|Who is it?||Writer|
|Birth Day||October 22, 1870|
|Birth Place||Voronezh, Russian|
|Age||149 YEARS OLD|
|Died On||8 November 1953(1953-11-08) (aged 83)\nParis, France|
|Native name||Ива́н Алексе́евич Бу́нин|
|Genre||fiction, poetry, memoirs, criticism, translations|
|Notable works||The Village The Life of Arseniev Cursed Days|
|Notable awards||Nobel Prize in Literature 1933 Pushkin Prize 1903, 1909|
I come from an old and noble house that has given Russia a good many illustrious persons in politics as well as in the arts, among whom two poets of the early nineteenth century stand out in particular: Anna Búnina and Vasíly Zhukovsky, one of the great names in Russian literature, the son of Athanase Bunin and the Turk Salma.
Ivan Bunin was born on his parental estate in Voronezh province in Central Russia, the third and youngest son of Aleksey Nikolayevich Bunin (1827–1906) and Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Bunina (née Chubarova, 1835–1910). He had two younger sisters: Masha (Maria Bunina-Laskarzhevskaya, 1873–1930) and Nadya (the latter died very young) and two elder brothers, Yuly and Yevgeny. Having come from a long line of rural gentry with a distinguished ancestry including Polish roots, as well Tatar, Bunin was especially proud that poets Anna Bunina (1774–1829) and Vasily Zhukovsky (1783–1852) were among his ancestors. He wrote in his 1952 autobiography:
By the end of the 1870s, the Bunins, plagued by the gambling habits of the head of the family, had lost most of their wealth. In 1881 Ivan was sent to a public school in Yelets, but never completed the course: he was expelled in March 1886 for failing to return to the school after the Christmas holidays due to the family's financial difficulties.
Ivan Bunin's second wife was Vera Muromtseva (1881–1961), niece of the high-ranking Politician Sergey Muromtsev. The two had initially been introduced to each other by Writer Yekaterina Lopatina some years earlier, but it was their encounter at the house of the Writer Boris Zaitsev in November 1906 which led to an intense relationship which resulted in the couple becoming inseparable until Bunin's dying day. Bunin and Muromtseva married officially only in 1922, after he managed at last to divorce Tsakni legally. Decades later Vera Muromtseva-Bunina became famous in her own right with her book Life of Bunin.
Ivan Bunin's debut book of poetry Poems. 1887–1891 was published in 1891 in Oryol. Some of his articles, essays and short stories, published earlier in local papers, began to feature in the Saint Petersburg periodicals.
Bunin's first love was Varvara Paschenko, his classmate in Yelets, daughter of a Doctor and an Actress, whom he fell for in 1889 and then went on to work with in Oryol in 1892. Their relationship was difficult in many ways: the girl's father detested the union because of Bunin's impecunious circumstances, Varvara herself was not sure if she wanted to marry and Bunin too was uncertain whether marriage was really appropriate for him. The couple moved to Poltava and settled in Yuly Bunin's home, but by 1892 their relations deteriorated, Pashchenko complaining in a letter to Yuli Bunin that serious quarrels were frequent, and begging for assistance in bringing their union to an end. The affair eventually ended in 1894 with her marrying actor and Writer A.N. Bibikov, Ivan Bunin's close friend. Bunin felt betrayed, and for a time his family feared the possibility of his committing suicide. According to some sources it was Varvara Paschenko who many years later would appear under the name of Lika in The Life of Arseniev (chapter V of the book, entitled Lika, was also published as a short story). Scholar Tatyana Alexandrova, though, questioned this identification (suggesting Mirra Lokhvitskaya might have been the major prototype), while Vera Muromtseva thought of Lika as a 'collective' character aggregating the writer's reminiscences of several women he knew in his youth.
In 1895–1896 Bunin divided his time between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1897 his first short story collection To the Edge of the World and Other Stories came out, followed a year later by In the Open Air (Под открытым небом, 1898), his second book of verse. In June 1898 Bunin moved to Odessa. Here he became close to the Southern Russia Painters Comradeship, became friends with Yevgeny Bukovetski and Pyotr Nilus. In the winter of 1899–1900 he began attending the Sreda (Wednesday) literary group in Moscow, striking up a friendship with the Nikolay Teleshov, among others. Here the young Writer made himself quite a reputation as an uncompromising advocate of the realistic traditions of classic Russian literature. "Bunin made everybody uncomfortable. Having got this severe and sharp eye for real art, feeling acutely the power of a word, he was full of hatred towards every kind of artistic excess. In times when (quoting Andrey Bely) "throwing pineapples to the sky" was the order of the day, Bunin's very presence made words stick in people's throats," Boris Zaitsev later remembered. He met Anton Chekov in 1896, and a strong friendship ensued.
