhood as happy and carefree. At the age of six he learned to read and gobbled up every book he came across. In

1882-1891 he attended the Oryol Gymnasium but was a poor student both in grades and attendance. He discovered his writing talent through cheating: he copied his classmates’ homework in math and paid them back by doing essays for them in different styles. He quite enjoyed writing “in Chekhov’s manner” or “in Tolstoy’s manner,” copying the characteristics of the great authors’ texts. In school, though, he never thought of literature as a career, wanting instead to become an artist. Oryol had no painting school and a fruitless search for a tutor left Andreev with only a few amateur attempts at drawing. Later, after he had already become a famous writer, he often said how unhappy he was that his artistic talent was never developed, even though it made him take up writing in alternative. ...

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