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The theme of money in three novels of D. N. Mamin-Sibiriak Godoroja, Olga

Abstract

Dmitrii Narkisovich Mamin (1852-1912) was born in a small village in the Urals not far from Ekaterinburg. He wrote under the pseudonym of Sibiriak. As a native of the Urals, he used this region as a setting for many of his short stories and novels. This made Mamin-Sibiriak unique among Russian writers of the nineteenth century. While others wrote about European Russia, the area that Mamin-Sibiriak chose was relatively unknown, even to his fellow-countrymen. During his lifetime, the contemporary critics A. Skabichevskii, V. Al'bov and others acknowledged Mamin-Sibiriak's talent and analyzed his works, but they failed to appreciate fully the importance of his writings, because they were concerned primarily with the ideological implications. When evaluating his contribution as a writer, the Soviet critics E. Bogoliubov and A. Gruzdev stress only the problems of class struggle in his early works. They ignore his later works, which are primarily concerned with moral problems, education, the arts, with professional people, and with the interactions of these elements. So far, only one of his novels, Privalovskie milliony, has been translated into English, and he is relatively unknown to the western world. The English critic, R. Hare, considers Mamin-Sibiriak to be a minor writer and mentions only one of his novels, Privalovskie milliony (English title: The Privalov Fortune), as well as a collection of children's stories which are nevertheless, in his opinion, "equal to the best of Chekhov." This study will include the following novels: Privalovskie milliony (The Privalov Fortune, 1883), Gornoe gnezdo (The Mountain Nest1884), and Zoloto (Gold, 1892). In these novels Mamin-Sibiriak depicts a phase of the industrial revolution in the Urals and the subsequent social and psychological changes that took place in this part of Russia. The universal theme of money and its effects on human nature is a dominant leitmotif in these novels, reaching beyond the confines of Russian society. His uniqueness lies in developing this theme by choosing, the local Ural setting and introducing a large number of colourful characters from the different strata of Russian society. His works are an important link in the development of the Russian novel at the end of the nineteenth century. His writing technique is imaginative and objective at the same time, and although his moral concern is obvious, his writing never gives the impression of didacticism.

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