Selected Modern Chinese Essays: Mourning the Death of Maxim Gorky

◎ Ye Zi

Maxim Gorky has exerted enormous influence on me and benefited me a lot. He is my most beloved writer.

I learned of his illness from newspapers when I was about to leave for Hangzhou for a short visit at the invitation of a friend. Deeply concerned about the ailing literary giant, I took with me two books that were my favourites among his works:Selected Short Stories of Maxim Gorky and Stories of the Grassland, believing they would afford me an insight into his great soul and teach me how to“live on”. Of course, it is not these two books alone that have contributed to his eminence, nor have I come to love him by reading only one or two of his works. Yet it has certainly done me much good to read exclusively the two books in question.

On my way to Hangzhou, I was daily on the lookout for news about him. I felt relieved whenever his body temperature dropped, and otherwise I felt worried. And the two books I was reading made me impressed with his greatness all the more.

When I learned of his death on the second day after my return to Shanghai, my heart sank. Words failed me as to how grieved I was and how inspired I was with respect for him.

His death is a loss not only to the Soviet Union, but also to all young devotees to literature the world over. No longer can we receive new instruction from him; no longer can we read his new remarkable works.

What we can do while commemorating and mourning for the great writer is to search among the works he has left behind for guidance as to how to“live on”.

The way before us is very long, and dark and arduous. His works, however, will shine permanently like a beacon to guide our advance.