Alexander Stepanovich Grin: Crimson sails


Alexander Grin was born Alexander Stepanovich Grinevsky into a family of an exiles from Poland living in Slobodskaya Vyatka Province. Sometimes called Alexander Green in English, the proper name is Alexander Grin.
In 1896 at age 16, Grin finished a four-year Vyatka college and left for Odessa.
He ran away from his home and lived as a tramp, worked as a sailor, and a fisherman, sought gold in the Urals, and later served the army, where he joined the Socialist revolutionary party.
Grinevsky read avidly, with Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne among his favorites, and he even reportedly carried a portrait of Edgar Allen Poe with him everywhere he went
His works were published starting from 1906. The first short story, titled “Merit of Private Panteleev ” (Zasluga ryadovogo Panteleeva) was of political agitation and copies of the brochure were confiscated by police.
Grin was arrested in Sevastopol for propaganda and served his sentence in prison and three exiles.
In 1905 Grin moved to St. Petersburg after his first exile. His His ealier career was known for poetry and short stories, but not yet the romantic escapes he discovered after the revolution. Areested and exiled several times, Grin moved to St. Petersburg several times.
In 1912 the Grin returned to St. Petersburg, mainly writing short stories at that time.
After the disappointment of the Bolshevik revolution in 1918, the major theme of his writing was the collision of freedom and loss of freedom, expressed in his novels The Shining World (Blistayushii mir) (1923), Jessie and Morgiana (1929) and The Road to Nowhere (Doroga nikuda, 1930).
Grin’s symbolic romantic story Crimson Sails (Alye Parusa, 1922) is considered to be his best work. Certainly, it is his most popular legacy. Grin created his own exotic land in his stories, “Grinlandia”, in which pure-hearted souls search for love and adventure and have a constant poetic dialogue with the sea. “Scarlet Sails” has been called “the Russian ‘Treasure Island’”. 
In 1924 Alexander Grin moved to Theodosia, Crimea. Gradually his writings came to be in conflict with principles of the communist party, and so his publications were getting scarcer and scarcer. In 1930 the writer moved to the town of Staryi Krym (not far from Theodosia), where two years later he died of lung cancer. This is where he was laid to rest.

Presented and dedicated to  Nina Nikolayevna Grin
     by the AUTHOR
     November 23,' 1922 Petrograd

