Chukovsky Korney Ivanovich
Chukovsky, Korney Ivanovich,
pseudonym of NIKOLAY VASILYEVICH KORNEYCHUKOV (b. March 31 [March 19, Old Style], 1882, St. Petersburg, Russian Empire—d. Oct. 28, 1969, Moscow), Russian literary critic, language theorist, translator, and author of children’s books, often called the first modern Russian writer for children.
After completing his education, Chukovsky pursued a career in journalism, writing for an Odessa newspaper from 1901 to 1905, for two of those years as a correspondent in London. He subsequently (1905-08) edited the satiric journal Signal and began, with a book on Leonid Andreyev, a series of memoirs and analyses that would span three generations of Russian literary life. It was also during this period that he began making translations of works by English and American authors, notably Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman.
While his translations and criticism, particularly his lifelong study of the 19th-century poet Nikolay Nekrasov, were highly esteemed, Chukovsky’s larger reputation rests on his writings for and about children. A number of his verse tales, including Krokodil (1917; «The Crocodile»), Moydodyr (1923; «Wash ‘Em Clean»), and Tarakanishche (1923; «The Giant Roach»), are regarded as classics of the form; their clockwork rhythms and air of mischief and lightness in effect dispelled the plodding stodginess that had characterized prerevolutionary children’s poetry. The conventional themes of cooperative action and social responsibility are always subordinate to the vivid stories themselves, which are generally fantasies based on everyday situations or on creatures familiar to children. Adaptations of these tales for the theater, motion pictures, and even opera and ballet (Sergey Prokofiev produced several of them) remained perennially popular throughout the 20th century.
Chukovsky’s study of the language of children, Ot dvukh do pyati (1933; «From Two to Five»), became a favorite guidebook for parents of small children and appeared in more than 20 editions.