Bunin, Ivan (10 October 1870 - 8 November 1953)
Ivan Bunin (10 October 1870 - 8 November 1953)
Julian W. Connolly
University of Virginia
This entry was expanded by Connolly from his Bunin entry in DLB 317: Twentieth-Century Russian Émigré Writers.
BOOKS: Stikhotvoreniia: 1887-1891 gg .(Orel: Orlovskii vestnik, 1891);
“Na krai sveta” i drugie rasskaty (St. Petersburg: O. N. Popova, 1897);
Pod otkrytym nebom: Stikhotvoreniia (Moscow: Detskoe chtenie, 1898);
Stikhi i rasskazy (Moscow: Detskoe chtenie i Pedagogicheskii listok, 1900);
Listopad: Stikhotvoreniia (Moscow: Skorpion, 1901);
Novye stikhotvoreniia (Moscow: O. O. Gerbek, 1902);
Sobranie sochinenii, 5 volumes (St. Petersburg: Znanie, 1902-1909);
Stikhotvoreniia i rasskazy: 1907-1909 (St. Petersburg: Obshchestvennaia pol’za, 1910);
Derevnia (Moscow: Moskovskoe knigoizdatel’stvo, 1910); translated by Isabel F. Hapgood as The Village (New York: Knopf, 1923; London: Seeker, 1923);
Pereval: Rasskazy 1892-1902 (Moscow: Moskovskoe knigoizdatel’stvo, 1912);
Rasskazy i stikhotvoreniia 1907-1910 gg. (Moscow: Knigoizdatel’stvo pisatelei, 1912);
Stikhotvoreniia (Moscow: Moskovskoe knigoizdatel’stvo, 1912);
Sukhodol: Povesti i rasskazy 1911-1912 gg. (Moscow: Knigoizdatel’stvo pisatelei, 1912);
Ioann Rydalets: Rasskazy i stikhi 1912-1913 gg. (Moscow: Knigoizdatel’stvo pisatelei v Moskve, 1913);
Zolotoe dno: Rasskazy 1903-1907 gg. (Moscow: Knigoizdatel’stvo pisatelei, 1913);
Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 6 volumes (Petrograd: A. F. Marks, 1915);
Chasha zhizni: Rasskazy 1913-1914 gg. (Moscow: Knigoizdatel’stvo pisatelei v Moskve, 1915);
Gospodin iz San-Frantsisko: Proizvedeniia 1915-1916 gg. (Moscow: Knigoizdatel’stvo pisatelei v Moskve, 1916);
Khram solntsa (Petrograd: Zhizn’ i znanie, 1917);
Krik (Berlin: Slovo, 1921);
Nachal’naia liubov’ (Prague: Slavianskoe izdatel’stvo, 1921);
Roza Ierikhona (Berlin: Slovo, 1924);
Mitina liubov’ (Paris: Russkaia zemlia, 1925; Leningrad: Knizhnye novinki, 1925); translated from the French by Madelaine Boyd as Mitya’s Love (New York: Holt, 1926);
Poslednee svidanie (Paris: N. P. Karbasnikov, 1926);
Delo korneta Elagina (Khar’kov: Kosmos, 1927);
Solnechnyi udar (Paris: Rodnik, 1927);
Khudaia trava (Moscow & Leningrad: Zemlia i fabrika, 1928);
Izbrannye stikhi (Paris: Sovremennye zapiski, 1929);
Grammatika liubvi: Izbrannye rasskazy (Belgrade: Russkaia biblioteka, 1929);
Zhizn’ Arsen’eva: Istoki dnei (Paris: Sovremennye zapiski, 1930); translated by Gleb Struve and Hamish Miles as The Well of Days (London: Hogarth Press, 1933; New York: Knopf, 1934);
Bozh’e drevo (Paris: Sovremennye zapiski, 1931);
Ten’ptitsy (Paris: Sovremennye zapiski, 1931);
Sobranie sochinenii, 11 volumes (Berlin: Petropolis, 1934-1936);
Okaiannye dni (London, Ontario: Zaria, 1936); translated by Thomas Gaiton Marullo as Cursed Days: A Diary of Revolution (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998; London: Phoenix, 2000);
Osvobozhdenie Tohtogo (Paris: YMCA-Press, 1937); translated by Marullo and Vladimir T. Khmelkov as The Liberation of Tolstoy (Evanston, ILL.: Northwestern University Press, 2001);
Zhizn’ Arsen’eva: II. Lika: Roman (Brussels: Petropolis, 1939);
Temnye allei (New York: Novaia zemlia, 1943; enlarged edition, Paris: La Press française et étrangère, 1946); translated by Richard Hare as Dark Avenues and Other Stories (London: Lehmann, 1949; Westport, Conn.: Hyperion, 1977);
Vospominaniia (Paris: Vozrozhdenie, 1950); translated by Vera Traill and Robin Chancellor as Memories and Portraits (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1951; London: Lehmann, 1951);
Zhizn’ Arsen’eva: Iunost’ (New York: Chekhov, 1952); translated by Struve, Miles, Heidi Hillis, Susan McKean, and Sven A. Wolf as The Life of Arseniev: Youth, edited by Andrew Baruch (Evanston, ILL.: Northwestern University Press, 1994);
Vesnoi, v Iudee: Roza Ierikhona (New York: Chekhov, 1953);
Petlistye ushi i drugie rasskazy (New York: Chekhov, 1954);
O Chekhove: Nezakonchennaia rukopis’ (New York: Chekhov, 1955);
Stikhotvoreniia (Leningrad: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1956);
Ivan Bunin: Sbornik materialov, 2 volumes, Literaturnoe nasledstvo, volume 84 (Moscow: Nauka, 1973);
Publitsistika 1918-1953, edited by Oleg N. Mikhailov (Moscow: Nasledie, 1998).
Collections: Sobranie sochinenii, 5 volumes (Moscow: Pravda, 1956);
Sobranie sochinenii v deviati tomakh, 9 volumes, edited by A. S. Miasnikov, B. S. Riurikov, and A. T. Tvar dovsky (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1965-1967);
Sochineniia v trekh tomakh, 3 volumes (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1982);
Sobranie sochinenii v shesti tomakh, 6 volumes, edited by IU. V. Bondarev, Oleg N. Mikhailov, and V. P. Rynkevich (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1987-1988);
Sobranie sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh, 4 volumes, edited by N. M. Liubimov (Moscow: Pravda, 1988);
Sobranie sochinenii v vos’mi tomakh, 8 volumes, edited by A. K. Baboreko (Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1993-2000);
Sobranie sochinenii v shesti tomakh, 6 volumes (Moscow: Santaks, 1994);
Sobranie sochinenii v shesti tomakh, 6 volumes, edited by A. Farizova, I. Marev, G. Shitoeva, and V. Antonova (Moscow: Terra, 1997).