In the summer of 1898 while staying with Writer A. M. Fedorov, Bunin became acquainted with N. P. Tsakni, a Greek social-democrat Activist, the publisher and Editor of the Odessa newspaper Yuzhnoe Obozrenie (Southern Review). Invited to contribute to the paper, Bunin became virtually a daily visitor to the Tsakni family dacha and fell in love with the latter's 18-year-old daughter, Anna (1879–1963). On 23 September 1898, the two married, but by 1899 signs of alienation between them were obvious. At the time of their acrimonious separation in March 1900 Anna was pregnant. She gave birth to a son, Nikolai, in Odessa on 30 August of the same year. The boy, of whom his father saw very little, died on 16 January 1905, from a combination of scarlet fever, measles and heart complications.
1899 saw the beginning of Bunin's friendship with Maxim Gorky, to whom he dedicated his Falling Leaves (1901) collection of poetry and whom he later visited at Capri. Bunin became involved with Gorky's Znanie (Knowledge) group. Another influence and inspiration was Leo Tolstoy whom he met in Moscow in January 1894. Admittedly infatuated with the latter's prose, Bunin tried desperately to follow the great man's lifestyle too, visiting sectarian settlements and doing a lot of hard work. He was even sentenced to three months in prison for illegally distributing Tolstoyan literature in the autumn of 1894, but avoided jail due to a general amnesty proclaimed on the occasion of the succession to the throne of Nicholas II. Tellingly, it was Tolstoy himself who discouraged Bunin from slipping into what he called "total peasantification." Several years later, while still admiring Tolstoy's prose, Bunin changed his views regarding his philosophy which he now saw as utopian.
In the early 1900s Bunin travelled extensively. He was a close friend of Chekhov and his family and continued visiting them regularly until 1904. The October social turmoil of 1905 found Bunin in Yalta, Crimea, from where he moved back to Odessa. Scenes of "class struggle" there did not impress the Writer, for he saw them as little more than the Russian Common people's craving for anarchy and destruction.
The symbolist's flights of imagination and grotesque passions foreign to him, Bunin made nature his field of artistic research and here carved his art to perfection. "Few people are capable of loving nature as Bunin does. And it's this love that makes his scope wide, his vision deep, his colour and aural impressions so rich," wrote Aleksander Blok, a poet from a literary camp Bunin treated as hostile. It was for his books of poetry (the most notable of which is Falling Leaves, 1901) and his poetic translations that Bunin became a three time Pushkin Prize laureate. His verse was praised by Aleksander Kuprin while Blok regarded Bunin as among the first in the hierarchy of Russian poets. One great admirer of Bunin's verse was Vladimir Nabokov, who (even if making scornful remarks about Bunin's prose) compared him to Blok. Some see Bunin as a direct follower of Gogol, who was the first in Russian literature to discover the art of fusing poetry and prose together.
In 1902 Znanie started publishing the Complete Bunin series; five volumes appeared by the year 1909. Three books, Poems (1903), Poems (1903–1906) and Poems of 1907 (the latter published by Znanie in 1908), formed the basis of a special (non-numbered) volume of the Complete series which in 1910 was published in Saint Petersburg as Volume VI. Poems and Stories (1907–1909) by the Obschestvennaya Polza (Public Benefit) publishing house. Bunin's works featured regularly in Znanie's literary compilations; beginning with Book I, where "Black Earth" appeared along with several poems, all in all he contributed to 16 books of the series.
In November 1906 Bunin's passionate affair with Vera Muromtseva began. The girl's family was unimpressed with Bunin's position as a Writer, but the couple defied social convention, moving in together and in April 1907 leaving Russia for an extended tour through Egypt and Palestine. The Bird's Shadow (Тень птицы) (1907–1911) collection (published as a separate book in 1931 in Paris) came as a result of this voyage. These travelling sketches were to change the critics' assessment of Bunin's work. Before them Bunin was mostly regarded as (using his own words) "a melancholy lyricist, singing hymns to noblemen's estates and idylls of the past." In the late 1900s critics started to pay more notice to the colourfulness and dynamics of his poetry and prose. "In terms of artistic precision he has no equal among Russian poets," Vestnik Evropy wrote at the time. Bunin attributed much importance to his travels, counting himself among that special "type of people who tend to feel strongest for alien times and cultures rather than those of their own" and admitting to being drawn to "all the necropolises of the world." Besides, foreign voyages had, admittedly, an eye-opening effect on the Writer, helping him to see Russian reality more objectively. In the early 1910s Bunin produced several famous novellas which came as a direct result of this change in perspective.
