Zinaida Gippius

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Zinaida Gippius
Gippius 1910s.jpg
Zinaida Gippius in the early 1910s
Born Zinaida Nikolaevna Gippius
(1869-11-20)November 20, 1869
Tula, Imperial Russia
Died September 9, 1945(1945-09-09) (aged 75)
Paris, France
Occupation poet, novelist, dramatist, literary critic, memoirist
Ethnicity Russian, German
Literary movement symbolism
Spouse(s) Dmitry Merezhkovsky

Zinaida Nikolaevna Gippius, (Russian: Зинаи́да Никола́евна Ги́ппиус; IPA: [zʲɪnɐˈidə nʲɪkɐˈlajɪvnə ˈɡʲipʲɪus] ( ); November 20, 1869 – September 9, 1945) was a Russian poet, playwright, editor, short story writer and religious thinker who has been credited as a co-founder of Russian symbolism and seen as "one of the most enigmatic and intelligent women of her time in Russia".[1][2] She was married to philosopher Dmitriy Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky. Their union lasted 52 years and is described in Gippius's unfinished book Dmitry Merezhkovsky (Paris, 1951; Moscow, 1991).

Biography[edit]

Zinaida Nikolaevna Gippius was born on November 20, 1869, in Belyov, Tula, the eldest of the four daughters. Her father, Nikolai Romanovich Gippius, was a German-Russian, whose ancestor Adolphus von Gingst, later von Hippius, came to Moscow in the 16th century.[3] Nikolai was a renowned lawyer and a senior officer in the Russian Senate. Her mother, Anastasia Vasilyevna (née Stepanova), was a daughter of the Yekaterinburg's Chief of Police.[1][4]

Nikolai Gippius's job required almost continuous city-to-city traveling, and because of this his daughters received little formal education; taking lessons from governesses and visiting tutors, they attended schools sporadically in whatever city (Saratov, Tula, Kiev, etc.) the family happened to stay for a more or less substantial period of time.[5][6] A major crisis struck when their beloved father died of tuberculosis at the age of 48, leaving his extensive family without much money to live on.[7][8] Worse still, all four girls inherited a predisposition to the illness that killed him. Worrying most about the eldest daughter, their mother moved the family southwards, first to Yalta (where Zinaida had to undergo medical treatment) then in 1885 to Tiflis, closer to their uncle Alexander Stepanov's home.[9]

By this time, Zinaida Gippius had already studied for two years at a girls' school in Kiev (1877—1878) and for a year at the Fischer's gymnasium in Moscow where, because of her chronically sad disposition, she was remembered as a "tiny troubled creature".[10] It was only in Borzhomi where uncle Alexander, a man of considerable means, had rented a dacha for her, that Zinaida started to get back to normal after the profound shock caused by her father's death. Dancing and poetry reading parties were frequent in her uncle Alexander's large house, and the girl started to enjoy herself for the first time in her life.[10]

Zinaida began writing poetry at the age of seven. By the time she met Dmitry Merezhkovsky in 1888, she was already a published poet. "By the year 1880 I was writing verses, being so great a believer in 'inspiration' as to make a point to never take a pen off paper. People around me saw these poems as a sign of me being 'spoiled', but I never tried to conceal them and, of course, I wasn't spoiled at all, what with my religious upbringing," she wrote in 1902 in a letter to Valery Bryusov.[11] A good-looking girl, Zinaida attracted a lot of attention in Borzhomi and gained considerable experience in thwarting unwanted advances, but one of her new acquaintances, Dmitry Merezhkovsky, was of a different mould. Exceptionally well-educated introvert, Merezhkovsky made an instant impression on her. He turned out to be a kindred spirit: on a cerebral level the two got on like a house on fire. In fact, so overwhelming was the feeling of 'two hearts beating in unison' that the moment he proposed she accepted him without hesitation, never in her lifetime regretting what might have seemed a hasty decision.[4][10]

On January 8, 1889, in Tiflis, Gippius and Merezhkovsky, ignoring the ceremonial part as much as they possibly could, were married, thus forming what turned out to become the most extraordinary husband and wife tandem in the history of Russian literature. They embarked on a short 'honeymoon tour' involving a stay in Crimea, then returned to Saint Petersburg and moved into a flat in what was known as the Muruzi House, which Merezhkovsky's mother had rented and furnished for them as a wedding gift.[7]

