Dry Valley (novel)

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Dry Valley
Author Ivan Bunin
Original title Суходол
Country Russia
Language Russian
Genre novelet
Publisher Vestnik Evropy
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Preceded by The Village (1910)
Followed by Ioann the Mourner (1913)

Dry Valley (Russian: Суходол, translit. Sukhodo′l) is a short novel by a Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Ivan Bunin, first published in the April 1912 issue of the Saint Petersburg Vestnik Evropy magazine.[1] Having come out soon after The Village (1910), it is usually linked to the latter as the author's second major book concerning the bleak state of Russia as a whole and its rural community in particular.[2] It is also regarded as the last in Bunin's early 1900s cycle of "gentry elegies".[1]


Bunin started working upon the book in summer 1911, when at the Vasilyevsky estate in Orlovskaya gubernia. In September of this year he wrote to the Moskovskaya Vest correspondent: "I've just finished the first part of a large novelet called Dry Valley".[3] The work was finished in December 1911 on Capri where Bunin stayed at his then friend Maxim Gorky's home. On February 21 he read it to the host and another visiting guest, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky. Both praised the book, the latter likened it to "an old tapestry."[4]

The book's plot was fictional but there were numerous details in it that later proved to be autobiographical. The Sukhodol estate bore close resemblance to a family country house in the Oryol Governorate owned by Bunin's uncle Nikolay Nikolayevich where Ivan with his younger sister Masha were frequent guests. Aunt Tonya's prototype was Bunin's aunt Varvara Nikolayevna who lived in a large neighbouring country house (and was, in Vera Muromtseva's assessment, "slightly off-kilter"). Pyotr Kyrillovich character in the book was a veiled portrait of Bunin's grandfather Nikolay Dmitrievich (whose mother, beautiful Uvarova girl, died young).[5][6]

Critical reception[edit]

As Ivan Bunin's previous book, The Village, this one left critics divided. Some saw it as another masterpiece. "In Sukhodol Bunin summed up the whole of the [Russia']s past and endowed it with magnificent monument", wrote Sovremenny Mir (Modern World) magazine.[7] Others criticized the author for negative portrayal of Russia's rural life. "Dirty, hungry, eaten through to its very bones by illnesses and lice – such is Russia as seen through the eyes of Sukodol' autor," argued Russkiye Vedomosti.[8]


  1. ^ a b The Works of I.A.Bunin. Vol.III, Novellas and short stories, 1907–1911. Khudozhestvennaya Literatura Publishers. 1965. Commentaries, pр.427-428.
  2. ^ Smirnova, L. (1993). "I.A. Bunin. Russian Literature of the Late 19th, early 20th Century". Prosveshcheniye Publishers. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  3. ^ Moskovskaya Vest, 1911. No.3, September 12
  4. ^ Pushenkov, N.A. In a Large Family. Smolensk. 1960. P.242.
  5. ^ Uvarova family line (on Bunin's father side) is sometimes confused with that of Chubarova, Bunin's mother.
  6. ^ The Works of I.A.Bunin. Vol.III, Novellas and short stories, 1907–1911. Khudozhestvannaya Literatura Publishers. 1965. Commentaries, pp.476–478.
  7. ^ Kranikhfeld, V.V. Literary Reviews. I.A.Bunin. Modern World. Saint Petersburg. November 1912, No.11, p.348.
  8. ^ Kozlovsky, L. The Singer of Sukhodol // Певец «Суходола». Russkiye Vedomosti. St. Petersburg, 1912. October 27. P.248.