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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

  • Classification – name: Literary studies
  • Author: Vadim V. Polonsky
  • Pages: 20–45
  • Publisher: A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS Publ.)
  • Rights – description: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 (СС BY-ND)
  • Rights – URL: Visit Website
  • Language of the publication: Russian
  • Type of document: Research Article
  • Collection: The Merezhkovskys and Europe
  • DOI:
  • EDN:

  • Year of publication: 2023
  • Place of publication: Moscow
  • PDF

  • Polonsky, V.V. “‛Conjurer’ of the Wrong World: the Biographical Work of Dmitry Merezhkovsky in the Context of Life Description Genre Traditions.” Тhe Merezhkovskys and Europe. Eds. by Vadim V. Polonsky, Elena A. Andrushchenko, Оlga А. Blinova, Vera M. Vvedenskaya. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2023, pp. 20–45. (In Russ.)

Information about the author:

Vadim V. Polonsky, DSc in Philology, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 а, 121069 Moscow, Russia; Professor, Sichuan University, No. 24, South Section 1, Yihuan Road, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, 610065, China.


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Western criticism often compared Merezhkovsky’s historical and biographical writing with the archaeology of Georg Ebers, the aesthetic stylization of Flaubert as the author of “Salammbô” and the universals of Hippolyte Taine. At the same time, the question of the nature of the impressive similarity between the biographies of Napoleon created by Léon Bloy and Merezhkovsky remains open, since there is indirect evidence, still not verified, in favour of the influence of the Russian writer’s early texts on the French author. It is important to correlate Merezhkovsky’s late works with the genre repertoire of the rightwing religious traditionalism line — deliberately stigmatized and discredited in the prevailing axiology of culture after the Second World War. The article examines Merezhkovsky’s life-writing work in the context of the main trends in biography of the XX century: hermeneutical-phenomenological, fictional, and functional. The conclusion is made about the belonging of the Russian writer to the functional one. It is emphasized that in the first of them Merezhkovsky acts as a compiler, who preserved in one work a compendium of common places of the Russian Danteana of the “Silver age”. As for “Napoleon”, the subforms of Fate tragedy and hagiography are revealed in the genre whole of this text. It is proved that the total sacralization of the worldview in the work finds typological correspondence, on the one hand, in “Catholic renewal” literature, and on the other one, in autohagiographical works of the Russian Old Believer tradition.

  • Keywords: literary biography, hagiography, historiosophy, Fate tragedy, Symbolist sacralisation.


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