Editions in English: Lazarus, translated by Avrahm Yarmolinsky (Boston: Stratford, 1918)—comprises “Eleazar,” by Leonid Andreyev, and “The Gentleman from San Francisco,” by Bunin;
Reminiscences of Anton Chekhov, by Bunin, Maksim Gor’ky, and Aleksandr Kuprin, translated by S.S. Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf (New York: Huebsch, 1921);
The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories, translated by Woolf, Koteliansky, and D. H. Lawrence (London: Hogarth Press, 1922; New York: Seltzer, 1923);
The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories, translated by Bernard Guilbert Guerney (New York: Knopf, 1923);
The Dreams of Chang, and Other Stories, translated by Guerney (New York: Knopf, 1923; London: Seeker); republished as Fifteen Tales (London: Seeker, 1924; Great Neck, N.Y: Core Collection Books, 1978);
Grammar of Love, translated by John Cournos (New York: Smith & Haas, 1934; London: Woolf, 1935);
The Elaghin Affair and Other Stories, translated by Guerney (New York: Knopf, 1935);
Shadowed Paths, translated by Ol’ga Shartse, edited by Philippa Hentges (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1944; Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2001);
The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories, translated by Shartse, introduction by Thompson Bradley (New York: Washington Square Press, 1963);
Velga, translated by Guy Daniels (New York: S. G. Phillips, 1970);
Stories and Poems, translated by Shartse and Irina Zheleznova (Moscow: Progress, 1979);
In a Far Distant Land: Selected Stories, translated by Robert Bowie (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Hermitage, 1983);
Long Ago: Fourteen Stories, translated by David Richards and Sophie Lund (London: Angel, 1984); enlarged as The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories (London: Penguin / New York: Viking Penguin, 1987);
Light Breathing and Other Stories, translated by Shartse (Moscow: Raduga, 1988);
Wolves and Other Love Stories, translated by Mark C. Scott (San Bernardino, Cal.: Capra Press, 1989);
Sunstroke: Selected Stories, translated by Graham Hettlinger (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002);
The Elagin Affair and Other Stories, translated by Hettlinger (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005).
TRANSLATION: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Pesn’ o Gaiavate (Moscow: Knizhnoe dielo, 1899).
The first Russian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Ivan Bunin was the last of a prominent line of writers who belonged to the aristocracy—a line that includes Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy. Bunin lived well into the twentieth century, and he chronicled in haunting detail the slow decline and ultimate disappearance of a way of life taken for granted by the gentry writers of the nineteenth century. Throughout his long career he was moved by an acute awareness of the evanescence of human life, and his work records the full range of human emotion from ecstatic joy at the fulfillment of desire to inconsolable grief at the losses that frequently ensue.
Ivan Alekseevich Bunin was born on 10 (New Style, 22) October 1870 in Voronezh, a provincial capital three hundred miles southeast of Moscow. In later years he pointed out with pride that he could trace his lineage to a Lithuanian knight who had entered the service of Grand Prince of Moscow Vasilii II in the fifteenth century. His ancestors had served a series of Russian rulers, and in the nineteenth century two of his relatives achieved significant literary fame: Anna Bunina was the first professional woman writer in Russia, while Vasilii Zhukovsky, the illegitimate son of Afanasii Bunin and a captive Turkish woman, became a noted poet and translator and served as tutor to the future tsar Alexander II.
Despite the achievements of these forebears, Bunin’s immediate family faced straitened circumstances at the time of his birth. Landowners throughout Russia were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their prosperity; the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 and the rise of industry in the countryside in the second half of the nineteenth century contributed to the decline of the gentry estate. Bunin’s father, Aleksei Nikolaevich Bunin, who had served as a volunteer in the Crimean War, preferred socializing with friends to managing his property, and while Bunin was still a child, his father was forced to sell off ancestral holdings until he was left with two small estates, Butyrki and Ozerki, in the province of Orel. According to Bunin’s memoirs, Vospominaniia (1950; translated as Memories and Portraits, 1951), the personality of his mother, Liudmila Aleksandrovna, neé Chubarova, was quite different from that of his father: she was deeply religious and inclined toward woeful premonitions and sadness. She was devoted to her children, but only four of the nine to whom she gave birth survived infancy. Bunin’s second wife ascribed his wide mood swings to the contrasting dispositions of his parents.
A few years after Bunin’s birth, his family found the cost of living in Voronezh beyond their means and moved to the Butyrki estate. Bunin recalled in an autobiographical note in 1915, “Here, in the deepest stillness of the fields, amidst crops that came right up to our doorstep in the summer, and amid snowdrifts in winter, passed my entire childhood, full of sad and original poetry.” Bunin’s immersion in nature left a lasting trace on his creative imagination: nuanced descriptions of natural phenomena became a hallmark of his mature writing. His brothers, Iulii and Evgenii, were much older than he, and his two sisters were infants during his early childhood. As a result, Bunin’s playmates were the peasant children in the neighborhood, and his familiarity with peasant life also had a significant impact on his writing.
Bunin’s early education was in the hands of an eccentric, impoverished nobleman, Nikolai Romashkov, who taught him to read from Russian translations of texts such as Homer’s Odyssey and fed his imagination with vivid stories about chivalry. Romashkov wrote satirical poetry about topical issues; Bunin tried his hand at verse, as well, but noted in his memoirs that he did not write about contemporary concerns but about “some kind of spirits in a mountain valley on a moonlit night.”
The death of his infant sister Aleksandra shocked Bunin and plunged him into months of tormented contemplation about what might lie beyond the grave. Wonderment about death and its implications for the living remained an element of his personality throughout his life.
