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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

About the author:

Vasily E. Molodyakov (Tokyo, Japan), LL.D. (Political science), PhD in History, Professor, Takushioku University.


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Zinaida Gippius’s essay The Obsessed. On Bryusov, written and published during the hero’s lifetime (1921–1922; 1923), had been known, until now, as a well-written literary portrait and valuable memoir testimony. 186 Notwithstanding, of course, “some small errors”. Readers easily and willingly believed Gippius’s story due to author’s literary authority, her high standing in Russian Symbolist movement, long relationship with Bryusov himself, as well as the possibility to write and to publish outside of Soviet censorship. Unfortunately, nobody had ever tried to analyze and to comment on this essay in its essence. Indeed, while proofreading the text from the historical reliability point of view, we can immediately detect not only many factual errors but also conscious distortion of facts well known to the author. For instance, Gippius falsified circumstances of Bryusov’s literary debut. She states that in the middle of 1890s many books of poetry with ‘strange’ titles (like Bryusov’s Chefs d’оeuvre) had appeared. She also insists that “pure ‘decadence’ movement was near to its end”, and adds that “certainly it was not Bryusov who had created new trends and movements in literature.” According to her, “they were born naturally”. In fact, in the mid-1890s Russian Decadent movement was in a cradle, expressed first in poetical works of Bryusov, K.D. Balmont and A.M. Dobrolyubov. In fact, it was Bryusov who mainly organized this new movement if not invented it. Gippius also falsifies the time when Bryusov had begun his collaboration with the Soviet regime (her diary contains much more accurate information), the reasons for and the character of this collaboration. Thus, Bryusov had never served in any Soviet “censorship committee”, had never published a book titled Why I Became a Communist, nor had he lectured on this subject, as Khodasevich falsely stated ‘correcting’ Gippius in his book review of Living Faces. Gippus is also not telling the truth when writing: “I cannot remember any Bryusov’s opinion about any subject more or less broad. We also had never heard him discussing broad subjects with somebody else”. Actually, her own correspondence with Bryusov, as well as Bryusov’s works and letters to other people full of discussions of “subjects more or less broad”, refute her words. While proclaiming, “I am not interpreting ‘a human’. I am talking about real him, as he passed before my eyes, or, perhaps, just flashed before me, about how he looked to me. <…> Whether you write about those alive or dead — you must tell the truth”, Gippius consciously slandered Bryusov passing the most negative judgment onto him. All of the above relates to Bryusov’s psychological portrait created by Gippius: obsession only with literature, complete lack of interest in political and social problems, ‘inability to love’. It’s drowned in mockery about his social origin (a ‘merchant’) and even his physical appearance (‘resemblance to a chimpanzee’). Bryusov’s description is based on catchy, emotionally colored, deliberately provocative but unproved assertions: “Bryusov is a man of absolute, frenzied ambition”; “Surely, because of this sole mad ambition Bryusov did not like any art and could not like any art”; “Did he loved women, all his “mille e tre”? Surely, not” (italics are mine. — V.M.). This text was addressed to readers who did not know Bryusov personally and perhaps were not very familiar with his work. Obviously, Gippius hoped that her story would be blindly accepted. It so happened, that Gippius’s essay became one of the main pillars of Bryusov-smearing, together with Bryusov by V.F. Khodasevich and Hero of Labor by M.I. Tsvetaeva. Detailed analysis makes clear that the text is full 187 of “false and offensive information” and “deliberately slanderous attacks” on Bryusov’s literary, social and private life and so must be qualified as a pasquinade. Masterfully written this essay may not be used as a historical source.

  • Keywords: Zinaida Gippius, Valery Bryusov, memoir, pamphlet, pasquinade / lampoon, slander.


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