Sanin is a novel by the Russian writer Mikhail Artsybashev. It has an interesting history being written by a 26-year-old in 1904 – at the peak of the various changes in Russian society (democratic activities, first democratically-elected Duma, as well as the Russian Revolution of 1905). It was published and criticized in 1907, the year of one of the most horrific political reactions in Russian history. When Artsybashev emigrated to Poland after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he was condemned by the Soviet authorities and his books were banned from publication, only to be revealed afresh to readers in the 1990s.
Sanin is a novel of true originality of form and content. Its hero, twenty-something Sanin, after a long absence from home, comes back to visit his mother and sister. During his stay he meets various people, some of whom are neutral, amazed, threatened or excited by his way of thinking about the world and human existence. Sanin remains confident and self-assured having seduced and deflowered a local virgin, but at the end of the book leaves town under a cloud.
Of Sanin Colin Wilson wrote:
"The book's hero sneers at the unhealthy moral preoccupations of most Russians, and preaches a doctrine of sunlight and frank sensuality. The book had an enormous impact on Russian youth, who were eager to put its doctrines into practice. Probably no book in world literature has been responsible for the loss of so many maidenheads." [Colin Wilson, Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs, New York, 1964.]
Sanin deserves more study in English, Colin adds.
The novelty of Sanin lies in its insertion of progressive and liberal thoughts and ideals in the literary form of a novel. Critics in 1907 and later in the Russian SFSR were furious to find such views as Sanin's in existence. They put their efforts to discrediting the book, whose references to the Bible, Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and whose precipitation of the dramatic changes in the morality and political life of the following decades were, in their view, dangerous for the Russian people.