In autumn 1881 Bunin enrolled in a gymnasium in Elets. He was not interested in disciplined education, and his academic success, especially in mathematics, steadily deteriorated. During the Christmas holidays of 1885 he told his parents that he did not wish to return to school, and they acceded to his desire. By this time they had sold the Butyrki estate to pay off their debts and had moved to the Ozerki estate, which had belonged to Bunin’s mother’s family. His brother Iulii, a political activist, had been arrested in 1884 and sentenced to house arrest for three years. With little else to do, Iulii took over his brother’s education. Recognizing that Bunin had little affinity for mathematics, Iulii concentrated on history, political science, and literature. Under his brother’s guidance Bunin read the works of such major Russian writers as Turgenev, Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Fedor Tiutchev, Afanasii Fet, and Vsevolod Garshin. He also read the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare and the poetry of the English Romantics in translation and tried to learn English so that he could read them in the original.
Stimulated by his reading, Bunin wrote a large quantity of poetry and a few prose sketches between 1886 and 1889. For the most part this early work reveals his reliance on the models of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Fet, but his notebooks also include translations of work by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; Friedrich Schiller; George Gordon, Lord Byron; and Alphonse de Lamartine. A prominent literary figure of the day was Semen Nadson, a poet who expressed his longing to be of use to society and lamented his powerlessness to do so. Nadson’s anguished idealism resonated powerfully among young Russians of Bunin’s generation. When Nadson died of tuberculosis at twenty-five in January 1887, Bunin wrote a commemorative poem, “Nad mogiloi S. la. Nadsona” (At the Grave of S. la. Nadson). It was published in the journal Rodina (Homeland) on 22 February 1887, and Bunin’s literary career was launched. Within a short time he published other poems in Rodina and in Knizhki nedeli (Books of the Week) and his first short stories, “Nefedka” and “Dva strannika” (Two Wanderers), in Rodina.
In August 1888 Iulii moved to Kharkov, and Bunin found himself increasingly bored with life in the country. On 20 January 1889 he was invited to join the staff of Orlovsky vestnik (Orel Messenger), a newspaper that covered social issues, literature, and trade. Before taking up the position he spent two months visiting Iulii in Kharkov, meeting his brother’s radical friends and engaging in lengthy arguments about politics and ideology. After a trip to the Crimea, he began work at Orlovsky vestnik in autumn 1889. He used his position to publish his poems, stories, and literary articles in the paper. He fell in love with a coworker, Varvara Pashchenko, although she appears to have been ambivalent in her feelings for him. Bunin felt constrained by his lack of financial means, and Pashchenko’s parents were opposed to her marrying an impecunious writer. The couple was forced to conceal their relationship, which placed additional stress on it; arguments and separations were followed by periods of renewed intimacy. Bunin incorporated many of the elements of his relationship with Pashchenko into his novel Zhizn’ Arsen’eva: Iunost’ (1952; translated as The Life of Arseniev: Youth, 1994).
In 1891 Bunin’s Stikhotvoreniia: 1887-1891 gg. (Poems: 1887-1891) was published as a supplement to the Orlovsky vestnik. The following year he and Pashchenko moved to Poltava, where Bunin went to work with Iulii in the local zemstvo (provincial administrative organization) as a librarian. Later he became a statistician, which required him to travel throughout the region collecting data and observing the changing conditions of rural life. He distilled his observations into his fiction, and his work began appearing with more frequency in literary journals.
During this period Bunin became acquainted with followers of Tolstoy’s philosophy of simplification, and for a time he was seized with enthusiasm for Tolstoyanism. He went to Moscow to meet Tolstoy in January 1894; although Tolstoy cautioned him against becoming a blind adherent of the simple life, the meeting made a powerful impression on him. Later that year Bunin began distributing literature put out by the Tolstoyan publishing house Posrednik (Mediator) and was arrested for selling books without a license. He was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment but was saved from going to jail by the general amnesty ordered when Nicholas II succeeded Alexander III as tsar in October. Bunin’s infatuation with the simple life soon passed, and he conveyed his reservations about the Tolstoyan ideal in the story “Na dache” (1897, At the Dacha). Tolstoy himself, however, remained one of Bunin’s lifelong heroes, and decades later Bunin set down his views on Tolstoy and the meaning of Tolstoy’s work in the treatise Osvobozhdenie Tolstogo (1937; translated as The Liberation of Tolstoy, 2001).
On 4 November 1894 Pashchenko wrote Bunin a note stating that she was leaving him. Her parents refused to give him any information as to her whereabouts. His despair was such that his parents feared that he would commit suicide. He was further devastated when he found out that Pashchenko had married their friend Arsenii Bibikov. Aware of his state of mind, Iulii urged him to travel to St. Petersburg and Moscow and immerse himself in the literary life in those cities. Following his brother’s counsel, Bunin became acquainted with a broad spectrum of literary and intellectual figures ranging from members of the older generation, such as Dmitrii Grigorovich, to one of the rising stars of the nascent symbolist movement, Konstantin Bal’mont. He continued to feel isolated and unsettled, however. He was particularly troubled by a sense that he had received an inferior education and had not been properly prepared for a career.
Returning to the countryside for the spring and summer of 1895, Bunin worked on improving his English: he had begun translating Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha (1855). The translation was published in Orlovsky vestnik in 1896 and, with revisions, achieved great popularity and went through many editions. For the next several years periods of creative work in the countryside alternated with travel to the major cities or to the south and, ultimately, beyond Russia’s borders. Bunin became acquainted with a growing circle of writers, including Anton Chekhov, Aleksandr Kuprin, Valerii Briusov, and Nikolai Teleshov.
Bunin’s first major success came with the publication of his first collection of short stories, ”Na krai sveta“i drugie rasskazy (”To the Edge of the World“and Other Tales), in 1897. Several of the stories display a populist orientation and expose the hardships faced by the common folk as their traditional mode of life is threatened by famine and relocation. These general themes are informed by Bunin’s personal concern with issues such as growing old, the loss of cherished joys, and the mystery of death. Characteristic is the concluding section of the title story: having described the grief that attends the departure of a group of peasants from their native village in quest of a better life in a new territory, Bunin shifts focus from the sorrows of individuals to a broader reflection on the evanescence of human life. Referring to ancient burial mounds on the steppe, he asks: “But of what concern to them, these age-old, silent mounds, are the sorrows or joys of some kind of beings who will exist for a moment and then cede their place to others just like them, others who will again worry and rejoice and disappear just as completely without a trace from the face of the earth?” Repeatedly in these stories Bunin moves outward from the travails of his characters to the natural world, dissolving the tension of insoluble human dilemmas in nature’s ceaseless flow.