Literary career[edit]

Portrait of Gippius by Léon Bakst, 1906

While in Crimea the two made a pact: each promised to concentrate on what he or she did best: Dmitry on poetry, Zinaida on writing prose. This agreement proved to be short-lived: first Zinaida made a stab at translating Byron's Manfred which proved to be unsuccessful, then Merezhkovsky formed the idea of writing his novel Julian the Apostate.[6] In Saint Petersburg Gippius discovered in herself the gift of a socialite and started to make an all-round foray into the Russian capital's cultural elite. She joined the Russian Literary Society (based on Nevsky, 38), became a member of the Shakespearean Circle (which counted the celebrity lawyer Prince Alexander Urusov as a core member), stroke personal friendships with influential figures like Yakov Polonsky, Apollon Maykov, Dmitry Grigorovich, Aleksey Pleshcheyev and Pyotr Veinberg, and drifted into the rapidly changing Severny Vestnik clique where she made her major debut as a poet in 1888.[7]

In 1890–91 the magazine published her first short stories ("The Ill-Fated One", and "In Moscow") which were followed by a series of novels (Without the Talisman, The Winner, and Small Waves), all "stylistically anonymous", according to latter critics and written for Mir Bozhy magazine which was known for paying good royalties.[9] While writing prose in the 1890s was for Gippius, who had to sustain their small but economically troubled family, strictly a commercial affair, poetry was an altogether different matter. Treating her poems as something intimate, she called them her "personal prayers". Since all of them dealt with the darker side of the human soul and explored sexual ambiguity and narcissism, it wasn't surprising that many of these "prayers" were regarded as blasphemous.[5][10] Some of her detractors called Gippius a "demoness", the "queen of duality", a "decadent Madonna" et cetera. Zinaida's image as a red-haired green-eyed androgynous monster/beauty was far from being spontaneous, and was promoted with deliberation. Gippius was using male clothes and pseudo-names, shocked her guests with outrageous insults ("to see the reaction", as she once explained to Nadezhda Teffi), and for a decade remained the Russian symbol of "sexual liberation", holding high her "cross of sensuality", a phrase she coined in one of her diaries as early as 1893. By 1901 all this had slowly faded into the "New Church" ideology which she was the instigator of.[12]

In 1904 her first book of poetry, The Collected Poems. 1889–1903, was published to great critical acclaim. Innokenty Annensky called it the "quintessence of 15 years of Russian modernism", Valery Bryusov, also a fan, praised the "insurmountable frankness with which she depicte[d] the emotional progress of her enslaved soul." Less infatuated critics marveled at Gippius's laconic brilliance of self-expression and her unusual flair for elegant perfectionism, bringing each finely chiseled gem of a line to an aphoristic level.[4] Gippius herself never thought much of the social significance of her published poetry. In a foreword to one of her debut collection's reissues, she wrote:

It's sad, actually, to realise that one had to produce something as useless and meaningless as this book. Not that I think poetry to be useless; on the contrary, I am convinced that it is essential, natural and timeless. There were times when poetry was read everywhere and appreciated by everybody. But those times are gone. A modern reader has no use for a book of poetry any more."[6]

By this time Gippius had become a prominent figure in Saint Petersburg's cultural elite. The Muruzi House quickly gained the status of one of the Russian capital's new cultural centers. Guesting the Guippius salon was a must for any a fledgling intellectual of a symbolist hue. All guests recognized and respected the hostess's authority and her talent for leadership, but few found her warm and affectionate. Yet, according to Georgy Adamovich, it was Gippius who contributed an "inspiring, instigating, correcting" force to these meetings, being the "focal point for all the different rays of light that surrounded her."[10]

The New Church[edit]

