Andrey Bely

Andrey Bely: A Critical Review

EDITED BY GERALD JANECEK
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hwcc
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  • Book Info
    Andrey Bely
    Book Description:

    Andrey Bely, novelist, essayist, theoretician, critic, and poet, was a central figure in the Russian Symbolist movement of the 1920s, the most important literary movement in Russia in this century. Bely articulated a Symbolist aesthetic and originated a new approach to the study of Russian metrics and versification, giving rise to a new scholarly discipline that still thrives in the West.

    Although regarded by some critics, including Vladimir Nabokov, as the author of the greatest Russian novel of this century, Bely has been nearly forgotten in his native country for ideological reasons. In the West he remains little known and generally under-valued. But with recent English translations ofKotik Letaevand his masterpiece,Petersburg, interest in Bely is increasing. Janecek's book brings together some of the best modern scholarship on Bely and the Russian Symbolist movement of the 1920s.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6167-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF FREQUENTLY CITED WORKS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)
    GERALD JANECEK

    The sad fact is that Andrey Bely (1880–1934) is not well known in the West in spite of his being one of the most important innovators in prose and literary theory of the twentieth century. This is in part due to the difficulty of translating his works, but the lack of translations into English and other languages is gradually being remedied (see Struve’s survey). It is also due to the inherent difficulty of the works themselves; Bely will probably never become a “popular” writer like Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. And, unlike James Joyce, he has not become the property of...

  5. PART I: Bely’s Literary Legacy
    • ANDREY BELY REDIVIVUS
      (pp. 21-43)
      GLEB STRUVE

      I am not exactly a specialist on Andrey Bely. At least I do not regard myself as such, and I have not written or published anything about him for quite a long time. I did not know Bely well personally, as did, for instance, Nina Nikolaevna Berberova among those who are here. It is true that I did have one very short meeting and conversation with him in Berlin in 1922. I may be the only one here who had seen Belybeforethe Revolution. It must have been early in 1917 that I attended a lecture by him in...

    • PRISHEDSHY: A. BELY AND A. CHEKHOV
      (pp. 44-55)
      ZOYA YURIEFF

      Ideally, a study of Andrey Bely—and of Russian Symbolism—should start at the beginning, that is with the preceding transitional period, called by Bely “the boundary between two centuries,” where the roots of Russian Symbolism are already discernible. During this period, when a war against tendentious literature was declared and the struggle for new art began, Russian Symbolists sought and found allies among their contemporaries as well as their predecessors. These were not exclusively foreign. During this time varying influences were clashing and merging: Baudelaire and Tyutchev ranked side by side; Gogol and Dostoevsky stood next to Nietzsche; Ibsen...

    • “ADAM” AND THE MODERN VISION
      (pp. 56-70)
      CHARLOTTE DOUGLAS

      The Russian modernists were obsessed with visions of the future. Futurism, which found its name only four years before the Revolution, had been a significant attitude of mind since the days when the Slavophiles dreamed of Russia’s special destiny. In art the general trend to idealism at the end of the nineteenth century carried with it a particular appreciation for things illogical, supralogical, or unconsciously naive—folk art, Eastern religion, the language of mystics—and underlying all these interests can be found the idea that they were “more perfect” expressions of human nature, their very primitiveness proof of their fundamental...

    • TYPOGRAPHICAL DEVICES IN THE POETRY OF ANDREY BELY
      (pp. 71-85)
      HERBERT EAGLE

      In 1929, in the introductory chapter of his monographRhythm as a DialecticAndrey Bely characterized the effect of typographical arrangement on verse rhythm as follows: “whether one ought to print verses in short lines or not . . . is a question not resolvable without scientifically positing the question of the relation of meter to rhythm and intonation; the division of a line is creative composition; the line is an indivisible unit; changing it, I also change the intonation” (p. 11). Two years later, in the introduction to his planned edition of poetryCalls of Time(Zovy vremyon), Bely...

