Sholokhov began writing at 17, his first published book being Donskie rasskazy (1926; Tales of the Don), a collection of short stories. In 1925 he began his famous novel Tikhy Don ("The Silent Don"). The slow evolution of Sholokhov's work is remarkable: it took 12 years to publish Tikhy Don (4 vol., 1928-40; translated in two parts as And Quiet Flows the Don and The Don Flows Home to the Sea) and 28 years to complete another major novel, Podnyataya tselina (1932-60; translated in two parts as Virgin Soil Upturned [also published as Seeds of Tomorrow] and Harvest on the Don). Oni Srazhalis za rodinu (1942; They Fought for their Country) is an epic tale of the Soviet people's bravery during the German invasion of World War II.
Sholokhov's best-known work, Tikhy Don, is remarkable for the objectivity of its portrayal of the heroic and tragic struggle of the Don Cossacks against the Bolsheviks for independence. It became the most widely read novel in the Soviet Union and was heralded as a powerful example of Socialist Realism, winning the Stalin Prize in 1941.
It has been alleged, by the Soviet writers Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Roy Medvedev, among others, that much of Tikhy Don was plagiarized from the Cossack writer Fyodor Kryukov, who died in 1920. Proponents of this theory cite Sholokhov's youth and inexperience at the time of the publication of the first volume together with his failure to produce another work of comparable literary quality. In 1979 Sholokhov's Collected Works were published.
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