Critics reacted positively to the collection. Commenting on”Na krai sveta“in the St. Petersburg paper Novosti (News) on 26 October 1895, Aleksandr Skabichevsky declared, “This is not genre painting, nor description of everyday life, nor ethnography... but poetry itself!” Skabichevsky’s perception of a poetic quality to Bunin’s prose was accurate: not only was Bunin’s early prose lyrical and rhythmic, but he was also continuing to develop as a poet. In 1898 his verse collection Pod otkrytym nebom (Under the Open Sky) was published in Moscow, and it too met with critical acclaim.
In 1898 Bunin moved to Odessa to work for the newspaper Iuzhnoe obozrenie (Southern Review). He quickly became infatuated with Anna Tsakni, the daughter of the publisher of the paper, and they were married on 28 September. He soon regretted the hasty marriage. In a letter to his brother Iulii dated 14 December 1899 he described his wife as”foolish and immature as a puppy.“In March 1900 Bunin left her and went to Moscow. Anna gave birth to a son, Nikolai, in August. Bunin returned to Odessa only to visit his son, who died in January 1905 of complications following scarlet fever and measles.
In 1901 Bunin published the poetry collection Listopad (Falling Leaves) and dedicated it to the writer Maksim Gor’ky (pseudonym of Aleksei Peshkov). Gor’ky had written Bunin to praise Pod otkrytym nebom, and the two had met in Yalta in 1899 and begun a friendship that lasted for nearly two decades. The long title poem is characteristic of Bunin’s early verse. Personifying autumn as a “quiet widow” sorrowfully departing for the south as winter approaches, the poem highlights the beauty of nature’s timeless changes. The collection garnered praise from notable figures across the literary spectrum. In early February 1901 Gor’ky wrote Briusov that he considered Bunin the foremost poet of the day, and a young poet from the symbolist camp, Aleksandr Blok, said that Bunin had won the right to one of the chief positions in contemporary Russian poetry. The collection, together with the translation of The Song of Hiawatha, earned Bunin his first major literary honor: the Imperial Academy of Sciences awarded him the coveted Pushkin Prize in October 1903.
While Listopad had been published by the symbolist house Skorpion, Bunin’s artistic temperament had little in common with the excesses sometimes found in decadent literature; and when negotiations for Skorpion to publish additional volumes of his work collapsed, Bunin turned to the firm with which Gor’ky was closely identified: Znanie (Knowledge) published five volumes of his collected works from 1902 to 1909. The writers associated with Znanie were known as “realists” or “neorealists,” but Bunin was never comfortable with labels, and his work defies ready categorization. The prose sketches he began writing at the turn of the twentieth century, for example, are nearly devoid of plot. Highly lyrical, they feature dense passages of description in which subtle gradations of color, smell, and sound are delicately woven together into a rich tapestry of sensation. Aptly characterized by Thomas Winner as “mood paintings,” the sketches either convey a solitary narrator’s reflections on the mysteries of human existence, as in “Sosny” (1901, Pines) and “Tuman” (1901, Mist), or paint an evocative picture of the slow decline of traditional forms of life in the countryside, as in “Epitafiia” (1901, Epitaph). Perhaps the best known of these sketches is “Antonovskie iabloki” (1900, Antonov Apples; translated as “Apple Fragrance,” 1944), in which the rich and expansive estate life of past generations is contrasted with the more meager existence that survives on impoverished estates at the end of the nineteenth century. The writer’s nostalgia for the vanishing beauty of the past is conveyed through a series of remembered scenes that anticipate Marcel Proust in their appreciation for the evocative power of sensual detail. But as exquisite as these mood paintings are, they represented a dead end for Bunin: having evoked the atmosphere of inevitable decline in the Russian countryside, he seemed to have gone as far as he could in this genre. Without a new perspective or a significant story to tell, he ran the risk of repeating himself.
In April 1903 Bunin departed for Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey). He had just read the entire Qur’an, and he wished to see the city that had played an important role in the history of Islam as well as in early Russian history. It was the first of many trips to Constantinople, Greece, and the Middle East, and he recorded his impressions in a series of travel sketches from 1907 to 1911. A reading of these sketches together with the poetry he wrote during the period reveals several underlying concerns. First, Bunin sought to identify the essence of a religion or culture by studying the environment in which it developed. Islam, he wrote in “Ten’ ptitsy” (1908, The Shadow of a Bird), was born “in the wilderness,” whereas the myths of ancient Greece were born from “sun, sea, and stone.” Surveying the ruins of Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Palestine, Bunin became aware that every civilization seemed to undergo a cycle of birth, expansion, and annihilation. His appreciation of the inevitability of a civilization’s decay took on topical significance when he returned to Russia and witnessed continuing dislocation and change at home. Strikes, demonstrations, and violent repression in 1905 convinced him that Russia was on an irreversible downward spiral.
Bunin’s firsthand observations of the remains of earlier civilizations also deepened his preoccupation with death and loss. Annihilation was not merely a personal event; it affected civilizations, cultures, and religions alike. Nonetheless, Bunin always looked for signs of survival and renewal. Observing in “More bogov” (1908, The Sea of Gods) that “Vremia” (Time) has swallowed up the manifestations of solar worship practiced in ancient eras, Bunin exclaims: “But the Sun still exists!” Furthermore, by achieving an emotional or spiritual contact with relics of ancient life, the writer felt that his own life span had been expanded. As he put it in the poem “Mogila v skale” (1910, Cliff Tomb), the sight of a footprint left by a mourner in a grave five thousand years ago resurrected that moment of parting, and “The life given me by destiny was multiplied by five thousand years.” Such moments of transcendence were immensely consoling to Bunin.
Bunin met his future wife, Vera Muromtseva, in November 1906. In 1909 he was awarded a second Pushkin Prize and elected an honorary member of the Imperial Academy. When he returned to fiction at the end of the decade he began chronicling the worrisome changes in the countryside with a depth and intensity that are not present in his earlier work. The first significant piece that reflected this new perspective was the novella Derevnia (1910; translated as The Village, 1923). The title suggests the breadth of Bunin’s conception. Derevnia means both “village” and “countryside”; Bunin intended his depiction of one rural village to represent rural Russia at large. A character in the novella underscores this symbolism for the reader when he caustically declares about Russia: “it is all a village.”