Bunin's travel sketches were lauded as innovative, notably Bird's Shadow (1907–1911). "He's enchanted with the East, with the 'light-bearing' lands he now describes in such beautiful fashion... For [depicting] the East, both Biblical and modern, Bunin chooses the appropriate style, solemn and incandescent, full of imagery, bathing in waves of sultry sunlight and adorned with arabesques and precious stones, so that, when he tells of these grey-haired ancient times, disappearing in the distant haze of religion and myth, the impression he achieves is that of watching a great chariot of human history moving before our eyes," wrote Yuri Aykhenvald. Critics noted Bunin's uncanny knack of immersing himself into alien cultures, both old and new, best demonstrated in his Eastern cycle of short stories as well as his superb translation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha (1898).
In October 1909 Bunin received his second Pushkin Prize for Poems 1903–1906 and translations of (Lord Byron's Cain, and parts of Longfellow's The Golden Legend). He was elected a member of the Russian Academy the same year. In Bunin, The Academy crowns "not a daring innovator, not an adventurous searcher but arguably the last gifted pupil of talented teachers who's kept and preserved... all the most beautiful testaments of their school," wrote critic Aleksander Izmailov, formulating the conventional view of the time. It was much later that Bunin was proclaimed one of the most innovative Russian Writers of the century.
Bunin has often been spoken of as a "cold" Writer. Some of his conceptual poems of the 1910s refuted this stereotype, tackling philosophical issues like the mission of an Artist ("Insensory", 1916) where he showed fiery passion. According to Oleg Mikhaylov, "Bunin wanted to maintain distance between himself and his reader, being frightened by any closeness... But his pride never excluded passions, just served as a panzer — it was like a flaming torch in an icy shell." On a more personal level, Vera Muromtseva confirmed: "Sure, he wanted to come across as [cold and aloof] and he succeeded by being a first-class actor... people who didn't know him well enough couldn't begin to imagine what depths of soft tenderness his soul was capable of reaching," she wrote in her memoirs.
Slowly and painfully, overcoming physical and mental stress, Bunin returned to his usual mode of writing. Scream, his first book published in France, was compiled of short stories written in 1911–1912, years he referred to as the happiest of his life.
Bunin and Muromtseva spent three winters (1912–1914) with Gorky on the island of Capri, where they met with Fyodor Shalyapin and Leonid Andreev, among others. In Russia the couple divided their time mainly between Moscow and a Bunin family estate at Glotovo village nearby Oryol; it was there that they spent the first couple years of World War I. Dogged by anxieties concerning Russia's Future, Bunin was still working hard. In the winter of 1914–1915 he finished a new volume of prose and verse entitled The Chalice of Life (Чаша жизни), published in early 1915 to wide acclaim (including high praise from the French poet Rene Ghil). The same year saw the publication of The Gentleman from San Francisco (Господин из Сан-Франциско), arguably the best-known of Bunin's short stories, which was translated into English by D. H. Lawrence. Bunin was a productive translator himself. After Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha (1898) he did translations of Byron, Tennyson, Musset and François Coppée.
During the War years Bunin completed the preparation of a six-volume edition of his Collected Works, which was published by Adolph Marks in 1915. Throughout this time Bunin kept aloof from contemporary literary debates. "I did not belong to any literary school; I was neither a decadent, nor a symbolist nor a romantic, nor a naturalist. Of literary circles I frequented only a few," he commented later. By the spring of 1916, overcome by pessimism, Bunin all but stopped writing, complaining to his nephew, N.A. Pusheshnikov, of how insignificant he felt as a Writer and how depressed he was for being unable to do more than be horrified at the millions of deaths being caused by the War.