Portrait of Gippius by Ilya Repin, 1894

In the late 1890s the Merezhkovsky-Gippius duet started to produce new philosophical and religious ideas. Years 1899—1901 saw Gippius mixing with the Sergei Diaghilev clique and its Mir iskusstva magazine. Encouraged by the (greatly impressed) miriskusniki's gay community, she started publishing here critical essays using male pseudonyms, Anton Krainy being the best known one.[4] Analyzing the crisis Russian culture had submerged into, Gippius (somewhat paradoxically, given her 'demonic' reputation) saw the salvation in the Christianization which on the practical level implied bringing the intelligentsia and the Church together. Merging faith and intellect, according to Gippius, was crucial for the survival of Russia; only religious ideas, she thought, would bring true enlightenment and liberation, sexual and spiritual.[9]

Thus the idea of the 'New Church' began to take shape, Gippius the instigator of the process, Merezhkovsky its major driving force. Religious and Philosophical Meetings (1901–03), a 'tribune for free discussion' revolving mostly around all things concerning revivalism via culture-religion synthesis brought under one roof an eclectic mix of intellectuals from different parts of the spectre.[13] It was given credit by many for being an important, even if short-lived attempt to pull Russia off the verge of major social upheavals it was heading for. Novy Put magazine (1903–04) was created to herald the new ideas and print the Meetings’ protocols, Gippius again being the initiator. It was an episode when a newcomer Sergei Bulgakov (an ex-Marxist turned Christian philosopher) refused to publish her essay on Alexander Blok that pushed the project towards its demise: first Merezhkovsky quit, then Rozanov and finally Novy Put, having lost most of its subscribers, got bankrupt. By this time Gippius/Anton Krainy was a prominent literary critic, published in major magazines, mostly in Vesy (The Scales) led by Bryusov.[12]

Eager to withdraw from the spotlight, she re-channeled her social activities into what’s been called her 'domestic Church', based on the controversial Troyebratstvo, composed of Merezhkovsky, mutual close friend Dmitry Filosofov and herself. This new development outraged many: even former friends like Nikolai Berdyaev saw this home-made neo-Trinity as a profanation bordering on blasphemy. Nevertheless, as a compact and highly efficient intellectual center, troyebratstvo never lost its momentum, Gippius as ever at the helm.[7][14]

1905–08[edit]

The year of 1905, begun with the Bloody Sunday of January 9, brought all the difference. Never a political activist, Gippius regarded now social change as the one and only thing worth of writing about. For the next ten years Merezhkovskys were Tsarism’s harsh critics, radical revolutionaries like Boris Savinkov now entering their narrow circle of close friends. In February 1906 the couple left for France to spend more than two years in what they saw as voluntary exile, introducing the Western intellectuals to their 'new religious consciousness'. In 1906 Gippius published the Scarlet Sward (Aly Metch) book of short stories, in 1908 — Poppies Blossom (Makov Tsvet) play, Merezhkovsky and Filosofov credited as co-authors.[5][12]

Disappointed with the European cultural elites' indifference to the ideas they deemed revolutionary in the truest sense of the word, the trio returned home. Back in Saint Petersburg Gippius’ health deteriorated; for the next six years she (along with her husband, who had heart problems) were regularly visiting European health resorts and clinics. During one such voyage in 1911 Gippius bought a cheap apartment in Paris (on Rue Colonel Bonnet, 11-bis). What at the time felt like casual and unnecessary purchase several years later saved them from homelessness abroad.[9]

1909–17[edit]

Meanwhile in Russia political atmosphere changed for the better and the Religious-Philosophical Society got revamped in 1908 under the new guise. One element, though, was missing: whatever scorching questions intelligentsia might have had to aim the Church and its spiritual leaders at, were to remain unanswered. None of the latter attended the meetings and gradually the whole thing degenerated into a literary circle with relatively small agenda. Exceptions included the heated discussion concerning the Vekhi manifesto and the Merezhkovsky/Filosofov vs. Rozanov scandal, leading to the departure of the latter.

