1965 : Mikhail Sholokhov

1965 : Mikhail Sholokhov

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“for the artistic power and integrity with which, in his epic of the Don, he has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people”



May 24, 1905

Place of birth


Veshenskaya, Russian Empire



February 21, 1984







Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1965


First years:Mikhail Sholokhov was born in the village of Kroujlinine near Vechenskaia in the Don region in 1905. His father was a small peasant Russian-born and her mother is of Ukrainian origin, and illiterate widow of a Cossack. It must interrupt his studies in 1918 because of civil war that reached the region of Don. He joined the Red Army and participated in combat against the latest band of supporters of the White Army. This experience will have a great influence on his literary work. In 1922, once the situation is calm again, he moved to Moscow where he performs various odd jobs: tank top, mason and accounting. It is also training workshops for writers and published his first news in different newspapers, including Molodoi Leninets, Ogonyok, projector, Smena and the Journal of Youth peasant, he will be part of the editorial board from 1927. He also attends the literary circles of the Komsomol and poets of the movement of New Custody. In 1924, he returned to settle Vechenskaia where he married and devoted himself full time to literature. He published his first book in 1925, a collection of short stories titled News Don. It recounts the life of villages in the Don region during the Civil War, and conflicts between farmers who are on both sides of the ideological divide. Don peaceful:In 1928, Mikhail Sholokhov published the first volume of what will be his major work, The Gift peaceful. It is a novel form of epic that depicts life in the Don region during the period of the First World War and the Civil War. The novel, which includes four volumes, focuses on the character of Grigory Melekhov, a young Cossack officer. The action begins in 1912, while the region is still peaceful and prosperous, continues with the mobilization of Grigori and his relatives to the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914. It describes the first skirmishes against the German army, and deterioriation of the situation as the conflict bogged. With the October Revolution of 1917 and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the conflict, Melekhov is demobilized and seeks to resume agricultural life, but it was quickly overtaken by the Civil War. It will change the camp several times, attended and participated in many battles and massacres, before ending up in the camp of losers in 1922. The novel was long presented as the archetypal Soviet socialist realism applied to the novel. However, this description is problematic on several levels: Grigory Melekhov has nothing socialist hero, is rather a tragic figure, tossed by the forces of history without really knowing where it goes. The depiction of Don prewar is rather idyllic and it is not obvious to believe, at the end of the novel, which is moving towards any “bright future”. In addition, the two sides of the civil conflict are shown with sympathy and blame for atrocities and massacres is well distributed among the parties. In fact, the comparison with War and Peace Leo Tolstoy is more appropriate: the two novels have an epic dimension and try to encompass the entire conflict that has rocked Russia at the beginning of their respective century, the difference being that chooses Tolstoy its protagonists in the Francophile aristocracy of Moscow, and Sholokhov at the Don Cossacks. Because of the problems mentioned above, the publication of the novel suffer setback from the third volume, which deals in detail with the Civil War. Oktyabr magazine suspends publication in 1929, and it will come in volume in 1933, after the intervention of Joseph Stalin in person that becomes a support of the author. The fourth Volume 1940 will have to wait to see the day, but from that date, the fate of the work is changing rapidly. The polemic:Critically acclaimed official, the novel was translated into many languages and distributed en masse with the help of the State Press. It is presented as the first great work of the new Soviet literature. This causes an adverse reaction from the 1960s, particularly following the award of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1965 Sholokhov. Several critics, including Alexander Solzhenitsyn, express their doubts about the identity of the real author of the novel. Their arguments are based on the fact that Sholokhov is too young to have witnessed the events described, it does not have the education level required for producing such a masterpiece and that the official positions of writer and quality of the rest of his literary output does not agree to friendly and objective treatment reserved for Cossacks in the novel. They argue the thesis that the real author Fyodor would Krioukov, Cossack writer and anti-Bolshevik died of typhoid in 1920. This controversy has long raged, but now seems to have found its final conclusion. In 1991, in fact, the Russian journalist Lev Kolodny found the original manuscript of Don peaceful as well as other working papers, which were then formally authenticated by an expert group graphologists as well Sholokhov’s hand. Original manuscript found:Long considered lost, the manuscript of peaceful Don was actually in the hands of a relative of the Russian writer, now deceased, Vassili Kudachov a friend of Sholokhov. The owner of this manuscript, which remained