Influential, even if controversial, was his Cursed Days 1918–1920 diary, of which scholar Thomas Gaiton Marullo wrote:
In the 1920s and 1930s Bunin was regarded as the moral and artistic spokesman for a generation of expatriates who awaited the collapse of Bolshevism, a revered senior figure among living Russian Writers, true to the tradition of Tolstoy and Chekhov. He became the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, which was awarded to him in 1933 "for following through and developing with chastity and artfulness the traditions of Russian classic prose." Per Halstroem, in his celebratory speech, noted the laureate's poetic gift. Bunin for his part praised the Swedish Academy for honouring a Writer in exile. In his speech, addressing the Academy, he said:
In 1924, he published the "Manifesto of the Russian Emigration", in which he i.a. declared:
In 1925–1926 Cursed Days (Окаянные дни), Bunin's diary of the years 1918–1920 started to appear in the Paris-based Vozrozhdenye newspaper (its final version was published by Petropolis in 1936). According to Bunin scholar Thomas Gaiton Marullo, Cursed Days, one of the very few anti-Bolshevik diaries to be preserved from the time of the Russian Revolution and civil war, linked "Russian anti-utopian writing of the nineteenth century to its counterpart in the twentieth" and, "in its painful exposing of political and social utopias... heralded the anti-utopian writing of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Bunin and Zamyatin had correctly understood that the Soviet experiment was destined to self destruct," Marullo wrote.
In 1927, while in Grasse, Bunin fell for the Russian poet Galina Kuznetsova, on vacation there with her husband. The latter, outraged by the well-publicized affair, stormed off, while Bunin not only managed to somehow convince Vera Muromtseva that his love for Galina was purely platonic but also invite the latter to stay in the house as a secretary and 'a family member'. The situation was complicated by the fact that Leonid Zurov, who stayed with the Bunins as a guest for many years, was secretly in love with Vera (of which her husband was aware); this made it more of a "love quadrilateral" than a mere triangle. Bunin and Kuznetsova's affair ended dramatically in 1942 when the latter, now deeply in love with another frequent guest, opera singer Margo Stepun, sister of Fyodor Stepun, left Bunin, who felt disgraced and insulted. The writer's tempestuous private life in emigration became the subject of the internationally acclaimed Russian movie, His Wife's Diary (or The Diary of His Wife) (2000). which caused controversy and was described by some as masterful and thought-provoking, but by others as vulgar, inaccurate and in bad taste. Vera Muromtseva-Bunina later accepted both Kuznetsova and Margarita Stepun as friends: "nashi" ("ours"), as she called them, lived with the Bunins for long periods during the Second World War. According to A.J. Heywood of Leeds University, in Germany and then New York, after the war, Kuznetsova and Stepun negotiated with publishers on Bunin's behalf and maintained a regular correspondence with Ivan and Vera up until their respective deaths.
In France, Bunin found himself, for the first time, at the center of public attention. On 10 November 1933, the Paris newspapers came out with huge headlines: "Bunin — the Nobel Prize laureate" giving the whole of the Russian community in France cause for celebration. "You see, up until then we, émigrés, felt like we were at the bottom there. Then all of a sudden our Writer received an internationally acclaimed prize! And not for some political scribblings, but for real prose! After having been asked to write a first page column for the Paris Revival newspaper, I stepped out in the middle of the night onto the Place d'Italie and toured the local bistros on my way home, drinking in each and every one of them to the health of Ivan Bunin!" fellow Russian Writer Boris Zaitsev wrote. Back in the USSR the reaction was negative: Bunin's triumph was explained there as "an imperialist intrigue."
In 1934–1936, The Complete Bunin in 11 volumes was published in Berlin by Petropolis. Bunin cited this edition as the most credible one and warned his Future publishers against using any other versions of his work rather than those featured in the Petropolis collection. 1936 was marred by an incident in Lindau on the Swiss-German border when Bunin, having completed his European voyage, was stopped and unceremoniously searched. The Writer (who caught cold and fell ill after the night spent under arrest) responded by writing a letter to the Paris-based Latest News newspaper. The incident caused disbelief and outrage in France. In 1937 Bunin finished his book The Liberation of Tolstoy (Освобождение Толстого), held in the highest regard by Leo Tolstoy scholars.
In 1938 Bunin began working on what would later become a celebrated cycle of nostalgic stories with a strong erotic undercurrent and a Proustian ring. The first eleven stories of it came out as Dark Avenues (or Dark Alleys, Тёмные аллеи) in New York (1943); the cycle appeared in a full version in 1946 in France. These stories assumed a more abstract and metaphysical tone which has been identified with his need to find refuge from the "nightmarish reality" of Nazi occupation. Bunin's prose became more introspective, which was attributed to "the fact that a Russian is surrounded by enormous, broad and lasting things: the steppes, the sky. In the West everything is cramped and enclosed, and this automatically produces a turning towards the self, inwards."
