After his debut in 1901 with the novel There Were Once, Leonid Andreev became one of the most popular writers in pre-revolutionary Russia. In his first novels he introduced signature elements that would become integral to his later works: terminally ill patients, fear of death, existential desperation, forms of madness and hysteria, and typical settings - a mental hospital, an infirmary or someone’s deathbed.
Active period of Andreev the writer spanned twenty years when Russia was being turned upside down. Brought by the war and the revolution, feelings of despair and uncertainty made way into his works. Although, as is evident in his novels A Break and Grand Slam, Andreev owed in many respects to Anton Chekhov, the last Russian classic writer of the nineteenth century, he is considered to be a modernist. In many of his stories delusion and reality go together, creating a personal tragedy that assumes global proportions, particularly in The Alarm and He. The Story Of An Unknown.
Despite the fact that Andreev dwelt on such highly sensitive issues as rape and venereal diseases, at the backdrop of which he produced sensational and predominantly pessimistic narratives, many of his best stories are characterized by a humorous slant. The novel Rest, for one, being a light variation of Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, in juxtaposition to its oppressive theme demonstrates the agility of a well told anecdote.
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