The first great Russian writer to emerge from the ranks of the proletariat, Maxim Gorky (1868–1936) was born into poverty and orphaned at an early age. Entirely self-taught, he experienced firsthand the suffering, injustice, and despair which permeate his tales. Speaking for the social outcast, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, he vividly depicted the miserable loves of the lowest classes who raged in protest against an uncaring society. His sensitivity and candor won him a devoted following. Three of Gorky's best known appear in this collection — the title story, in which a thieving vagrant takes on a young, unwilling apprentice; "Makar Chudra," the story of an ill-fated, tempestuous romance between a pair of gypsy lovers; and "Twenty-six Men and a Girl," widely regarded as Gorky's best short story, in which a wretched crew of pretzel-makers, laboring in a damp and grimy cellar, destroy their only source of joy. Student and general readers alike will value this affordable collection of powerful tales by one of Russia's best-loved authors and greatest portrayer of the "lower depths."