27 FEBRUARY 1948, Page 28

FORTY years ago the stories of Leonid Nikolaievitch Andreyev aroused

violent public controversy ; he was accused of contaminating Russian youth by his " deliberate choice of loathsome subjects," and for a time his fame rivalled that of Gorky. Obsessed by insanity and death, -and strongly influenced by Dostoyevski, Andreyev nevertheless wrote a good deal of trash. However, The Seven Who Were Hanged, as Mr. Stefan Schimanski claims in his penetrating introduction to this ninth volume in the Russian Literature Library, is one of Andreyev's most balanced and important works. In less than one hundred pages, it describes the last days of five terrorists and two criminals who are all condemned to be hanged and who face death each in his or her own way, with frenzy, resignation, anguish or stupefaction. The atmosphere of the book is strengthened by strange and harsh illustrations by John Buckland Wright, and the new trans- lation by Evgeria Schimanskaya and M. Elizabeth Gow is in plain English.