The two main characters in Derevnia are the brothers Tikhon and Kuzma Krasov. Bunin provides a capsule summary of the Krasov family background in the opening paragraphs: the brothers’ great-grandfather was a serf who was killed by his master’s dogs for stealing the affections of the master’s lover. Their grandfather won his freedom and became a famous thief. Their father opened a shop in their native village, Durnovka (the name is derived from a word that means “bad” or “nasty”), but “went bankrupt, took up drinking... and died.” Clearly, the Krasovs’ emancipation from serfdom did not lead to prosperity and fulfillment. Nor does the present generation fare much better. Early in life Tikhon Krasov decided to devote himself to business, and after years of toil, he was able to buy the Durnovka estate from the family that had formerly been his family’s masters. Yet, material gain has left him spiritually and emotionally impoverished. He has no heir; he is estranged from his wife; and he scarcely has any memories of the past to savor in his old age. At the end of the first part of the tale Tikhon is relieving himself outside his house as a train, a symbol of progress that has no meaning for him, roars by in the night. Kuzma initially seems to have a more ambitious agenda. Self-educated, he longs to make his mark on the world, leaves the village, and publishes a book of poetry. Yet, he too finds no significant outlet for his energies, and he returns to an empty life of idleness in Durnovka. Bunin now widens his focus to depict the lives of some of the Durnovka peasants; in particular, he follows the fate of a young woman who had been raped by Tikhon and is being readied for marriage to a crude, poorly educated man. Kuzma is horrified by the match but can do nothing to prevent it, and the marriage ceremony has more of the aura of a pagan orgy than a Christian ritual. Bunin concludes his narrative with a glimpse of one of the revelers wailing “with a wolf’s voice” into the blizzard raging around her.
Bunin’s readers reacted strongly to this somber image of Russia’s destiny. His portrait of village life was a far cry from the idealized peasantry in Tolstoy’s works, and some critics accused Bunin of being a bitter or fearful aristocrat slandering the people. Others, such as Gor’ky, welcomed the work as an unflinching diagnosis of the ills afflicting the countryside. Bunin thought that neither camp really understood his work and ascribed the uninformed nature of the criticism to the intelligentsia’s ignorance of the true state of rural life.
Having exposed the moral bankruptcy of the lower classes, Bunin turned to the stratum of society that had long been viewed as the bastion of enlightenment and culture—the gentry. In a 1911 interview included in volume nine of his Sobranie sochinenii v deviati tomakh (1965-1967, Collected Works in Nine Volumes) Bunin pointed out that the landowners depicted in the works of Turgenev and Tolstoy were not typical representatives of the gentry but were “rare oases of culture.” In his view, the life of the ordinary small landowner was much closer to that of the peasant than most people appreciated: “In no other country is the life of the gentry and peasantry so closely and intimately tied as among us. The soul of both, I think, is identically Russian.”
A major work written at this time, the novella “Sukhodol” (1912; translated as “Dry Valley,” 1935), illustrates Bunin’s conviction. In this tale Bunin shows how the lives of a landowning family and their servants are intimately interwoven. The narrative structure of the tale supports this interweaving: the primary narrator is the last male descendent of the Khrushchev family, who presents the reader with the stories told by a servant, Natalia, who worked for the family. The saga of the Khrushchev clan, however, is not conveyed in a straightforward linear way: over the course of years Natalia retells her tales; with each telling new details emerge, until finally the reader has a full view of the extraordinary events that she witnessed. This lyrical structure underscores Bunin’s belief in the importance of memory as a means of preserving the past, as well as in the power of a skillful narrative to make past events live again in the minds of an audience.
Natalia relates that the patriarch of the family was murdered by his illegitimate son, Gervaska; her mistress Tonia was driven mad by a failed love affair; and she herself was raped by a coarse peasant, Iushka. The events themselves, disturbing as they are, are not as striking as the fatalistic attitude that Natalia and the rest of the Dry Valley inhabitants adopt toward the misfortunes that befell them: deeply superstitious, they feel surrounded by uncanny primordial forces that they are unable to resist—indeed, they seem almost to thirst for chaos and destruction. The final stage of destruction will be the inevitable disappearance of the memories of Dry Valley. This sense of ultimate loss, in the opinion of Renato Poggioli, “gives Dry Valley a sense of tragic pathos which no work of Bunin... attained before or after.”
In the early 1910s Bunin wrote a series of stories in which he strove to illuminate, as he put it in the 1911 interview, “the soul of the Russian man... the traits of the Slav’s psyche.” These works lay bare the dark, destructive forces lurking beneath the surface of everyday rural life. In “Nochnoi razgovor” (1912; translated as “A Night Conversation,” 1923) he depicts the bitter disillusionment that overwhelms an idealistic young member of the gentry who spends an evening with some peasants and is horrified by the relish with which they swap tales of violence and slaughter. In “Ignat” (1912; translated as “A Simple Peasant,” 1934) he describes the crude impulses that drive a peasant to a series of horrifying acts, including bestiality and murder. Yet, it is not just the peasants who come in for this kind of exposure. “Poslednii den’” (1913, The Last Day) portrays the senseless behavior of a landowner who has sold his estate to strangers and decides to give the new owners a grim welcome: he orders that his six dogs be hanged and their bodies left dangling from the tree.
In his quest to illuminate the “Slav’s psyche” Bunin turned to folktale, epic, and religious literature as source material for his fiction and poetry of the early 1910s. The story “Zakhar Vorob’ev” (1912) indicates the fate of Russia’s legendary warriors, the bogatyr’, in the modern era. Possessing enormous strength and desiring to impress those around him, the title character ends up drinking himself to death—a solitary victim of an insensitive world. Traditional spirituality too seems to have degenerated in the modern world, as Bunin shows in “la vse molchu” (1913; translated as “I Say Nothing,” 1923). A young member of the gentry, Shasha Romanov, behaves in bizarre, self-destructive ways. Although his conduct evinces some traces of the ancient “holy fool” tradition, in which eccentric behavior and self-abnegation served to reproach those who had forgotten Christ’s humility, his real motivations are a vile combination of masochism and exhibitionism. With characters such as these Bunin paints a stark picture of Russia’s decline.
