“After All, They Don’t Know Anything About Us...”: Russian Literature in French Periodicals of the Early 20th Century. Reviews by Valery Bryusov, Zinaida Gippius, Yakov Povolotsky

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With the considerable attention paid to Russian-French cultural ties, the topic of the French reception of the Silver Age literature still remains poorly studied. In this paper, we consider three review articles that rarely come to researchers’ attention. These are texts written by Russian authors in French for French magazines: “Letter on Russian Literature” by V.Ya. Bryusov (“Le Beffroi”, 1905), “Notes on Russian Literature of Our Time” by Z.N. Gippius (“Mercure de France”, 1908), and “Russian poets” Ya.M. Povolotsky (“La Grande Revue”, 1911). All the cases are not a part of regular cooperation with the French press, but individual performances aspiring to convey the authors’ vision of the modern literary process in Russia to a foreign audience. All the authors, under the guise of objective reviews, seek to acquaint readers with the literature of symbolism. The ideas presented in Bryusov’s and Gippius’s texts are very similar to those found in their numerous Russian articles and notes, but their assessments of “realist” writers turn out to be less harsh than on the pages of Russian magazines. Nevertheless, for both critics, the appeal to M. Gorky and L. Andreev is only a pretext for introducing symbolist writers. Unlike Bryusov and Gippius, Yakov Povolotsky in his article on Russian poets turns out to be not so much the creator of a concept of his own, but a systematizer. His system is based on already existing views. He identifies three groups of poets and describes the “masters” in meticulous detail. Some assessments made in the given articles seem obvious today, but it should be noted that all the authors assume that the French public knows nothing about Russian non-realistic literature.

About the authors

Anfisa D. Savina

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

Author for correspondence.
Email: anfisa.savina@yandex.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8081-5159

Candidate of Philology, Senior Researcher

25a Povarskaya St, Moscow, 121069, Russian Federation


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