As World War II broke out, Bunin's friends in New York, anxious to help the Nobel Prize laureate get out of France, issued officially-endorsed invitations for him to travel to the USA, and in 1941 they received their Nansen passports enabling them to make the trip. But the couple chose to remain in Grasse. They spent the war years at Villa Jeanette, high in the mountains. Two young Writers became long-term residents in the Bunin household at the time: Leonid Zurov (1902–1971), who had arrived on a visit from Latvia at Bunin's invitation earlier, in late 1929, and remained with them for the rest of their lives, and Nikolai Roshchin (1896–1956), who returned to the Soviet Union after the war.
Members of this small commune (occasionally joined by Galina Kuznetsova and Margarita Stepun) were bent on survival: they grew vegetables and greens, helping one another out at a time when, according to Zurov, "Grasse's population had eaten all of their cats and dogs". A Journalist who visited the Villa in 1942 described Bunin as a "skinny and emaciated man, looking like an ancient patrician". For Bunin, though, this isolation was a blessing and he refused to re-locate to Paris where conditions might have been better. "It takes 30 minutes of climbing to reach our villa, but there's not another view in the whole world like the one that's facing us," he wrote. "Freezing cold, though, is damning and making it impossible for me to write," he complained in one of his letters. Vera Muromtseva-Bunina remembered: "There were five or six of us... and we were all writing continuously. This was the only way for us to bear the unbearable, to overcome hunger, cold and fear."
Under the occupation Bunin never ceased writing but, according to Zurov, "published not a single word. He was receiving offers to contribute to newspapers in unoccupied Switzerland, but declined them. Somebody visited him once, a guest who proved to be an agent, and proposed some literary work, but again Ivan Alekseyevich refused." On 24 September 1944, Bunin wrote to Nikolai Roshchin: "Thank God, the Germans fled Grasse without a fight, on August 23. In the early morning of the 24th the Americans came. What was going on in the town, and in our souls, that's beyond description." "For all this hunger, I'm glad we spent the War years in the South, sharing the life and difficulties of the people, I'm glad that we've managed even to help some", Vera Muromtseva-Bunina later wrote.
Once, in the audience at a Soviet Russian Theatre show in Paris, Bunin found himself sitting next to a young Red Army colonel. As the latter rose and bowed, saying: "Do I have the honour of sitting next to Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin?" the Writer sprang to his feet: "I have the even higher honour of sitting next to an officer of the great Red Army!" he passionately retorted. On 19 June 1945, Bunin held a literary show in Paris where he read some of the Dark Avenue stories. In the autumn of 1945, on the wave of the great patriotic boom, Bunin's 75th birthday was widely celebrated in the Parisian Russian community. Bunin started to communicate closely with the Soviet connoisseurs, Journalist Yuri Zhukov and literary agent Boris Mikhailov, the latter receiving from the Writer several new stories for proposed publishing in the USSR. Rumours started circulating that the Soviet version of The Complete Bunin was already in the works.
In the late 1940s Bunin, having become interested in the new Soviet literature, in particular the works of Aleksandr Tvardovsky and Konstantin Paustovsky, entertained plans of returning to the Soviet Union, as Aleksandr Kuprin had done in the 1930s. In 1946, speaking to his Communist counterparts in Paris, Bunin praised the Supreme Soviet's decision to return Soviet citizenship to Russian exiles in France, still stopping short of saying "yes" to the continuous urging from the Soviet side for him to return. "It is hard for an old man to go back to places where he's pranced goat-like in better times. Friends and relatives are all buried... That for me would be a graveyard trip," he reportedly said to Zhukov, promising though, to "think more of it." Financial difficulties and the French reading public's relative indifference to the publication of Dark Avenues figured high among his motives. "Would you mind asking the Union of Writers to send me at least some of the money for books that've been published and re-issued in Moscow in the 1920s and 1930s? I am weak, I am short of breath, I need to go to the South but am too skinny to even dream of it," Bunin wrote to Nikolay Teleshov in a 19 November 1946, letter.
Negotiations for the writer's return came to an end after the publication of his Memoirs (Воспоминания, 1950), full of scathing criticism of Soviet cultural life. Apparently aware of his own negativism, Bunin wrote: "I was born too late. If I had been born earlier, my literary memoirs would have been different. I wouldn't have been a witness to 1905, the First World War, then 1917 and what followed: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler... How can I not be jealous of our forefather Noah. He lived through only one flood in his lifetime". Reportedly, the infamous Zhdanov decree was one of the reasons for Bunin's change of mind. On 15 September 1947, Bunin wrote to Mark Aldanov: "I have a letter here from Teleshov, written on September 7; 'what a pity (he writes) that you've missed all of this: how your book was set up, how everybody was waiting for you here, in the place where you could have been... rich, feasted, and held in such high honour!' Having read this I spent an hour hair-tearing. Then I suddenly became calm. It just came to me all of a sudden all those other things Zhdanov and Fadeev might have given me instead of feasts, riches and laurels..."