anonymous, has unsuccessfully tried to sell it at auction through Sotheby’s home in 1994 for the sum of 500,000 dollars. Such an amount could not be found within the country (the parent did not want the manuscript to be sold abroad), the manuscript was eventually acquired by the Russian government for a sum remained unknown. They are experts of the Institute of Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow who have since confirmed the paternity of Sholokhov, as announced officially very Nikolai Skatov Director of the Institute, the ITAR-TASS in 1999. On the web, it can also refer to “Russian Literature and Folklore” a huge online database that provides comprehensive records on Russian authors capital and, in the case of Sholokhov, many insights and stories on the controversy. It says that Sholokhov was interviewed on numerous occasions and that many journalists have confirmed that knowledge in the field of peaceful Don were immense and could be feints. It should also be noted that the doubts about the possible plagiarism allegedly committed Sholokhov fall against the backdrop of Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West, which probably explains a lot. It is also possible that Solzhenitsyn has seen some of his colleague quickly forger low for reasons of jealousy or ideology. From there, he brought a great credit to those who would prefer that such a head-d?uvre is the act of a writer opposed to the regime … Even today, many are unfortunately those who refuse to admit the end of the controversy for reasons more political than logical, continuing one of the greatest literary scandals of the century, as affirmed in most Russian media, namely deprive an author of his work during his life because of disagreement with his life choices! The Soviet writer:In 1932, in fact, Mikhail Sholokhov’s accession to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and from that date will be filled with honors and presented as the writer’s official plan. He was elected to the Supreme Soviet in 1937, will be a member of the CPSU Central Committee, member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, President of the Union of Soviet Writers, and winner of numerous awards. He defends moods without the positions of the regime and enjoys the privilege to make several trips abroad, including in 1959 when he accompanies the Secretary-General Nikita Khrushchev on an official visit to the United States. However, his literary output is more commensurate with their official status. He starts the publication of his second great romantic cycle in 1932. Title Land cleared (Podnyataya tselina), it tells the collectivization of farmland Don from 1930. However, a problem occurs shortly after the publication of the first volume, the major famine of 1932-1933 winter as a result of forced collectivization and cause millions of deaths. Sholokhov wrote a letter to Stalin in 1933 to denounce violence against farmers and to request the dispatch of food in its region to counter the worst effects of famine. In 1937 he protested against mass arrests taking place in his region. These positions him against the opening of an investigation by the NKVD not end until the intervention by Stalin himself. Thereafter, Sholokhov will always be more docile, after all oukazes regime. The second part of cleared land can be set up until 1960 and is notable for what it was: the resistance of peasants in the collectivization, terror imposed against them, and the famine that follows. A few weeks after its release, the novel earned its author the Lenin Prize, the highest Soviet literary distinction, and the book becomes an almost mandatory reading for the leaders of collective farms and farms. The rest of Sholokhov’s work is well pale in comparison to the official account which he enjoys. At the entrance to the Soviet Union in World War II, he began what should be a new round romantic rival to the two already in train, entitled They fought for the homeland. The raw material does not lack, it is a war correspondent for the Soviet newspaper Pravda and Krasnaya Zvezda, covering the front in Smolensk, Stalingrad and Belarus. Yet, after publishing a first volume in 1942, the novel will be left stranded. Thereafter, he writes that some news. One of them, the fate of a man (SUDB tchiloveka, 1957) became a hit movie, but this is not a guarantee of its literary value. “It is among the least impressive works produced by a Nobel writer, along with Hemingway’s posthumously published book True at First Light (1999). “(This is one of the least impressive works produced by a Nobel laureate, with the posthumous Hemingway book True at First Light (1999). With the end of the period of detention in the East-West relations after declechement of the Afghan war (1979), interest in Sholokhov in the West declining rapidly, and it is almost forgotten when he died in 1984 at Vechenskaia , Being treated as a mere apparatchik of a discredited regime. For example, the exiled Romanian writer Virgil Gheorghiu has a novelist inspired by a certain image of Sholokhov’s novel God receives only on Sunday (1975), in the person of a former camp guard prisoners without any culture publish under his name works written by one of the detainees in its custody, and remove all the honors that the regime may assign. This is unfortunate because Don peaceful, whatever its real author or the actual contribution of Cholohov himself to writing, is one of the masterpieces of Russian literature of the twentieth century. It is sad that the work has been tainted by his association abusive to a political and literary theory transcends it easily.


