Paustovsky, Konstantin Georgievich. Born 31 May 1892 in Moscow. His father, a descendant of the Zaporozhsky Cossacks, was a railroad statistician. His mother came from the family of a Polish intellectual. Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian were spoken in his home. He grew up in Ukraine, partly in the country and partly in Kiev. In 1912, he entered the University of Kiev, in the physics and mathematics faculty, but then he switched to the study of philosophy. In 1914 he transferred to the University of Moscow. His education was interrupted by World War I. He served at the front as a medical orderly.
Later, he wandered around, trying his hand at many jobs in the factories of Ekaterinoslav, Yuzovka, and Taganrog as well as among the fishermen on the Azov Sea. In March 1917 he settled down in Moscow and began work as a journalist. During the Civil War, he was again traveling, this time as a journalist. He found himself in Kiev, Odessa, Batum, Sukhumi, and Tbilisi. In 1923, he was back in Moscow.
Paustovsky started writing while still in the gymnasium. His first works were imitative poetry. He then tried prose and his first stories to be published were Na Vode ("On The Water") and Chetvero ("Four") in 1911 and 1912. During World War I he created some sketches relaying his impressions of life at the front, and one of these was also published. Paustovsky tried a return to poetry and even sent some of his poems to Bunin. However, Bunin replied, "I think that your sphere, your real poetry, is prose. It is here, if you are determined enough, that I am sure you can achieve something significant."
His first book, Morskiye Nabroski ("Sea Sketches") was published in 1925, but was little noticed. This was followed by Minetoza in 1927 and the romantic novel Blistaiushchiey Oblaka ("Shining Clouds") in 1929. In the 1930s, Paustovsky, like other writers of the time, visited various construction sites and wrote in praise of the industrial transformation of the country. To this period belong the novels Kara-Bugaz (1932) and Kolkhida (1934). Kara-Bugaz won particular praise. It is essentially a tale of adventure and exploration around and near the Kara-Bugaz Bay, where the air is mysteriously heavy. It begins in 1847 and moves to the Civil War period when a group of Reds are abandoned to near-certain death on a desolate island. There are, however, survivors, who are rescued by an explorer. Some of the survivors continue on to help in the exploration, development and study of the natural wealth of the region.
Paustovsky continued to explore historical themes in Severnaya Povest ("Tale of the North") (1938). In this tale, following the anti-Tsarist Decembrist uprising in Petersburg, a wounded officer who took part in the uprising and a sailor try to make it by foot across the ice to Sweden. They are captured amid a series of dramatic events. Years later, in Leningrad of the 1930s, the great-grandsons of the participants in the events unexpectedly meet.
During the later 1930s, Russian nature emerged as a central theme and leitmotif for Paustovsky, for example, in Letniye Dni ("Summer Days") (1937) and Meshcherskaya Storona (1939). For Paustovsky, nature was a many-faceted splendor in which man can free himself from daily cares and regain his spiritual equilibrium. This focus on nature drew comparisons with Privshin. And, in fact, Privshin himself wrote in his diary, "If I were not Privshin, I would like to write like Paustovsky."
During World War II Paustovsky served as a war corresondent on the southern front. From 1948 until 1955 he taught at the Gorky Institute for Literature.
In 1943 Paustovsky produced a screenplay for the Gorky Film Studio production of "Lermontov", directed by A. Gendelshtein. Another work of note is Tale of the Woods1948. This story opens in remote forest in the 1890s, where Tchaikovsky is working on a symphony. The daughter of the local forester often brings Tchaikovsky berries. Half a century later, the daughter of this young girl is now a laboratory technician at the local forest station.
Perhaps Paustovsky's most famous work is his autobiography, Povest o Zhizni ("Story of a Life") (1945-1963). It is not a mere historical document, however; rather, it is a long, lyrical tale, focusing on his personal perceptions of events. In 1955, Paustovsky gave us The Golden Rose, a book about "literature in the making". It consists of stories and fragments dealing with creativity, the role of the writer, and the function of literature. One of the stories in this work is "Precious Dust", in which a trash collector spends two years gathering the grains of gold dust from the trash bins of a jewelry shop. When he has enough gold, he smelts it into a beautiful golden rose as a gift for the woman she loves. But, by then, she has moved to America and left no forwarding address.
Paustovsky also edited a few literary collections, Literary Moscow (1956) and Pages from Tarusa, in which he tried to bring new writers to the public's attention and to publish writers suppressed during the Stalin years.
Other major works include "Snow", Crossing Ships (1928); The Black Sea (1936); Summer Days (1937); and The Rainy Dawn (1946). He is also the author of several plays and fairy tales, including "Steel Ring".
In 1965, Paustovsky was nominated for a Nobel Prize.
In February 1966 he was one of more than 125 prominent figures from science and the arts who signed a letter to the 23rd Party Congress appealing against re-Stalinization.
He died in Moscow on 14 July 1968.