A journey to Ceylon (today Sri Lanka) in 1911, coupled with study of Buddhist philosophy, provided Bunin with a new perspective on the human condition. In Buddhism he found a persuasive explanation of the contradiction between life’s capacity for providing moments of ecstatic happiness and the inevitable annihilation of that joy by loss and death. According to Buddhist doctrine, suffering results from desire; the only way to end suffering is to renounce desire—not only for love, passion, or material gain but for life itself. Over the next several years Bunin wrote stories that reflect these concepts. Some of these works, such as “Brat’ia” (1914; translated as “Brethren,” 1923) and “Sny Changa” (1916; translated as “The Dreams of Chang,” 1923), make overt reference to Buddhist thought.
“Brat’ia” is particularly rich in Buddhist aphorisms. The story juxtaposes the arduous life of a young ricksha puller in Colombo with the pleasure-sated existence of an Englishman who rides in his vehicle. The native is following the model of his father, who worked hard to provide for his family until he died from exhaustion. According to Buddhist teachings, the father must suffer reincarnation because of his immersion in earthly cares. The young man is fated to repeat his father’s errors, for he began pulling the ricksha to earn money when he became infatuated with a woman. In doing so he became enmeshed in the chain of desire: his desire for love “is the desire for sons, just as the desire for sons is a desire for property, and a desire for property is a desire for well-being.” Suffering is the inevitable result. They marry, but the bride disappears, and months later the youth discovers that she has become the chattel of rich Europeans in Colombo. He commits suicide but will return again and again “in a thousand incarnations.” The Englishman departs on a ship; at sea he ruminates on the differences between the natives of Ceylon and the more “sophisticated” Europeans who have colonized the world. As he sees it, Europeans have lost their humility in the cosmos: “We elevate our Personality higher than the heavens; we wish to concentrate the entire world within it, no matter what we have said about universal brotherhood and equality.”
With this story Bunin sets forth his understanding of a profound contradiction that underlies much of human life: the contradiction between the desire for self-gratification or self-aggrandizement and an awareness of the ultimate insignificance of any individual in the vast flow of cosmic processes. He goes on, in work after work, to depict characters who display their bondage to the ego either in love or in the accumulation of wealth and power. For the most part these works do not include overt references to Buddhism, and many of the protagonists are unaware that their desire will lead to unhappiness.
Perhaps the most compelling stories in which the drama of desire and suffering is enacted in Bunin’s work of the early and mid 1910s are those that deal with the seductive power of love and passion. “Pri doroge” (1913; translated as “On the Great Road,”1934) and “Legkoe dykhanie” (1916; translated as “Gentle Breathing,” 1922) focus, respectively, on a peasant girl and one of noble birth. “Legkoe dykhanie,” which is just a few pages in length, offers a compressed view of a young woman’s brief intoxication with the attractions of passion. It opens with a description of her portrait on her grave, then moves back in time to show what led to her early demise. Olia Meshcherskaia possessed an extraordinary zest for life; summoned to her high-school headmistress’s office and reprimanded for forgetting that she is not yet a woman, Olia shocks the teacher by asserting that she is a woman because she has been seduced by an older man—the headmistress’s brother. In the next sentence Bunin informs the reader that the following month Olia was shot and killed at a railway station by a Cossack officer “of plebeian appearance, who had absolutely nothing in common with the circle to which Olia Meshcherskaia belonged.” Olia had had a sexual encounter with the officer and then told him that she had merely been toying with him; to prove it she had shown him the diary entry in which she described her seduction by her first lover, who was fifty-six. The officer then shot her in a jealous rage. Olia’s early entrance into the realm of desire resulted in her untimely death, but her life did not flare up and burn out without a trace. In the final scene one of Olia’s former teachers, who has become enchanted with the story of her tragic love, visits Olia’s grave; her dreams will keep Olia’s memory alive. In this story Bunin shows both the ecstatic and devastating effects of passion on the human soul. The conclusion suggests that the memory of such passion may endure long after the physical sensation has faded.
By this point in his career Bunin was regarded as one of the most distinguished writers of his generation; he was particularly hailed as an heir to the classical traditions of Russian literature. Russian art and literature were experiencing the throes of modernist experimentation in the 1910s, and Bunin took an active part in the debate over the proper models for writers and artists to follow. In a speech delivered during an anniversary celebration for the newspaper Russkie vedomosti (Russian Gazette) in October 1913 he declared that contemporary literature had departed from the standards set by Pushkin, Turgenev, and Tolstoy and was mired in vulgarity and falsehood. He perceived this development as emblematic of a general decline in the moral and spiritual values of society. The outbreak of World War I in August of the following year reinforced his dark view of societal trends. On 28 September 1914 he declared in the newspaper Russkoe slovo (Russian Word) that the violent acts carried out by the Germans served as a grim reminder that “the ancient beast is alive and strong in man.” The dangerous assertion of the ego that Bunin evoked in “Brat’ia” seemed to him to have gained sway throughout Europe.
The fiction Bunin wrote at this time reflected his dismay over the current state of affairs. Especially disturbing is “Petlistye ushi” (1916; translated as “Noosiform Ears,” 1983). The protagonist, Sokolovich, delivers a cynical tirade in a St. Petersburg tavern in which he argues that the lust for violence is more pronounced in modern times than in the age of Cain and Abel. He then goes out, picks up a prostitute, murders her in a hotel room, and coolly leaves the body to be discovered by the hotel staff. Bunin inserts several allusions to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Prestuplenie i nakazanie (1867; translated as Crime and Punishment, 1886), and the contrast that emerges between the two works is telling. The sensitive, self-doubting murderer of Dostoevsky’s novel has been replaced by a cold-blooded, remorseless killer; and whereas a prostitute plays a redemptive role in Dostoevsky’s murderer’s life, in Bunin’s tale the prostitute is not the killer’s savior but his victim. Bunin seems to be saying that Dostoevsky’s idealistic view of humanity’s potential for redemption can be seen to be childishly naive at a time when the “ancient beast in man” has been unleashed.
Less horrifying, but perhaps even more effective in its indictment of modern egotism, is “Gospodin iz San-Frantsisko” (1916; translated as “The Gentleman from San Francisco,” 1921), one of Bunin’s best-known stories. An American businessman sets off with his family on a grand tour of Europe to reward himself for his years of relentless accumulation of wealth; the journey ends abruptly when he dies of a heart attack on the island of Capri. His riches are of no use to him now: his family is treated disrespectfully by the staff of the hotel in which he died, and since no coffin is available, his corpse is carted off in a crate that is normally used to transport bottled water. The ship that carries the gentleman’s body back across the sea is the same one that had brought him to Europe with such great expectations. While the rich passengers stuff themselves at lavish dinners and dance the nights away in glittery ballrooms, many decks below them lies a makeshift coffin with its lifeless contents—a striking emblem of the ultimate fate of this vain and thoughtless world.
