Nagibin, Yuri Markovich. Born 3 April 1920 in Moscow. His parents divorced when he was eight years old, and he remained with his mother. Their address was 7 Armyansky Lane.
At an early age, he demonstrated a talent for football, and a promising sports career was predicted for him. However, his step-father, a writer, noted an ability in the young Yuri to verbally convey his impressions easily and with humor. At his step-father's urging, Nagibin tried his hand at a story. The result was unsuccessful, but the boy found that he enjoyed the process of writing. A frequent visitor to the Nagibin household was writer Andrei Platonov. Nagibin was later to admit that for a long time he tried to imitate Platonov's style.
After graduation from school, Nagibin, in accordance with his mother's wishes, undertook the study of medicine. However, he lasted at the medical institute for only one semester. He transferred a film school screenwriting section. During this time, he began writing seriously. He first published story was Dvoinaya Oshibka ("Double Mistake"), which appeard in Ogonyok in March 1940.
He never managed to graduate from film school because World War II intervened. Nagibin volunteered for the army and, because of his knowledge of German, he was attached to a counterpropaganda unit at the front. Besides his regular duties, he also took part in combat operations.
In November 1942, Nagibin was wounded and sent back to Moscow. After recouperation, he began working for the newspaper Trud. As a correspondent, he was present in Stalingrad, Leningrad, and at the liberation of Minsk, Vilnus, and Kaunas. His war time impressions and experiences form the basis of the stories in his first collection, Chelovek s Fronta ("Man from the Front"), which was published in 1943. They mainly extol the heroism of Soviet soldiers, but also exhibit a sense of universality, focusing not on heroic deeds or battles, but on the psychology of the characters.
Two additional volumes of war stories--Bolshoye Serdtse ("Big Heart") and Zerno Zhizni ("Grain of Life")--appeared in 1944 and 1948. Typical of stories in these collections is Vaganov, which tells the tale of an orphan boy who joins up with the Red Army. He becomes a brave warrior and energetic dancer. The girls like him, but he vows no sex until Victory Day. Unfortunately, he gets squashed by a Nazi tank before then.
After the war, Nagibin worked as a journalist while simultaneously continuing to write artistic literature. The 1950s was a particularly productive period, seeing the publication of several collections such as Chelovek i Doroga ("Man and Road"), Dalyokoye i Blizkoye ("Far and Near"), and Rannei Vesny ("In Early Spring").
In 1962 there were two new collections of his stories: Chistiye Prudi, a cycle about childhood in Moscow during the 1920s and early 1930s; and Druzya Moi, Liudi ("My Friends, People"), containing works set in Morocco, Finland, France, German, and Hungary.
At the invitation of a friend, Nagibin took a trip to Meshchera for some duck hunting. These experiences laid the basis for the 1963 collection Pogonya. Meshcherskiye Byli ("The Chase. Meshchera Stories.") According to Hongor Oulanoff, this cycle of stories:
...renews the tradition of Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches: they conjure up the poetry of the life of hunters and fishermen; they celebrate the unassuming beauty of the Russian landscape; they stir up a civic concern about social ills ("the problem story"); they even hint at a re-emergence of the Russian tradition of the alienation between the intellectual and the peasant.In 1966 came the collection Zelenaya Ptitsa s Krasnoi Golovoi ("Green Bird with a Red Head"). In the 1980s Nagibin undertook a cycle of stories about the greats of world artistry, such as Goethe, Bach, Tiutchev, Leskov, and others. He also authored a travelogue about his trip to America, entitled Letaiushchiye Tarelochki, ("Flying Saucers").
Other works by Nagibin include Pered Praznikom ("Before the Holiday", 1960), Poezda na Ostrova ("Trip to the Islands", 1986), and Vstan' i Idi ("Stand and Go", 1987).
Nagibin also wrote the screenplays for 27 films, including Predsedatel ("Chairman"), Direktor ("Director", 1964), Krasnaya Palatka ("Red Tent", 1971), Tchaikovsky (1969), Nochnoi Gost ("Night Visitor"), and Derzu Uzala (1975), which was directed by Akira Kurosawa. He also took part in the production of television broadcasts on the works of Lermontov, Aksyonov, Annensky, and Golubkina.
Most of Nagibin's creative works start from his own experiences. As he explained in Literaturnaya Gazeta in 1957:
I have written tales about the war, in which I participated; about childhood, which I experienced like everyone else; about the countryside, where my childhood was spent; about love, about hunting and fishing, and about the dreams I dreamt. I have written about those things which stirred me and those things by which I lived, and about what I have accomplished at one time or another.As D.J. Richards points out:
Nagibin's chief interest lies in the inner world of his characters, in their states of mind, their attitude to life, to nature and to their fellows. The external, physical action serves largely as a framework for the unfolding of the internal, emotional drama of the human soul. ... The sudden revelation of another person's true nature or a moment of insight into oneself frequently provides the emotional climax of a Nagibin storyBut neither does Nagibin ignore contemporary social issues. In Slezai, Priekhali ("Get Out, We're Here", 1954), the question is posed: Why should two collective farms, on the same land, with the same resources, turn out so different? The same story exposes the snooty careerist from Moscow who is appalled with the idea that she should actually get her hands dirty with some real work.
