Creatures That Once Were Men by Maxim Gorky

Two open white pages on an orange background.  A black background with a white W.  A black background with a white tentacled cat.

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Creatures That Once Were Men (Бывшие люди in Russian, translating to Former People) is about a fear shared by most: a fall from grace or status into misery. The short story was published in 1897 but its namesake would be entrenched 20 years later, after the events of the October Revolution. Those that were caught up in overthrow of czarist Russia – the clergy, the aristocracy; those in power – are the former people Gorky refers to.

A political activist, Gorky was also an accomplished author – he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature 5 times. His travels across Russia and various job helped influence his writing. He made friends with other notable Russian writers as well, including Tolstoy and Chekov.

To a certain extent, Gorky himself was a former person. While a socialist, he was exiled from Russia and the Soviet Union, only allowed to return in the 1930s by Joseph Stalin.