In February (New Style, March) 1917 a revolution resulted in the collapse of the Romanov dynasty. Bunin and Muromtseva spent the summer of 1917 with his relatives, the Pusheshnikovs, in the village of Glotovo, where they constantly worried that the peasants might come and burn the house down. They were in Moscow when the October (New Style, November) revolution brought the Bolsheviks to power. In May 1918 they went via Kiev to Odessa, where they stayed for nearly two years. In Moscow and Odessa, Bunin kept a journal that he published in 1936 as Okaiannye dni (translated as Cursed Days: A Diary of Revolution, 1998). The journal records scenes he witnessed, rumors and conversations he overheard, excerpts from newspapers and speeches, and his own impressions of events and conveys the sense of chaos and turmoil that Russia experienced during the revolutions and civil war. Bunin again castigates the debasement of cultural values that he finds in literature and the press. Labeling some contemporary writing “indecent trash,“he says:”But almost all of Russia, almost all of Russian life, almost the entire Russian world is becoming this ‘trash.’”
In January 1920 Bunin and Muromtseva were on one of the last boats to leave Odessa for Constantinople before the Red Army seized the city. From Constantinople they traveled through the Balkans to France. In 1922 Bunin finalized his divorce from his first wife and married Muromtseva. For most of the year the Bunins lived in a villa in the south of France, near Grasse, but they often spent the winter in Paris. They had many guests at the villa, including a young writer, Galina Kuznetsova, who lived with them for several years and engaged in a serious love affair with Bunin.
After a few years of writing sketches, Bunin began producing longer works of high quality in which he often returned to a favorite subject: the lure of passion, with its capacity to bring both ecstasy and pain. At one end of the spectrum in terms of length, Mitina liubov’ (1925; translated as Mitya’s Love, 1926) is a portrait of a young man’s shattering discovery of the disparity between his idealized image of romantic love and the irresistible call of base sexual desire. At the other end, the brief “Solnechnyi udar” (1926; translated as “Sunstroke,” 1934) is a masterpiece of concision and expressive vitality. Recalling Chekhov’s “Dama s sobachkoi” (1899, Lady with a Lapdog) in showing how a casual affair can have lasting effects, “Solnechnyi udar” features a protagonist who light-heartedly spends the night with a woman he met on a riverboat; after she leaves he discovers that he desperately loves her but does not know her name. Bunin’s descriptions of physical sensation and atmosphere provide a moving accompaniment to the emotional vicissitudes of the main character.
Another work written at this time sets the subject of desire in a more philosophical framework. In “Delo korneta Elagina” (1925; translated as “The Elaghin Affair,” 1935) Aleksandr Elagin, a young military officer, is on trial for shooting Mariia Sosnovskaia, with whom he had been having an affair. Elagin testifies that Sosnovskaia wanted him to kill her, as well as himself, and her motivation becomes the focus of the story. She had many lovers and indulged in theatrical displays of emotion but seemed perpetually dissatisfied with her life. Some notes she made and her interest in the pessimistic writings of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer indicate that she was seeking an escape from everyday life. Sosnovskaia’s struggle reflects the dichotomy Bunin had identified in the mid 1910s between the impulse to assert one’s ego by pursuing one’s desires and a recognition of the futility of such striving.
In the same year in which Bunin created the enigmatic figure of Mariia Sosnovskaia he summarized his understanding of the fundamental bifurcation in human impulse in a philosophical sketch originally titled “Tsikady” (1925; translated as “Cicadas,” 1935) and retitled “Noch”’ (1925; translated as “Night,” 1983). The narrator declares that he is one of a select group of artists and poets who have the capacity to feel not only their own time and place but also past times and other lands; such people have a heightened receptivity to life and are eager to enjoy all of its diverse richness, but their sensitivity makes them realize that all life ends in death and that immersion in its pleasures ultimately proves vain. The narrator identifies Solomon, Buddha, and Tolstoy as prime representatives of this group. He proclaims: “All the Solomons and Buddhas at first embrace the world with avidity; then, with great passion they curse its temptations”; they feel a dual torment, “the torment of withdrawal from the Chain, separation from it ... and the torment of an intensified, terrible fascination with it.” (Bunin expanded on this concept in relation to Tolstoy in Osvobozhdenie Tolstogo.) The narrator speaks for Bunin when he declares that while he too realizes the vanity of earthly striving, he feels that the time to turn his back on life has not yet come; the call of the world’s beauty is stronger than all his philosophizing.
Another comment by the narrator hints at one of the driving forces behind Bunin’s art. He says that the crown of every human life is the memory of that life, and he reveals his dream of leaving in the world “myself, my feelings, visions, and desires until the end of time.” The vehicle by which this goal may be attained is art, and it appears that Bunin regarded his fiction and poetry as the path to whatever earthly immortality he might hope to attain. This impulse to fashion a permanent record of his feelings and visions perhaps fueled the major project he undertook in the late 1920s, a fictional autobiography comprising Zhizn’ Arsen’eva: Istoki dnei (1930; translated as The Well of Days, 1933) and Zhizn’ Arsen’eva: Iunost’.
In Zhizn’ Arsen ’eva Bunin depicts the evolution of an artistic soul. Drawing on events from his life, he traces the development of Aleksei Arsen’ev from impressionable child to young writer brimming over with the desire to observe and record the pageant of life. Throughout the novel he offers a dual perspective on events: the immediate sensations experienced by the hero at the time of their occurrence and the retrospective evaluation of those sensations by the mature Arsen’ev. The novel includes several of Bunin’s most cherished themes: the youth’s abiding sense of curiosity and wonder about the world, consciousness of the mystery of death, and eagerness to embrace the joys of this world, fleeting though they be. Death and passion are consistently juxtaposed, and one senses the writer’s aspiration to transcend the constraints of individual mortality through union with another person, communion with nature, and ultimately through the creation of art. Although one of the last events in the novel is the death of Arsen’ev’s first serious love, Lika (modeled both on Pashchenko and on Tsakni), the narrative ends with an evocation of Lika’s reappearance in a dream. As long as the mind of the creative artist is capable of inspiration, survival after death remains possible.