Nagibin was conscious of the responsibility of of a writer--particularly a Soviet writer--to act as a social and political observer, reporter, and interpreter. In 1956 he wrote:
Our Soviet literature and its particular heroism has been engendered by the new system of human relationships, the socialist society, which is being established over a wider and wider area of our planet. . . Of course, it would be wrong to think that all this will come about simply and automatically. No, it will be a complex and difficult process. To keep track of it, to comprehend and to portray it faithfully and ardently--that is the greatest task confronting the Soviet artist.But, as Nagibin saw it, the writer's role was not limited to the social and political. It was more universal:
The writer. . . lives not only for himself, but for each and for all, suffering and rejoiocing with the general process of life on earth, with people far and near, hating everything evil, cruel, coarse, false, and shallow.One social work of particular interest by Nagibin is Svet v Okne ("Light in the Window"). In this story, a luxurious suite of rooms at a rest home is kept spotlessly clean, but no one is ever allowed to stay there because the suite is reserved for a certain big wig if he should ever decide to visit. Two years pass this way, and the maid in charge of cleaning the suite, insulted by this great waste, invites some friends to play pool and watch TV in the suite. The director of the rest home angrily tosses out the interlopers, even though he secretly agrees with them. This story was published in late 1956 in an anthology entitled Literaturnaya Moskva--II. The anthology, compiled during the Thaw period, contained several works critical of Stalin-era-type abuses, including Aleksandr Yasin's tale Rychagi ("Levers"), an explosive portrayal of kolkhoz leaders who are turned into mere "levers" of the Party, mired in a life of lies and falsehood. Essays on literary censorship and the harmful effects of Stalinism were also included. In 1957, this anthology was withdrawn from circulation and several of its contributors subjected to harsh criticism in the press and at writers' meetings. However, perhaps because his contribution to the collection had been small, Nagibin was left alone.
Many of Nagibin's stories are about children, their perceptions, development, and conflicts with the adult world. For example, Nas Bylo Chetverpo ("There Were Four of Us", 1945) tells of young boys playing at Musketeers, then moving on to battling real bullies, and finally, as mature young men, fighting a real war against the Nazis. In Zimnii Dub ("Winter Oak", 1953), a somewhat stodgy school teacher learns a valuable lesson from the immediate and living knowledge of the forest which one of her students shares with her. And in Babochki ("Butterflies") a young boy is very excited about his butterfly collection, even though he has all the names of the various butterflies wrong; this excitement and fun is crushed, however, when an adult insists on telling the boy all the correct names.
Three of Nagibin's youth-oriented collections are in the main autobiographical--Chistiye Ponds, The Summer of My Childhood, and The Streets of My Childhood. Concerning the latter of these collections, Soviet writer Dora Dychko wrote:
The heroes of "The Streets of My Childhood" are Moscow boys who stepped directly out of adolescence into the holocaust of war. One feels that the author has given them passage through his heart to the pages of the book, thereby conferring his own warmth upon them. He is under the spell of their fine human qualities--the openness, their loyalty in friendship, the purity of their aspirations. He tries to be utterly honest and precise in depicting the conditions in which he and his companions grew up and in describing the processes contributing to their moral development and formation.As a master practitioner of the short story, Nagibin defended the form against those who saw it as inferior. In an article in 1956 he wrote:
The short story writer must feel the same generous empathy with life and have the same deep knowledge of it as the novelist. . . and the short story writer's task of compressing the material that he has collected and interpreted into the most consice possible form is in no way easier than the novelists's.Shortly before his death, Nagibin completed his first and only novel, Dafnis i Khloya - Epokhi Kulta Lichnosti, Voliuntarizma i Zastoya ("Daphne and Chloe - Eras of the Personality Cult, Libertarianism, and Stagnation")
Nagibin was married six times, including once to poetess Bella Akhmadulina. He died in Moscow on 17 April 1994 and was buried at the Novodevichii Cemetary.
Published after his death, in addition to "Daphne and Chloe", were the autobiographical works Tma v Kontse Tunnelya" ("Darkness at the End of the Tunnel") and Moya Zolotaya Teshcha ("My Golden Mother-in-law") as well as his surprisingly bitter Dnevnik ("Diary"), in which he attacks just about everyone he ever knew except for his maid, his last wife, and Andrei Platonov.
Read Nagibin's stories:
"My First and Most Beloved Friend" and
"Light in the Window".
Terras, Victor (ed.), "Handbook of Russian Literature". Yale University Press. 1985.
Richards, D.J. "Yuri Nagibin". Pergamon Press. 1963.