Andrei Bely  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Andrei Bely (Андрей Белый) was the pseudonym of Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev (October 26 1880January 8, 1934), a Russian novelist, poet, theorist, and literary critic. His miasmal and profoundly disturbing novel Petersburg was regarded by Vladimir Nabokov as one of the four greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Boris Bugaev was born into a prominent intellectual family. His father, Nikolai Bugaev, was a leading mathematician who is regarded as a founder of the Moscow school of mathematics. His mother was not only highly intelligent but a famous society beauty, and the focus of considerable gossip. Young Boris was a polymath whose interests included mathematics, music, philosophy, and literature. He would go on to found both the Symbolist movement and the Russian school of neo-Kantianism.

Nikolai Bugaev was well known for his influential philosophical essays, in which he decried geometry and probability and trumpeted the virtues of hard analysis. Despite-- or because of-- his father's mathematical tastes, Boris Bugaev was fascinated by probability and particularly by entropy, a notion to which he frequently refers in works such as Kotik Letaev.

Bely's creative works notably influenced—and were influenced by—several literary schools, especially symbolism. They feature a striking mysticism and a sort of moody musicality. The far-reaching influence of his literary voice on Russian writers (and even musicians) has frequently been compared to the impact of James Joyce in the English-speaking world. The novelty of his sonic effects has also been compared to the innovative music of Charles Ives.

Bely's symbolist novel Petersburg (1916; 1922) is generally considered to be his masterpiece. The book is vivid and memorable, and employs a striking prose method in which sounds often evoke colors. The novel is set in the somewhat hysterical atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Petersburg and the Russian Revolution of 1905. To the extent that the book can be said to possess a plot, this can be summarized as the story of the hapless Nikolai Apollonovich, a never-do-well who is caught up in revolutionary politics and assigned the task of assassinating a certain government official—his own father. Nikolai is pursued through the impenetrable Petersburg mists by the ringing hooves of the famous bronze statue of Peter the Great.

In his later years Bely was influenced by Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy and became a personal friend of Steiner's.

Bely has been credited with foretelling in this novel, which some have called semi-autobiographical, the Russian Revolution, the rise of totalitarianism, political terrorism, and even chaos theory.

Bely was one of the major influences on the theater of Vsevolod Meyerhold.

Bibliography

  • 1902 Second Symphony, the Dramatic
  • 1904 The Northern, or First--Heroic
  • 1904 Gold in Azure (poetry)
  • 1905 The Return--Third
  • 1908 Goblet of Blizzards--Fourth
  • 1909 Ash
  • 1909 Urn (poetry)
  • 1910 Symbolism (criticism/theory)
  • 1910 Green Meadow (criticism)
  • 1910 The Silver Dove (novel)
  • 1911 Arabeques (criticism)
  • 1914 Kotik Letaev (novel based on his childhood)
  • 1916 Petersburg (Revised edition published, 1922)
  • 1917 Revolution and Culture
  • 1918 Christ Has Risen (poem)
  • 1922 Recollections of Blok
  • 1922 ["Glossolalia" (A Poem about Sound)] http://community.middlebury.edu/~beyer/gl/intro.html
  • 1922 The First Encounter (poem)
  • 1926 The Moscow Eccentric (1st of trilogy of novels)
  • 1926 Moscow Under Siege (2nd of trilogy of novels)
  • 1927 The Baptized Chinaman (Translated into English as ["The Christened Chinaman"] [1])
  • 1931 Masks (3rd of trilogy of novels)
  • 1930 At the Border of Two Centuries (1st memoir of trilogy)
  • 1933 The Beginning of the Century (2nd memoire of trilogy)
  • 1934 Between Two Revolutions (3rd memoire of trilogy)
  • 1934 Rhythm as Dialectic in The Bronze Horseman (criticism)
  • 1934 The Mastery of Gogol (criticism)





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