The high quality of Bunin’s literary output spurred efforts to promote him for the Nobel Prize in Literature during the 1920s, either on his own, or as part of a joint candidacy with other writers. These efforts began in earnest in 1922, when the Russian émigré literary community rallied around the idea that the Nobel Prize should go to a Russian emigre writer. Bunin’s fellow emigre writer Mark Aldanov lobbied other literary luminaries such as Romain Rolland to support Bunin’s candidacy. Rolland appeared willing to support Bunin, but he indicated that he believed that a joint candidacy of Bunin and Gor’ky would have a higher chance of success. Aldanov himself thought that a trio of candidates—Bunin, Dmitrii Merezhkovsky, and Kuprin—would make a better combination. Despite these early efforts and hopes, however, the Nobel Prize went to William Butler Yeats in 1923.
Over the course of the next decade, Aldanov and others made a renewed effort to promote Bunin’s candidacy for the Nobel Prize. In 1930 Aldanov tried to enlist the support of Thomas Mann, but although the latter expressed admiration for Bunin’s work, he held to the position that he would be bound to support a German candidate if one were put forth in competition with Bunin. Aldanov had high hopes for Bunin’s success in 1932, but the prize went to John Galsworthy that year. Finally, on 9 November 1933, Bunin’s cherished dream was realized: he became the first Russian writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Bunin was of course overjoyed, but his way of life did not change significantly as a consequence of the award. After making a triumphal visit to the capitals of the Russian emigration—Berlin and Paris—he returned to his home in Grasse. For a brief period, foreign publishers showed an interest in his work, and new collections of his prose fiction in English appeared in the mid 1930s. This period of literary and financial success proved fleeting, however. After receiving the prize, Bunin was besieged with letters pleading for financial assistance, and he responded with as much generosity as he could. A series of financial missteps further eroded his savings, and thus, by the late 1930s, the relative comfort he had experienced earlier in the decade had dissipated.
With the outbreak of World War II, Bunin’s fortunes took a serious turn. Stranded in their home near Grasse, the Bunins faced shortages of food and fuel, and Bunin was unable to write. By 1944 the tide of war had begun to turn, and Bunin went back to work on a project he had begun in the late 1930s: Temnye allei (translated as Dark Avenues and Other Stories, 1949), a collection of stories that first appeared in 1943 and in an enlarged version in 1946. Almost all of the stories deal with love and passion and follow a simple pattern: unexpectedly arriving in a person’s life, passion flares up; reaches an ecstatic, incandescent peak; and then is snuffed out by a change of heart, violence, or death. The protagonists range from inexperienced adolescents to middle-aged couples finding love for the last time. Although some in the emigre community chided Bunin for the frankness of his depictions of sensuality, the works testify to his undying belief that moments of ecstatic union with another person can afford one a peak experience in an otherwise difficult or undistinguished life.
Although Bunin continued to write—revising old material, preparing new short prose pieces, and working on a book about his friendship with Chekhov that was published posthumously as 0 Chekhove: Nezakonchennaia rukopis’ (1955, About Chekhov: An Unfinished Manuscript)—his health was failing, and he was in woeful financial straits. He died in his Paris apartment on 8 November 1953.
In an early note for Zhizn’ Arsen ’eva, Ivan Bunin wrote: “Life, perhaps, is given only for competition with death; man even struggles with it from the grave: it takes his name from him, but he writes it on a cross, on a stone; it seeks to cover with darkness all that he has experienced, while he strives to animate that experience in the word.” Densely lyrical in structure and imbued with a striking intensity of feeling, the carefully crafted works that Bunin produced during his sixty years of literary creativity provide ample testimony to his own aspiration to resist the annihilating effects of time and death.
Vera Muromtseva-Bunina, Zhizn’ Bunina 1870-1906: Besedy s pamiat’iu (Paris, 1958);
Aleksandr Baboreko, I. A. Bunin: Materialy dlia biografii (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1967);
Thomas Gaiton Marullo, Ivan Bunin: Russian Requiem, 1885-1920. A Portrait from. Letters, Diaries, and Fiction (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993);
Marullo, Ivan Bunin: From the Other Shore, 1920-1933: A Portrait from Letters, Diars, and Fiction (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1995);
Mikhail Roshchin, Ivan Bunin (Moscow: Molodaia gvar diia, 2000).
Vladislav Afanas’ev, I. A. Bunin: Ocherk tvorchestva (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1996);
D. K. Burlaka, ed., I. A. Bunin: Pro et contra (St. Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo Russkogo Khristianskogo gumanitar-nogo instituta, 2001);
Julian W Connolly, The Works of Ivan Bunin (Boston: Twayne, 1982);
Militsa Grin, ed., Ustami Buninykh, 3 volumes (Frankfurt am Main: Posev, 1977-1982);
Serge Kryzytski, “The Works of Ivan Bunin (The Hague: Mouton, 1971);
Iurii Mal’tsev, Ivan Bunin: 1870-1953 (Moscow & Frankfurt am Main: Posev, 1994);
Thomas Gaiton Marullo, If you See the Buddha: Studies in the Fiction of Ivan Bunin (Evanston, HI.: Northwestern University Press, 1998);
O. N. Mikhailov, I. A. Bunin: Zhizn’i tvorchestvo (Tula: Priok-skoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1987);
Valerii Nefedov, Chudesnyi prizrak: Bunin-khudozhnik (Minsk: Polymia, 1990);
Renato Poggioli, “The Art of Ivan Bunin,” Harvard Slavic Studies,l (1953): 249-277;
Thomas Winner,”Some Remarks about the Style of Bunin’s Early Prose,” in American Contributions to the Sixth International Congress of Slavists, volume 2: Literary Contributions, edited by W E. Harkins (The Hague: Mouton, 1968), pp. 369-381;
James Woodward, Ivan Bunin: A Study of His Fiction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980);
Alexander F. Zweers, The Narratology of the Autobiography: An Analysis of the Literary Devices Employed in Ivan Bunin’s”The Life of Arsen’ev” (New York: Peter Lang, 1997).
Collections of Ivan Bunin’s papers are in the Rossiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva, Moscow; the Gosudarstvennyi muzei I. S. Turgeneva, Orel; the Institut mirovoi literatury, Moscow; the Rossiskaia gosudarstvennaia biblioteka, Moscow; and the Russian Archive of the Leeds University Library.