Works in Russian:

  • Aleshkino serdtse – Moskva : Gos. izd-vo, 1925

  • Protiv chernogo znameni – Moskva : Gos. izd-vo, 1925

  • Nakhalenok – Moskva : Gos. izd-vo, 1925

  • Krasnogvardeitsy – Moskva : Gos. izd-vo, 1925

  • Dvukhmuzhniaia – Moskva : Gos. izd-vo, 1925

  • Donskie rasskazy – Moskva : Novaia Moskva, 1926

  • Lazorevaia step’ – Moskva : Novaia Moskva, 1926

  • Kolchake, krapive i prochem – Moskva : Gos. izd-vo, 1927

  • Chervotochina – Moskva : Gos. izd-vo, 1927

  • Tikhii Don – Moskva, 1928-1940. – 4 vol.

  • Podniataia tselina – Moskva : Federatsiia, 1932

  • Kazaki – Piatigorsk: Ordzhonikidzevskoe kraevoe izd-vo, 1941

  • Na Donu – Rosizdat, 1941

  • Na iuge – Moskva : Voenizdat, 1942

  • Nauka nenavisti – Moskva : Voenizdat, 1942

  • Oni srazhalis’ za rodinu – Moskva : Voennoe izdatel’stvo narodnogo komissariata oborony, 1943-1944

  • Slovo o rodine – Moskva : Pravda, 1948

  • Svet i mrak – Rostov : Rostizdat, 1949

  • Ne uiti palacham ot suda narodov – Moskva : Pravda, 1948

  • Podniataia tselina – [2] – Moskva : Pravda, 1955-1960

  • Sbornik statei – Leningrad : Izdatel’stvo Leningradskogo universiteta, 1956

  • Sud’ba cheloveka – Moskva : Pravda, 1957

  • Rannie rasskazy – Moskva : Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1961

  • Po veleniu dushi : stat’i, ocherki, vvstupleniia, dokumenty – Moskva : Molodaia gvardiia, 1970

  • Rossiia v serdtse – Moskva : Sovremennik, 1975

  • Zhivaia sila realizma – Moskva : Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1983

  • Zemle nuzhnye molodye ruki – Moskva : Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1983

  • Rasskazy – Leningrad : Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1983

  • Proza i publitsistika o voine – Moskva : Sovremennik, 1985

Translations into English:

  • Tales from the Don / translated by H. C. Stevens – London : Putnam, 1961

  • And Quiet Flows the Don / translated by Stephen Garry – Moscow : Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1930

  • The Soil Upturned / translated by Stephen Garry ; edited by Albert Lewis – Moscow : Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the U.S.S.R., 1934 – Republished as The Virgin Soil Upturned – London : Putnam, 1935. – Republished as Seeds of Tomorrow – New York : Knopf, 1935

  • The Don Flows Home to the Sea / translated by Stephen Garry – New York : Knopf, 1941

  • Hate – Moscow : Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1942 – Content: Hate ; Down south

  • Harvest on the Don / translated by H. C. Stevens – London: Putnam, 1960

  • Early Stories / translated by Robert Daglish and Yelena Altshuler – Moskva : Progress, 1966

  • One Man’s Destiny and Other Stories : Articles, and Sketches, 1923-1963 / translated by H. C. Stevens – London : Putnam, 1966

  • Fierce and Gentle Warriors : Three Stories – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1967

  • At the Bidding of the Heart : Essays, Sketches, Speeches, Papers / translated by Olga Shartse – Moscow : Progress, 1973

  • Collected Works in Eight Volumes / translated by Robert Daglish – 8 vol. – Moscow : Raduga, 1984

Literature (a selection):

  • Bearne, C. G., Sholokhov – Edinburgh, 1969

  • Zuravleva, Anna, & Kovaleva, Aleksandra, Michail Solochov – Moskva : Prosvescenie, 1975

  • Sofronov, Anatolij, Meetings with Sholokhov – Moskva : Progress Publ., 1985

  • Kuznecov, Feliks, “Tichij Don” : sudba i pravda velikogo romana – Moskva : Narodnaja kniga, 2005


1965: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Anders Osterling, Member of the Swedish Academy.

This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature has, as you all know, been awarded to the Russian writer Mikhail Sholokhov, born in 1905, and now in his sixty-first year. Sholokhov’s childhood was spent in the country of the Don Cossacks; and the strong ties that have always bound him to this district grew out of his sympathy for the highly individual temperament of its people and the wildness of its landscape. He saw his native province pass through the various phases of the revolution and the Russian civil war. After he had tried his hand at manual work in Moscow for a while, he soon began to concentrate on writing and produced a series of sketches describing the battles along the Don, a genre that was later to bring him fame. It is striking evidence of the precociousness of the war generation that Sholokhov was only 21 when he set to work on the first parts of the great epic novel, And Quiet Flows the Don. Its Russian title is simply, The Quiet Don, which acquires an undeniably ironic undertone in view of the extreme violence of the action in Sholokhov’s masterpiece.

