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Fyodor Sologub

(Pseudonym of Fyodor Teternikov; born 1863)


In Sologub the sick fantast thumbed his nose at the respectable schoolmaster. One would expect neither in the son of a tailor and a peasant woman, who had grown up in the house where his widowed mother was a servant. For ten years after his graduation from Normal School the young man taught in the provinces, learning to know the Main Streets of Russia, which were to furnish the stuff of his prose. At the age of twenty-nine he transplanted himself to St. Petersburg, where his uncanny verse and short stories gave him the entrée to the modernists' circle. In 1907 he retired from pedagogy, and devoted himself entirely to literature. A few years later his complete works were published in twenty volumes, five of which were poetry, the remainder fiction and drama. He is a stay-at-home, and has remained one, the revolution notwithstanding.

If Sologub did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. The decadent gesture, which was a pose or a purpose in others, is his natural attitude. He sees the universe as a ghastly menagerie in which the beasts have become wonted to their own stench. From this he escapes to a world of impossible imaginings, and fills his isolation with liturgies to his own ego, hymns to the devil, hosannahs to death. His unearthly world is fevered with fleshly lusts. In his lucid moments, however, he achieves the charm of a Blake-like innocence, and his hemlock is mixed with the honey of an enchanting music. His poetry is the core of his work. His prose is fantastic and Poe-esque, yet in one work at least, notably "The Little Demon," he follows the Russian realistic tradition of revealing human nature's repugnant depths.

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