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Boris Zhitkov
Boris Zhitkov
Boris Zhitkov
Born September 11 [O.S. August 30] 1882
Novgorod, Russian Empire (present-day Russia)
Died 19 October 1938(1938-10-19) (aged 56)
Moscow, USSR
Occupation Novelist & Playwright

Boris Stepanovich Zhitkov (Russian: Бори́с Степа́нович Житко́в) (11 September [O.S. 30 August] 1882 — 19 October 1938) was a Russian author, mainly of children's books.


Zhitkov was born in Novgorod; his father was a mathematics teacher and his mother a pianist. His works include numerous books in which he, in a figurative form, described various professions. His books are based on his rich experience as a sailor, ship captain, scientist, traveler and explorer. Between 1916 and 1924 he was a sailor and, later, a ship's captain. He also worked as a navigator, an ichthyologist, a metal worker, a shipbuilding engineer, a teacher of physics and drafting, and a technical college headmaster.

In 1924 Zhitkov started to be published and soon became a professional writer. He is best known for the hugely successful children's travel book What I Saw (Russian: Что я видел) about the summer vacation adventures of a curious little boy nicknamed Pochemuchka. He was a close friend of Korney Chukovsky, who wrote in his diary entry for 28 December 1931:

Zhitkov is all upset about the self-flagellation going on among critics at the Writers' Union. He says that at the meeting where Eikhenbaum was asked to practice self-criticism, Eikhenbaum responded, "Self-criticism should be practiced before one writes, not after." Zhitkov's historical novel about the 1905 Revolution, Viktor Vavich (Russian: Виктор Вавич), published posthumously in 1941, was immediately destroyed and republished in 1999 only thanks to Lydia Chukovskaya having saved a copy; Boris Pasternak called it "the best thing that has ever been written about 1905; it's shameful that nobody knows this book."

Zhitkov also featured as a character in Samuil Marshak's children's poem "Post". The poem was adapted for screen in a 1964 animated film, where Zhitkov was voiced by actor Erast Garin.

On July 10, 1939, Pravda, the newspaper of the Communist Party, ran a feature on him in which his book 'What I saw' was very much praised. <Pravda, July 10, 1939, p. 6>

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