    I. THE PROPHESY

Longren, a sailor of the Orion, a rugged, three-hundred ton brig on which he had served for ten years and to which he was attached more strongly than some sons are to their mothers, was finally forced to give up the sea. This is how it came about. During one of his infrequent visits home he did not, as he always had, see his wife Mary from afar, standing on the doorstep, throwing up her hands and then running breathlessly towards him. Instead, he found a distraught neighbour woman by the crib, a new piece of furniture in his small house. "I tended her for three months, neighbour," the woman said. "Here's your daughter." Longren's heart was numb with grief as he bent down and saw an eight-month-old mite peering intently at his long beard. Then he sat down, stared at the floor and began to twirl his moustache. It was wet as from the rain. "When did Mary die?" he asked. The woman recounted the sad tale, interrupting herself to coo fondly at the child and assure him that Mary was now in Heaven. When Longren learned the details, Heaven seemed to him not much brighter than the woodshed, and he felt that the light of a plain lamp, were the three of them together now, would have been a joy unsurpassed to the woman who had gone on to the unknown Beyond. About three months previously the young mother's finances had come to an abrupt end. At least half of the money Longren had left her was spent on doctors after her difficult confinement and on caring for the newborn infant; finally, the loss of a small but vital sum had forced Mary to appeal to Menners for a loan. Menners kept a tavern and shop and was considered a wealthy man. Mary went to see him at six o'clock in the evening. It was close to seven when the neighbour woman met her on the road to Liss. Mary had been weeping and was very upset. She said she was going to town to pawn her wedding ring. Then she added that Menners had agreed to lend her some money but had demanded her love in return. Mary had rejected him. "There's not a crumb in the house," she had said to the neighbour. "I'll go into town. We'll manage somehow until my husband returns." It was a cold, windy evening. In vain did the neighbour try to talk the young woman out of going to Liss when night was approaching. "You'll get wet, Mary. It's beginning to rain, and the wind looks as if it will bring on a storm." It was at least a three hours' brisk walk from the seaside village to town, but Mary did not heed her neighbour's advice. "I won't be an eyesore to you any more," she said. "As it is, there's hardly a family I haven't borrowed bread, tea or flour from. I'll pawn my ring, and that will take care of everything." She went into town, returned and the following day took to her bed with a fever and chills; the rain and the evening frost had brought on double pneumonia, as the doctor from town, called in by the kind-hearted neighbour, had said. A week later there was an empty place in Longren's double bed, and the neighbour woman moved into his house to care for his daughter. She was a widow and all alone in the world, so this was not a difficult task. "Besides," she added, "the baby fills my days." Longren went off to town, quit his job, said goodbye to his comrades and returned home to raise little Assol. The widow stayed on in the sailor's house as a foster mother to the child until she had learned to walk well, but as soon as Assol stopped falling when she raised her foot to cross the threshold, Longren declared that from then on he intended to care for the child himself and, thanking the woman for her help and kindness, embarked on a lonely widower's life, focusing all his thoughts, hopes, love and memories on the little girl. Ten years of roaming the seas had not brought him much of a fortune. He began to work. Soon the shops in town were offering his toys for sale, finely-crafted small model boats, launches, one and two-deck sailing vessels, cruisers and steamboats; in a word, all that he knew so well and that, owing to the nature of the toys, partially made up for the hustle and bustle of the ports and the adventures of a life at sea. In this way Longren earned enough to keep them comfortable. He was not a sociable man, but now, after his wife's death, he became something of a recluse. He was sometimes seen in a tavern of a holiday, but he would never join anyone and would down a glass of vodka at the bar and leave with a brief: "yes", "no", "hello", "goodbye", "getting along", in reply to all his neighbours' questions and greetings. He could not stand visitors and would get rid of them without resorting to force, yet firmly, by hints and excuses which left the former no choice but to invent a reason that prevented them from remaining further. He, in turn, visited no one; thus, a wall of cold estrangement rose up between him and his fellow-villagers, and if Longren's work, the toys he made, had depended in any way on village affairs, he would have felt most keenly the consequences of this relationship. He bought all his wares and provisions in town, and Menners could not even boast of a box of matches he had sold to Longren. Longren did all his own housework and patiently learned the difficult art, so unusual for a man, of rearing a girl. Assol was now five, and her father was beginning to smile ever more gently as he looked upon her sensitive, kind little face when she sat in his lap and puzzled over the mystery of his buttoned waistcoat or sang sailors' chants, those wild, wind-blown rhymes. When sung by a child, with a lisp here and there, the chants made one think of a dancing bear with a pale blue ribbon around its neck. At about this time something occurred that, casting its shadow upon the father, shrouded the daughter as well. It was spring, an early spring as harsh as winter, but still unlike it. A biting North off-shore wind whipped across the cold earth for about three weeks. The fishing boats, dragged up onto the beach, formed a long row of dark keels which seemed like the backbones of some monstrous fish on the white sand. No one dared to venture out to sea in such weather. The single village street was deserted; the cold whirlwind, racing down from the hills along the shore and off towards the vacant horizon, made the "open air" a terrible torture. All the chimneys of Kaperna smoked from dawn till dusk, shaking the smoke out over the steep roofs. However, the days of the fierce North wind enticed Longren out of his cozy little house more often than did the sun, which cast its coverlets of spun gold over the sea and Kaperna on a clear day. Longren would go to the very end of the long wooden pier and there he would smoke his pipe at length, the wind carrying off the smoke, and watch the sandy bottom, bared near the shore when the waves retreated, foam up in grey froth that barely caught up with the waves whose rumbling progress towards the black, stormy horizon filled the space between with flocks of weird, long-maned creatures galloping off in wild abandon to their distant point of solace. The moaning and the noise, the crashing thunder of the huge, upthrusted masses of water and the seemingly visible currents of wind that whipped across the vicinity--for so forceful was its unhampered course -- produced that dulling, deafening sensation in Longren's tortured soul which, reducing grief to undefin-able sadness, is equal in its effect to deep slumber. On one such day Menners' twelve-year-old son Hin, noticing that his father's boat was being buffeted against the piles under the pier and that its sides were becoming battered, went off to tell his father of this. The storm had but recently begun; Menners had forgotten to pull his boat up on the sand. He hurried to the beach where he saw Longren standing at the end of the pier with his back to him, smoking. There was not another soul in sight. Menners walked halfway along the pier, climbed down into the wildly splashing water and untied his boat; then, standing upright in it he began moving towards the shore, pulling himself along from one pile to the next. He had forgotten his oars, and as he stumbled and missed his hold on the next pile, a strong gust of wind pulled the prow of his boat away from the pier and towards the ocean. Now Menners could not have reached the nearest pile even if he had stretched out to his full length. The wind and the waves, rocking the boat, were carrying it off into the distance and doom. Menners realized his predicament and wanted to dive into the water and swim ashore, but this decision was too late in coming, for the boat was now spinning about near the end of the pier where the considerable depth and raging waves promised imminent death. There were only about twenty metres between Longren and Menners, who was being swept off into the stormy distance, and a rescue was still possible, for a coiled rope with a weighted end hung on the pier beside Longren. The rope was there for any boat that might land during a storm and was thrown to the boat from the pier. "Longren!" Menners cried in terror. "Don't just stand there! Can't you see I'm being carried away? Throw me the line!" Longren said nothing as he gazed calmly upon the frantic man, although he puffed harder on his pipe and then, to have a better view of what was happening, removed it from his mouth.

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