Lekala Bashmachkov Gnomika

Engraving of Leskov 1862 saw the launch of Leskov's literary career, with the publication of 'The Extinguished Flame' (later re-issued as 'The Drought') in the March issue of magazine, edited by, followed by the short novels (May 1863) and (September, 1863). In August the compilation Three stories by M. Stebnitsky came out. Another trip, to in summer, resulted in a report on the community there, which was published as a brochure at the end of the year. In February 1864 magazine began serially publishing his debut novel (the April and May issues of the magazine, stopped by the censors, came out in June).

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The novel bore 'every sign of haste and literary incompetence,' as its author later admitted, but proved to be a powerful debut in its own way. No Way Out, which satirized nihilist communes on the one hand and praised the virtues of the common people and the powers of Christian values on the other, scandalized critics of the radical left who discovered that for most of the characters real life prototypes could be found, and its central figure, Beloyartsev, was obviously a caricature of author and social activist. All this seemed to confirm the view, now firmly rooted in the Russian literary community, that Leskov was a right-wing, 'reactionary' author.

In April wrote in his review 'A Walk In the Garden of Russian Literature' (, 1865, No.3): 'Can any other magazine be found anywhere in Russia, besides, that would venture to publish anything written by and signed as, Stebnitsky? Could one single honest writer be found in Russia who would be so careless, so indifferent regarding his reputation, as to contribute to a magazine that adorns itself with novels and novellas by Stebnitsky?' The social democrat-controlled press started spreading rumours that No Way Out had been 'commissioned' by the Interior Ministry's. What Leskov condemned as 'a vicious libel' caused great harm to his career: popular journals boycotted him, while of the conservative The Russian Messenger greeted him as a political ally.

Major works [ ] Leskov's novel, (written in Kiev in November 1864 and published in Dostoevsky's magazine in January 1865) and his novella ( Otechestvennye zapiski, No.7, 1866), both 'pictures of almost unrelieved wickedness and passion', were ignored by contemporary critics but were praised decades later as masterpieces, containing powerful depictions of highly expressive female characters from different classes and walks of life. Both, marked by a peculiar 'Leskovian' sense of humour, were written in the manner, a unique folk-ish style of writing, which Leskov, along with, was later declared an originator of. Two more novellas came out at this time: (Oboydyonnye; Otechestvennye Zapiski, 1865) which targeted 's novel, and (1866), about the everyday life of 's German community.

It was in these years that Leskov debuted as a dramatist. The Spendthrift (Rastratchik), published by Literaturnaya biblioteka in May 1867, was staged first at the (as a benefit for actress E. Levkeeva), then in December at Moscow's (with E. Chumakovskaya in the lead).

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The play was poorly received for 'conveying pessimism and asocial tendencies.' All the while Leskov was working as a critic: his six-part series of essays on the St. Petersburg Drama Theater was completed in December 1867. In February 1868 Stories by M.Stebnitsky (Volume 1) came out in Saint Petersburg to be followed by Volume 2 in April; both were criticized by the leftist press, in particular. In 1870 Leskov published the novel, another attack aimed at the nihilist movement which, as the author saw it, was quickly merging with the Russian criminal community. Leskov's 'political' novels (according to Mirsky) were not among his masterpieces, but they were enough to turn him into 'a bogey figure for all the radicals in literature and made it impossible for any of the influential critics to treat him with even a modicum of objectivity.' Leskov would later refer to the novel as a failure and blamed Katkov's incessant interference for it.