In 1910 Gippius published The Collection of Poems. Vol. 2. 1903–1909. Very much in the vein of the first, it had the dilemma of a man looking for higher meanings of life as its dominant theme. By this time she was a well-known (although by no means famous, as her husband) European author, translated into German and French. In 1912 Moon Ants (Lunnye Muravyi) short stories collection was published, compiling arguably the best prose she wrote in some years. The Demon Dolls (Tchortovy Kukly, 1911) and Roman-Tzarevich (1912), in which the hieromonk Iliodor appears, are the first and the third novels of the (unfinished) trilogy; they were more ambitious than successful. The left loathed them for being allegedly 'anti-revolutionary' and (by default) 'slanderous', mainstream critics dismissed them as formulaic and lackluster, tendentious to the point of being topical.[9][14]

As the First World War broke out, Merezhkovskys condemned Russia's participation in it, discarding 'patriotic' initiatives of Russian intelligentsia as irrelevant. Gippius did, though, stage a peculiar soldiers' support campaign of her own, starting to produce a series of 'to-the-front'-addressed letters each combining stylized folkish poetic messages with small tobacco-packet, signed with either of her three servant maids' names. Seen as pretentious and meaningless by many, this personal action did have some publicity, appreciated by some as a kind of healthy reaction to the jingoistic hysteria of the time.[5]

Two revolutions[edit]

Merezhkovskys greeted the 1917 February Revolution and denounced the October coup, blaming Alexander Kerensky and his team of quasi-revolutionaries for what happened. In her memoirs (Dmitry Merezhkovsky. Him and Us) she wrote:

Like mice for whom the world is only them and cats, nobody else, those 'revolutionaries' knew but one sort of distinction: that between the left and the right. Kerensky and his kind intrinsically saw themselves as, by rights, 'left', seeing enemies as 'the right'. As the Revolution happened (not 'made' by them), the left triumphed, but – again, like mice in a basement where there were no more cats, - were still wary of the 'right' as the only source of fear, having in sight just one danger that in 1917 there was none of. They weren't afraid of the Bolsheviks - why, those belonged to the 'left' too. They never believed Bolsheviks would be able to keep the power they've taken, never even noticed how the latter, having stolen their own slogans, started to use them with so much more ingenuity, speaking of 'land for peasants', 'peace for everybody', 'Assembly reinstated', republic, freedom and all that….[15]

Zinaida Gippius c. 1920

As Merezhkovsky, Gippius saw the October coup as the end of Russia and the coming of the Kingdom of Antichrist. "The feeling was like a pillow suddenly fell on you to strangle… Strangle what — the city? The country? No, something that was much more than that", — she wrote of the 'morning after', October 26, 1917.[10] In the end of 1917 Gippius was still able to publish her anti-Bolshevik verses in what remained of the old newspapers, but the next year was nightmarish, according to her Diaries. Ridiculing Herbert Wells ("I can guess why he’s drawn to Bolsheviks: they leapfrogged him"), she wrote of Cheka atrocities ("In Kiev 1200 officers killed; legs severed, boots took off." — February 23. "In Rostov teenager cadets shot down — for being mistakenly taken for other Cadets, the banned ones." — March 17), of mass hunger and her own growing feeling of dull indifference. "Whoever have soul, now walk like dead men: neither protesting, nor suffering, waiting for nothing, bodies and souls slumped into hunger-induced dormancy".[6]

Expressing sympathy for "weeping Lunacharsky" (the only Bolshevik leader who tried to protest against the repressive organ's cruelties), Gippius prophesized: "Russia has never had any history. Things happening now have nothing to do with history either. They will be forgotten, like some undiscovered island’s savages’ atrocities; will vanish without a trace."[6] Last Poems (1914–1918), published in 1918, presents a stark and gloomy picture of revolutionary Russia as Gippius saw it. Quite for some time Merezhkovsky and Gippius were cherishing hopes for the demise of the Bolshevik rule, but, having learned of Kolchak's defeat in Siberia and Denikin's defeat in the south of Russia, they decided to flee Petrograd. In autumn 1919 Merezhkovskys and Filosofov started to make plans for escape. Invited to join a group of 'red professorship' in Crimea, Gippius chose rather not to, having heard of massacres local chiefs Béla Kun and Rozalia Zemlyachka were there initiating. Having got Lunacharsky's permission to leave the city for reading 'lectures on the Ancient Egypt to the Red Army soldiers', Merezhkovsky with his wife, her secretary Vladimir Zlobin and Dmitry Filosofov set out to Poland by a soldier-packed train through Gomel, Minsk and Vilno.[6]

Gippius in exile[edit]

