Information about the author:
Jean-Baptiste Godon, DSc in Philology, Professor, Université Paris–Sorbonne / CNRS, Unitémixte de recherche EUR’ORBEM, rue Michelet, 9, 75006 Paris, France.
Zinovy Alekseyevich Peshkov (Zinovy Mikhailovich Sverdlov) was born in 1884 to the family of a modest Jewish engraver in Nizhny Novgorod. The elder brother of Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov met Gorky, became his secretary and protégé, and followed him into exile to Arzamas, where he was baptised, with Gorky as his godfather, and took the name of the writer in 1902. In 1904, Zinovy Peshkov began to travel the world: America, New Zealand, Italy, where he lived for several years with Gorky in Capri. In 1914, he joined the French Foreign Legion and lost his right hand in battle on the Western Front. He then participated in various missions for France, including during the Russian Civil War and in colonial wars in Africa and the Middle East. Following his retirement, he became a close associate of General de Gaulle and a French ambassador to the Far East. Zinovy Peshkov died in Neuilly in 1966 with the rank of general. Despite their opposing fates and opinions, Zinovy Peshkov had been one of Gorky’s closest interlocutors and friends for over thirty years. Their correspondence contains valuable information on the life of the writer, and on his views on family and friendship. It also sheds light on Gorky’s thoughts about war, revolution, religion and culture.
Keywords: Sverdlov, Peshkov, Gorky, godson, godfather, France, Foreign Legion, correspondence.