    • RHYTHM IN PROSE: THE SPECIAL CASE OF BELY
      (pp. 86-102)
      GERALD JANECEK

      The thorny question of the rhythmic principle underlying standard well-written prose has recently tended to find an answer in colonometry, an idea first put forth by Boris Tomashevsky.¹ However, the colonometric theory largely postdates Bely’s activities and in fact was enunciated partly as a reaction to Bely’s views on rhythm, which follow a direction that is close to traditional metrics. The subject of this study is the nature of those views and the practice of Bely’s artistic prose linked to those theories.

      Bely’s attitude is clearly stated in his article “On Artistic Prose.”² There he said: “Between poetry and artistic...

    • A PRISM FOR THE ABSOLUTE: THE SYMBOLIC COLORS OF ANDREY BELY
      (pp. 103-114)
      SAMUEL D. CIORAN

      Poets like Bryusov and Balmont flirted capriciously with the symbolism of colors more or less as exaggerated proof of their superficial commitment to French Symbolist theories of “correspondences” and “synaesthesia,” but other poets discovered a more profound and durable complex of ideas which could be expressed in colors.¹ The foremost theoretician of color correspondence in Russian Symbolism was Andrey Bely. Vladimir Solovyov may deserve our attention for his seminal influence with such color symbols as gold and azure, and Aleksandr Blok for his additional contributions of rosy pinks, violet greens, and cathartic whites; but Andrey Bely was first to verbalize...

    • A MEMOIR AND A COMMENT: THE “CIRCLE” OF PETERSBURG
      (pp. 115-120)
      NINA BERBEROVA

      Long ago I made an observation: Russians (especially old men) like to use old envelopes. Rozanov inSecluded(Uedinyonnoe) andFallen Leaves(Opavshie listya), after writing down a thought, puts in parentheses: “Written on an old envelope.” Merezhkovsky would be searching for an address. “Look for an old envelope,” Zinaida Nikolaevna would say.

      Khodasevich had in his possession two envelopes which he cherished. One was old, gray, large, and addressed to him when he was living at the House of Arts (Moika 59, Apt. 30a) in 1921. Bely came to visit him in Mayor June (before my time) and Khodasevich...

    • THE TIME BOMB
      (pp. 121-126)
      HELENE HARTMANN-FLYER

      The writer is a mythmaker, says Bely. The point from which the myth originates is mysterious and sacred and must remain hidden from the reader. Through words—their structure, their special usage, and their sound—the writer teases the reader, plays a game with him. “Thus every novel is a game of hide-and-seek with the reader, while structure and sentences have only one goal: to direct the eye of the reader away from the sacred point: the birth of the myth” (Notes of an Eccentric,p. 63). According to Bely, a writer who does not possess a mysterious point is...

    • BELY’S MOSCOW NOVELS
      (pp. 127-134)
      JOHN D. ELSWORTH

      In the introduction to his recent translation ofThe Silver DoveG. Reavey declares thatKotik Letaevhas no thematic connection with Bely’s earlier novels.¹ I believe that is mistaken. On the contrary, all Bely’s novels are concerned with a single fundamental theme: the crisis of European culture and the possibility of over-coming it. The symptoms of the crisis are the disruption of man’s inner life and the conflicting functions of his rational and non-rational activities, his lack of an integral awareness of the external world, and the dislocation of interhuman relations. The root cause to which he attributes these...

  6. PART II. Bely and His Milieu
    • BELY’S MUSICAL AESTHETICS
      (pp. 137-145)
      ROBERT P. HUGHES

      This brief study is an attempt to elucidate in Bely’s earliest theoretical writings the philosophical and aesthetic bases for some of the content and certain formal techniques of his literary work.¹ More particularly, it deals with the impact of the philosophy and aesthetic system of Schopenhauer on the young Bely, with specific attention to his notions about the preeminence of music as an art form. Even a characteristic outburst “against music” by Bely was predicated on the assumption that it is the ultimate art. These ideas were later modified, but they nevertheless remained fundamental to his thought.

      Any reader of...

