Vikenty Vikentevich Veresaev, pen-name of V.V. Smidovich, born on 16 January 1867 in Tula in a large family. His father was a doctor and social activist.
The young Veresaev studied at the Tula Classical Gymnasium, where he was an outstanding student, excelling particularly in ancient languages. He began to write poetry at age 13.
Upon graduation from the gymnasium in 1884, Veresaev enrolled in the history faculty of Petersburg University. Completing the course in 1888, he then undertook medical studies at Derptskii University. In addition to his studies, Veresaev continued to write. His first published work was the poem Razdumye ("Meditation"). In 1890, Veresaev visted his brother in Donetsk. There he toured the coal mines, providing him with material for Podzemnoe Tsarstvo ("Underground Kingdom"), a collection of sketches about the hardships of mining and miners, which he published in 1892.
In 1894, Veresaev finished his medical studies and got a position as a house-surgeon at a hospital in Petersburg. In the autumn of that year, he finished his tale Bez Dorogi ("Without a Road"), which was published in Russkoye Bogatstvo. He became associated with a literary circle of Marxists, including the likes of Struve, Maslov, and Kalmykova. And he maintain contact with workers and revolutionary-minded youth. Veresaev's activities came to the attention of the town governor, who was not pleased. In 1901, on the governor's orders, Veresaev was fired from his job and banished from Petersburg for two years. He spent those two years in Tula, probably not bringing his own samovar. It was also in 1901 that Veresaev published the largely autobiographical Zapiski Vracha ("Notes of a Doctor").
After his period of banishment, Veresaev moved to Moscow. However, with the outbreak of the war with Japan in 1904, he was called up for military duty. The experiences he gathered over the next two years were reflected in the collection Rasskazy o Voine ("Stories of War"), which were published in 1906.
Veresaev's initiative led, in 1911, to the creation of the Writers' Book Publishing House in Moscow, which he headed up until 1918. And in 1917, he became chairman of the artistic and education commission of the Moscow Soviet. During this time, Veresaev wrote Zhivaya Zhizn, an analysis of the work of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.
In September of 1918, Veresaev traveled south to the village of Koktebel, near Feodosia, in the Crimea. He intended to remain there only three months, but the Civil War in the area created a constantly changing situation and Veresaev ended up staying for three years.
He returned to Moscow in 1921, and in 1922 published the novel V Tupike ("Deadlock").
In 1924, Veresaev produced a book on the art of writing, Chto Nuzhno Dlya Togo, Chtoby Byt' Pisatelem ("What Is Needed To Be A Writer"). In the work, Veresaev describes writing as a rather lofty profession:
Like a bird in the blissful freedom of unconscious attraction, a writer must give expression to all that which fills his soul, not encumbering himself with questions about the nature of poetry or what are its tasks....Art is wide in scope and many-faceted and will not endure any fetters upon itself.
Veresaev was not an advocate of any particular style or school of writing. He said, "It's not necessary to work out any style. The style will come of itself." Further, Veresaev had this advise for writers:
Forget about any art of writing. Give yourself up to creating for yourself, not thinking about the readers....This will be the best thing that you write, believe me.
This attitude, of course, earned him the ire of some of the more leftist writers, who accused him of ignoring the social basis of all human activities, including writing.
Veresaev then immersed himself in literary research, which resulted in Pushkin V Zhizni ("Pushkin In Life") (1926-1927) and Gogol V Zhizni ("Gogol in Life") (1933).
Another novel, Syostry ("Sisters"), appeared in 1933. Focusing on two sisters who are Komsomol members, it tells the story of a generation born too late to take part in the Revolution or Civil War. Many of these young people feel cheated of the opportunity to undertake great, exciting deeds, wishing that they could have fought in Budenny's cavalry instead of having to work on the labor front. The two sisters at the center of the novel take different paths on the road to understanding Communism. One, Ninka, refuses to accept preordained ideas and doctrines. Instead, she feels the need to be a "great charlatan", to try out new ideas for herself, to find the truth by making mistakes. The other sister, Lelka, immerses herself in the life of a factory, trying to shed her intellectuallism and become truly proletarian. Party work in the factory is difficult. The workers are slow to shed their old psychology, not yet understanding that they themselves are the new owners and that they are only cheating themselves with their drunkenness and absenteeism. Even Party members find it difficult to keep up enthusiasm for socialist emulation campaigns and attempts to reduce defects. Then comes the collectivization campaign. Factory workers sent to the countryside, including Lelka, finally get their chance for great deeds and are ruthless in their rooting out of kulaks and forcing peasants into the kolkhozes. Ninka defies Party orders and works instead for "voluntary" collectivization. She is about to be purged but is saved when Stalin publishes his "Giddy From Success" article denouncing the excesses of forced collectivization.
Veresaev then returned to literary research with Sputniki Pushkina ("Pushkin's Companions") in 1934-1936. His Nevydumannoiey Rasskazy o Proshlom ("Real Stories of the Past") came out in 1940. In 1943, Veresaev won a State Prize.
He died in Moscow on 3 June 1945.