Aldanov, Mark

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ALDANOV, MARK (pseudonym of Mark Aleksandrovich Landau ; 1889–1957), Russian novelist. Aldanov was born in Kiev and trained as a chemist and lawyer. He left Russia in 1919 and settled in France. During World War ii he lived in the United States, but eventually returned to Europe and died in Nice. A writer of exceptional erudition and sophistication, Aldanov excelled in the historical novel – a genre in which he had few peers in Russian literature. He also wrote other prose works including several treatises on the philosophy of history. He is best remembered for his tetralogy Myslitel ("The Thinker"), a work set in Russia and Western Europe during the Napoleonic era. Aldanov's novel Desyataya simfoniya (1931; The Tenth Symphony, 1948) is based on the life of Beethoven; and Nachalo kontsa (1936–42; The Fifth Seal, 1943) depicts Europe on the eve of World War ii. Aldanov was singularly successful in blending historical and fictitious characters and events, but unlike so many other Russian novelists – especially Tolstoy in War and Peace – he erected his historical scaffolding merely as a support for the fictional structure. This did not, however, discourage his tendency to devote more time to historical research than to pruning his own work. Aldanov also differed from Tolstoy in believing that the fate of men and nations was shaped not by laws but by historical accident. His writing shows a partiality for paradox and a fondness for a pose of ironic detachment. His novels were translated into many languages but, unlike those of some of his émigré colleagues, were unobtainable in the U.S.S.R. A staunch anti-Communist, Aldanov remained a liberal Russian intellectual, retaining only tenuous links with his Jewish heritage.


G. Struve, Russkaya literatura v izgnanii, (1956).

[Maurice Friedberg]