After 1948, his health deteriorating, Bunin concentrated upon writing memoirs and a book on Anton Chekhov. He was aided by his wife, who, along with Zurov, completed the work after Bunin's death and saw to its publication in New York in 1955. In English translation it was entitled About Chekhov: The Unfinished Symphony. Bunin also revised a number of stories for publication in new collections, spent considerable time looking through his papers and annotated his collected works for a definitive edition. In 1951 Bunin was elected the first ever hononary International PEN member, representing the community of Writers in exile. According to A.J. Heywood, one major event of Bunin's last years was his quarrel in 1948 with Maria Tsetlina and Boris Zaitsev, following the decision by the Union of Russian Writers and Journalists in France to expel holders of Soviet passports from its membership. Bunin responded by resigning from the Union. The writer's last years were marred by bitterness, disillusionment and ill-health; he was suffering from asthma, bronchitis and chronic pneumonia.
Ivan Bunin's books have been translated into many languages, and the world's leading Writers praised his gift. Romain Rolland called Bunin an "artistic genius"; he was spoken and written of in much the same vein by Writers like Henri de Régnier, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jerome K. Jerome, and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. In 1950, on the eve of his 80th birthday, François Mauriac expressed in a letter his delight and admiration, but also his deep sympathy to Bunin's personal qualities and the dignified way he'd got through all the tremendous difficulties life had thrown at him. In a letter published by Figaro André Gide greeted Bunin "on behalf of all France", calling him "the great artist" and adding: "I don't know of any other Writer... who's so to the point in expressing human feelings, simple and yet always so fresh and new". European critics often compared Bunin to both Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, crediting him with having renovated the Russian realist tradition both in essence and in form.
Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin died in a Paris attic flat in the early hours of 8 November 1953. Heart failure, cardiac asthma and pulmonary sclerosis were cited as the causes of death. A lavish burial Service took place at the Russian Church on Rue Daru. All the major newspapers, both Russian and French, published large obituaries. For quite a while the coffin was held in a vault. On 30 January 1954, Bunin was buried in the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery.
In emigration Bunin continued his experiments with extremely concise, ultra-ionized prose, taking Chekhov and Tolstoy's ideas on expressive economy to the last extreme. The result of this was God's Tree, a collection of stories so short, some of them were half a page long. Professor Pyotr Bitsilly thought God's Tree to be "the most perfect of Bunin's works and the most exemplary. Nowhere else can such eloquent laconism can be found, such definitive and exquisite writing, such freedom of expression and really magnificent demonstration of [mind] over matter. No other book of his has in it such a wealth of material for understanding of Bunin's basic method – a method in which, in fact, there was nothing but basics. This simple but precious quality – honesty bordering on hatred of any pretense – is what makes Bunin so closely related to... Pushkin, Tolstoy and Chekhov," Bitsilli wrote.
In his view on Russia and its history Bunin for a while had much in Common with A. K. Tolstoy (of whom he spoke with great respect); both tended to idealise the pre-Tatar Rus. Years later he greatly modified his view of Russian history, forming a more negative outlook. "There are two streaks in our people: one dominated by Rus, another by Chudh and Merya. Both have in them a frightening instability, sway... As Russian people say of themselves: we are like wood — both club and icon may come of it, depending on who is working on this wood," Bunin wrote years later.
Ivan Bunin made history as the first Russian Writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. The immediate basis for the award was the autobiographical novel The Life of Arseniev, but Bunin's legacy is much wider in scope. He is regarded as a master of the short story, described by scholar Oleg Mikhaylov as an "archaist innovator" who, while remaining true to the literary tradition of the 19th century, made huge leaps in terms of artistic expression and purity of style. "[Bunin's] style heralds a historical precedent... technical precision as an instrument of bringing out beauty is sharpened to the extreme. There's hardly another poet who on dozens of pages would fail to produce a single epithet, analogy or metaphor... the ability to perform such a simplification of poetic language without doing any harm to it is the sign of a true Artist. When it comes to artistic precision Bunin has no rivals among Russian poets," wrote Vestnik Evropy.