The quartet's first destination was Minsk where Merezhkovsky and Gippius held public lectures for Russian immigrants and published political pamphlets in the Minsk Courier. After the several months stay in Warsaw where Gippius had a stint as a newspaper editor (in Svoboda), disappointed by Piłsudski's policy and dropping behind Filosofov (who chose to stay with Savinkov) on October 20 they left for France.[10] In Paris Gippius concentrated on what she did best and has been therefore loaded with: making appointments, sorting out mail, negotiating contracts and receiving guests. Husband and wife’s dialogues, as Nina Berberova remembered, were always revolving around two interwoven themes: Russia and freedom.[16] Always backing Merezhkovsky in his anti-Bolshevik 'crusade', she was deeply pessimistic as regards his 'mission' in general. "Our slavery is so unheard of and our revelations are so unbelievable that for a free man it's difficult to understand what we are talking about," she conceded, writing in a diary.[9]

The tragedy of a writer, destined to live and work outside Russia became the major topic for Gippius. In exile she remained faithful to the aesthetic and metaphysical mentality she developed in the pre-revolutionary years. Preoccupied by mystical and covertly sexual themes, she was also an alert, even if harsh literary critic and connoisseur of poetry, who became known for dismissing many of the Symbolist and Acmeist Russian writers, which made her unpopular with the younger generation in her time.[17]

In the early 1920s several Gippius' works published in Russia were re-issued. A collection of stories Words from Heavens (Nebesnye slova) was released in Paris in 1921, followed by book of poems Poems. 1911-1912 Diary (1922, Berlin). In Munich a book by four authors (Merezhkovsky, Gippius, Filosofov, and Zlobin) The Kingdom of Antichrist (Tsarstvo Antichrista) came out, where the first two parts of St. Petersburg Diaries (Peterburgskiye dnevniki) were published for the first time, with an introduction by Gippius called The Story of My Diary. Gippius was the major force behind the Green Lamp society named after the 19th century one, which Pushkin was a member of. Fractional altercations aside, it proved to be the only cultural center for the Russian emigration where writers and philosophers (carefully chosen for each meeting and invited personally) could discuss things other than the routine of the daily life which for them was becoming more and more difficult.[4]

In 1928 Merezhkovskys took part in the First Congress of Russian writers in exile held in Belgrade.[18] Encouraged by the success of Merezhkovsky's Da Vinci series of lectures and Benito Mussolini's benevolence, in 1933 the couple moved to Italy where they stayed for about three years, visiting Paris only occasionally. What with the Socialist movement rising there and anti-Russian emigration feelings spurred by the President Paul Doumer's murder in 1932, France for them felt like a hostile place to stay at.[19]

The last years[edit]

Psychologically the late 1930s for Gippius was a downward spiral period. The political and social situation in Europe in general and her own place in the scheme of things in particular filled her with pessimism. As one biographer put it, "her metaphysically grandiose personality, spiritual and intellectual maximalism overload, was totally out of place in what she herself saw as 'soullessly pragmatic' period in the European history."[9] Speaking as one voice, husband and wife continued to make all the political noises they deemed necessary, denouncing first the Munich Agreement, then Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The outbreak of World War II in Europe rendered questions of literature totally irrelevant. Against all odds, though, Gippius compiled and published the Literature Tornado, an ambitious literary project set to provide safe haven for writers rejected by publishers for ideological reasons. What in calmer times might have caused much ado and become a groundbreaking step in the freedom of speech movement, in 1939 passed unnoticed.[9] Their last year together Merezhkovsky and Gippius spent in social vacuum.[20] Regardless of the Merezhkovsky's pro-Hitler "Radio speech" published 1944 version's authenticity, there was little doubt he put himself in a me-against-the-world position, if not for the first, then certainly for the last time in his life. The Merezhkovskys were too close to (and financially dependent on) the Germans in Paris to retain any respect and credibility among their compatriots, some of whom expressed outright hatred towards the couple.[21]

Merezhkovsky's death in 1941 rendered Gippius a blow she for quite a while was struggling to sustain. What with Filosofov and sister Anna's deaths (in 1940 and 1942 respectively) she found herself almost literally alone in the world and, as some sources suggest, was even contemplating suicide for a while.[21] With secretary Vladimir Zlobin still around, though, Gippius found her last straw in writing — what she hoped would materialize into the comprehensive life story of her late husband. As Teffi remembered, -

