Following the death of his father when he was a small boy, Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) went with his mother to live with his grandparents. There he encountered what would now be described as a dysfunctional family with the terrifyingly fierce grandfather at war with his two grown-up sons (and they, on and off, with each other). One son ends up killing his own wife in their marital bed and doesn’t even know why. The grandfather, soon after Gorky’s arrival, nearly kills him with the first of many beatings, which none of the adults are able to stop.
The only light in the ‘choking fog’ is Gorky’s grandmother, a luminous being.
Grandfather’s house was filled with a choking fog of mutual hostility.
Source: Maxim Gorky, My Childhood, trans. Ronald Wilks (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1966), p. 25
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