    • ANDREY BELY AND THE MODERNIST MOVEMENT IN RUSSIAN DRAMA
      (pp. 146-155)
      GEORGE KALBOUSS

      As was the case with many of his fellow Russian Symbolist poets, Andrey Bely was very much interested in the development of a new Russian theater. During the period 1900–1910, Bely participated in many of the debates among Russian intellectuals regarding the creation of such a theater—debates which centered upon the theory of drama, the meaning of art, and the forms that new plays should take. Bely’s contributions to these debates are primarily in the area of drama theory, rather than through the creation of plays. Unlike other Symbolists, such as Sologub and Blok, who wrote a relatively...

    • BELY AND SOLOGUB: TOWARD THE HISTORY OF A FRIENDSHIP
      (pp. 156-168)
      STANLEY J. RABINOWITZ

      Students of Russian Symbolism are well aware that Andrey Bely’s personal and professional relationship with Fyodor Sologub (1863–1927) has received almost no attention either in the Soviet Union or the West. We know a fair amount regarding Bely’s links to figures such as Bryusov, Gippius, Merezhkovsky, Blok, and Vyacheslav Ivanov, yet precious little has been written about his association with and critical evaluation of Sologub, to whom he wrote as early as 1908, “I can relate to only two or three names in literature (and you are one of them).”¹ It should be noted at the outset that Bely’s...

    • ANDREY BELY, M. O. GERSHENZON, AND VEKHI: A REJOINDER TO N. VALENTINOV
      (pp. 169-180)
      ARTHUR LEVIN

      In his memoir accountTwo Years with the Symbolists(1969), the former Menshevik, N. Valentinov (N. V. Volsky), testifies to the extraordinary intellectual influence exerted on Bely by the Russian-Jewish man of letters, M. O. Gershenzon, at the time of the appearance in March 1909 ofVekhi(Signposts), which Gershenzon edited.¹ According to Valentinov, under Gershenzon’s influence Bely turned away from socialism and was deradicalized. From a supporter he became a militant opponent of revolution, and this change was reflected in his subsequent writings. I have undertaken in this article to refute this charge by Valentinov and to determine the...

    • REVOLUTION AS APOCALYPSE: THE CASE OF BELY
      (pp. 181-192)
      BERNICE GLATZER ROSENTHAL

      Though opposed to Marxism because he abhorred both materialism and determinism, Andrey Bely hailed the Bolshevik Revolution; he believed it was part of a greater spiritual revolution yet to come. Though the juxtaposition of Bolshevism and spiritual revolution is somewhat unusual, from an apocalyptic perspective war, revolution, and unprecedented suffering are portents of the events leading to the Second Coming of the Messiah. The Apocalypse itself, moreover, is a terrifying event involving unheard-of catastrophes in both the human and the cosmic spheres. Comets and falling stars herald the Last Days: war, revolution, plague, and famine destroy the social order, while...

    • THE BELY–IVANOV-RAZUMNIK CORRESPONDENCE
      (pp. 193-204)
      ROGER KEYS

      Andrey Bely, the brilliant apologist of Russian Symbolism and one of its most ardent and capable polemists, asserted most emphatically in his study,Rhythm as a Dialectic,that he was a “formalist prior to the formalists in Russia” (p. 28). Although Bely’s book has been largely ignored or dismissed by later critics, his assertion has been echoed by several noted literary historians. Thus, for example, Oleg Maslenikov inThe Frenzied Poets: Andrei Biely and the Russian Symbolists(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952), p. 81, declared that Bely’s first investigations of the formal aspects of verse inSymbolism“laid the...

    • THE BELY–ZHIRMUNSKY POLEMIC
      (pp. 205-214)
      THOMAS R. BEYER Jr.

      Andrey Bely, the brilliant apologist of Russian Symbolism and one of its most ardent and capable polemists, asserted most emphatically in his study,Rhythm as a Dialectic,that he was a “formalist prior to the formalists in Russia” (p. 28). Although Bely’s book has been largely ignored or dismissed by later critics, his assertion has been echoed by several noted literary historians. Thus, for example, Oleg Maslenikov inThe Frenzied Poets: Andrei Biely and the Russian Symbolists(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952), p. 81, declared that Bely’s first investigations of the formal aspects of verse inSymbolism“laid the...

  7. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 215-218)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 219-222)