It took Sholokhov 14 years to complete the project, a highly exacting one in every way, covering as it does the period including the First World War, the Revolution and the Civil War, and, having as its main theme, the tragic Cossack revolt. The four parts of the epic appeared at relatively long intervals between 1928 and 1940, and were long viewed with some concern by the Soviet critics, whose political affiliation made it difficult for them to accept, wholeheartedly, Sholokhov’s quite natural commitment to his theme, that of the Cossacks’ revolt against the new central authorities; nor could they easily accept his endeavour to explain and defend objectively the defiant spirit of independence that drove these people to resist every attempt at subjection.

In view of the controversial aspects of his theme there can surely be no doubt that in starting out upon the writing of this novel Sholokhov was taking a daring step, a step which, at that point in his career, also meant the settling of a conflict with his own conscience.

And Quiet Flows the Don is so well known to Swedish readers that an introduction may well seem superfluous. With magnificent realism the book portrays the unique character of the Cossack, the traditional mixture of cavalryman and farmer, with instincts that seem to conflict with one another but which nevertheless allow themselves to be welded together to form a firmly co-ordinated whole. There is no glamorization. The coarse and savage streaks in the Cossack temperament are displayed openly; nothing is hidden or glossed over, but, at the same time, one is aware of an undercurrent of respect for all that is human. Although a convinced Communist, Sholokhov keeps ideological comment out of his book completely and we are compensated for the amount of blood shed in the battles he describes by the full-blooded vigour of his narrative.

The Cossack’s son, Gregor, who goes over from the Reds to the Whites and is forced against his will to continue the struggle to its hopeless conclusion is both hero and victim. The conception of honour that he has inherited is put to the sternest of tests, and he is defeated by a necessity of history which here plays the same role as the classical Nemesis. But our sympathy goes out to him and to the two unforgettable women, Natalja, his wife, and Aksinia, his mistress, who both meet disaster for his sake. When he finally returns to his native village, after digging Aksinia’s grave with his sabre out on the steppe, he is a grey-haired man who has lost everything in life but his young son.

Stretching away behind the whole gallery of figures, seen either in their personal relationships or playing their parts as military personnel, lies the mighty landscape of the Ukraine, the steppes in all the changing seasons, the villages with their sweet-smelling pastures and grazing horses, the grass billowing in the wind, the banks of the river and the never-ending murmur of the river itself. Sholokhov never tires of describing the Russian steppes. Sometimes he breaks off the narrative right in the middle of his story to burst out in exultation:

“My beloved steppes under the low sky of the Don country! Ravines winding across the plain with their walls of red earth, a sea of waving feather-grass, marked only by the print of horses’ hoofs leaving trail like a myriad birds’ nests, and by the graves of the Tartars who in wise silence watch over the buried glory of the Cossacks… I bow low before you, and, as a son, kiss your fresh earth, unspoiled steppe of the Don Cossacks, watered with blood.”

It may well be said that Sholokhov is using a well-tried realistic technique, breaking no new ground, a technique that may seem naive in its simplicity if we set it beside that offered us in many a later model in the art of novel-writing. But his subject surely could not have been presented in any other way, and the powerful, evenly-sustained, epic flow of the writing makes And Quiet Flows the Don a genuine roman fleuve in two senses.

Sholokhov’s more recent work, for example, Podnyataya tselina, 1932 and 1959 (Virgin Soil Upturned) – a novel describing compulsory collectivization and the introduction of kolkhozy – has a vitality that never flags and shows us Sholokhov’s fondness for characters that are richly comic but at the same time observed with a sympathetic eye. But, of course, And Quiet Flows the Don would, on its own, thoroughly merit the present award, a distinction which, it is true, has come rather late in the day, but happily not too late to add to the roll of Nobel prize-winners the name of one of the most outstanding writers of our time.

In support of its choice the Swedish Academy speaks of “the artistic power and integrity with which, in his epic of the Don, Sholokhov has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people”.

Sir – this distinction is intended as a tribute of justice and gratitude to you for your important contribution to modern Russian literature, a contribution as well-known in this country as it is all over the world. May I offer you the congratulations of the Swedish Academy, and at the same time, ask you to receive from His Majesty, the King, this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature.

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