Last months of her life Z.N. spent working, mostly at night. Filling out one journal after another with this fine calligraphic small hand of hers, she was preparing a major book that was to become, as she saw it, a proper tribute to her lifetime companion, the one she referred to as 'the Great Man'. She praised this man in terms which were most unusual for her - a woman of icy sharp intellect whose view on people around her was so utterly ironic . She must have loved him indeed, very very strong.[22]

Zinaida Nikolayevna Gippius died on September 9, 1945. Her last written words were: "Cheaply do I cost…. And wise is God."[9] She was buried in the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery side by side with her husband, under one tombstone. A small group of people attended the ceremony, the figure of Ivan Bunin being notable. The man who loathed funerals and made a point to stay as far as possible from graveyards, this time changed his habits and stayed by the grave of Zinaida Gippius for quite a long time.[12][21]

Legacy[edit]

Modern critics see Zinaida Gippius' earliest work as romantically tinged and largely derivative, mentioning Nadson and Nietzsche as the two most obvious influences.[14] Dmitry Merezhkovky's Causes... manifesto provided for her a turning point: in several years' time Gippius gained the reputation of not just Russian symbolism's major figure but of one of the ideologists of Modernism in her country. Her early symbolist prose carried the strong Dostoyevsky's influence, one of her later novels, Roman Tzarevich (1912), was compared to Besy.[7]

Zinaida Gippius in the early 1910s

The first two books of short stories by Gippius, New People (1896) and Mirrors (1898) were seen as formulaic, maintaining as they were "intuitiveness as the only way of seeing things in their true light" and examining "the nature of beauty in all of its manifestations and contradictions". Her Third Book of Short Stories (1902) marked a change of direction and caused a bit of a stir: this research in the 'metaphysics of love', in the world of 'spiritual twilight' seemed to some critics 'sickly idiosyncratic' and full of 'highbrow mysticism'. Later some parallels were drawn between Gippius' early 20th century prose and Vladimir Solovyov’s Meaning of Love, both authors seeing the quest for love as the means for human soul self-fulfillment and the way of reaching one's higher self, up in Infinity.[8]

It was not prose but poetry though, that's made Gippius a major innovative force. "Gippius the poet holds very special place in the Russian literature; her poems are deeply intellectual, immaculate in form and genuinely exciting," the B&E Encyclopedia wrote in the early 1910s. Critics praised her originality, virtuosity of a wordsmith and called her the "true heir of Baratynsky's muse".[12] Gippius’ debut book of poetry published in 1904 became the event in Russian cultural life. Having defined the world of poetry's three dimensional structure as 'Love and Eternity uniting in Death' she developed her own style of ethic and aesthetic minimalism, symbolic dilemmas (like that of "suffering from alienation and longing for solitude") being at the core of themes. Symbolist writers were, naturally first to praise her very special way of half-spokenness, 'hint and pause' metaphor technique, the art of "extracting sonorous chords out of silent pianos", as Innokenty Annensky has put it. It was the latter who declared this debut the peak of Russia's 15 years of modernism and argued that "not a single man would ever be able to dress abstractions into clothes of such charm [as this woman].".[6]

Men admired Gippius' outspokenness too: of her inner conflicts, full of 'demonic temptations' (inevitable for the one whose mission was 'creating one's new, true soul', as she saw it), Gippius spoke with unusual frankness. Bryusov and Annensky were fans: both treated her early poems as examples of poetic virtuosity, rich in melodic and rhythmic undertones. The 1906 Scarlet Sward book of short stories brought about the new turn: it was a research in the 'human soul's metaphysics' made from the neo-Christian point of view. Viewing God and man as a single being, the author saw the act of self-denying as equaled to God-betraying sin: many chose to suspect blasphemy in this egocentric stance. Sex and death themes, investigated in obliquely impressionist manner formed the leitmotif of her next book of prose, Black on White (1908): again, Dostoyevsky's influences here were distinct. The 20th century also saw the rise of Gippius the playwright (Saintly Blood, 1900, Poppies Blossom, 1908), her later work Green Ring (1916), somewhat futuristic - in theme, if not in form, - was generally regarded as the strongest of all; Vsevolod Meyerhold successfully staged it in the Alexandrovsky theater.[7] Anton Krainy, one of Gippius' better known alter egos, was highly respected and much feared literary critic whose articles regularly appeared in Novy Put, Vesy and Russkaya Mysl. Gippius' critical analysis, according to B&E, was incisive and full of insight, occasionally extremely harsh and rarely objective.[14]

Gippius' Poems. Book 2. 1903-1909, published in 1910, was in many ways the continuation of the first one, its hero(ine) looking for higher justification for lower life tribulations, unwilling to make peace with the state of things where "both happiness and the lack of it were equally unbearable". It garnered good reviews; Bunin called Gippius' poetry 'electric', noticing the special way the oxymoron were used as an electrifying force in the hermetic non-emotional world.[4] Some contemporaries found Gippius' works characteristically non-feminine. Vladislav Khodasevich spoke of the conflict between her 'poetic soul and non-poetic mind'. "Everything is strong and spatial in her verse, there is little room for details. Her lively, sharp thought, dressed in emotional complexity, sort of rushes out of her poems, looking for spiritual wholesomeness and ideal harmony," another critic wrote.[10]

Gippius' two early 1910s novels, Devil's Doll and Roman Tzarevich, aiming to "lay bare the very roots of Russian reactionary ideas", weren't successful: critics found them artistically helpless and totally tendentious. It was at this time that B&E wrote:

In poetry Gippius is more original than in prose. Well constructed, full of intriguing ideas, never short of insight, her stories and novellas are always a bit too preposterous, stiff and uninspired, showing little knowledge of real life. Gippius' characters pronounce interesting words and find themselves in interesting difficulties but it's not for them to become living creatures in reader's mind. Serving as embodiments of ideas and concepts, they are genuinely crafted marionettes put into action by the author's hand, not by their own inner motives.[14]

The events of October 1917 led to Gippius's severing all ties with most of those who admired her poetry: Blok, Brysov, Bely. The history of this schism and the reconstruction of ideological collisions that made such catastrophe possible became the subject matter of her memoirs The Living Faces (1925). While Blok (the man whom she famously refused a hand in 1918) saw the Revolution as a 'purifying storm', Gippius was appalled by 'suffocating dourness' of the whole thing, seeing it as one huge monstrosity "leaving one with just one wish: to go blind and deaf". At the base of it Gippius suspected some kind of 'monumental madness'; all the more important it was for her to keep "healthy mind and strong memory," she explained.

The title of her Last Poems (1918) was not prophetic. She published two more: Poems. 1911–1920 Diaries (1922) and The Shining Ones (1939). In her poetry, prose and essays of the time Gippius was utterly pessimistic: the rule of Beastliness on ruins of human culture and the demise of civilization were her major themes. Most valuable for Gippius were her diaries: she saw these flashpoints of personal history as essential for future generations to restore the true course of things. In retrospect though her heritage seems less dark and more humane. As one of the modern Russian critics put it, "Gippius' legacy, for all of its inner drama and antinomy, its passionate, forceful longing for the unfathomable, has always... borne the ray of hope, the fiery, unquenchable belief in higher truth and ultimate harmony crowning person's destiny. As she herself wrote in one of her last poems, - 'Alas, now they are torn apart: the timelessness and all things human / But time will come and both will intertwine into one shimmering Eternity'".[8]

English translations[edit]

  • Apple Blossom, (story), from Russian Short Stories, Senate, 1995.
  • The Green Ring, (play), C.W. Daniel LTD, London, 1920.
  • Poems, Outside of Time: an Old Etude (story), and They are All Alike (story), from A Russian Cultural Revival, University of Tennessee Press, 1981. ISBN 0-87049-296-9

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Steve Shelokhonov. "Zinaida Gippius biography". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  2. ^ "Zinaida Gippius". Dictionary of Literary Biography. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  3. ^ Christa Ebert Sinaida Hippius: Seltsame Nahe. — Oberbaum Verlag: Berlin, 2004. — S.22.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Gippius, Zinaida Nikolayevna". www.krugosvet.ru. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Biography and Diaries of Zinaida Gippius". bibliotekar.ru. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Makarenko, Svetlana. "Zinaida Nikolayevna Gippius. "My Soul is Love"". www.peoples.ru. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
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