We should find a lodestar in the mist, and I can see it: it is decadence… it is our future,
especially as soon as it gets a suitable leader… And I am going to become the leader! Definitely,
|Valery Brusov is a prominent Russian writer, poet, scientist, an ideological inspirer and the leader of the Russian symbolism. V.Brusov’s belles-lettres works are really all-embarrassing. He is the author of numerous verses, novels, stories, dramas, as well as theoretical and critical essays. He is also acknowledged as an experienced and multi-skilled translator who presented to the Russian reader the «Aeneid» by Virgil, «The Divine Comedy» of Dante, J.W.Goethe’s «Faust», the works of F.Maeterlinck, G.Byron, V.Hugo, as well as Armenian, Latvian and Finnish poetry. He was the first to present the works of the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren to the Russian speaking audience.
V.Brusov was born on December 13, 1873 (recorded as December 1, according to the old Julian calendar) into a merchant's family in Moscow. In childhood he was educated at home, by the governesses and private teachers.
In 1885 V.Brusov entered the Franz Kreyman’s Gymnasium, which was the first private gymnasium in Moscow. Being a third year students, V.Brusov and K.Stanyukovich founded a journal «The Start-Up». They did not merely edit the journal, but also were the authors of most works published there. V.Brusov used numerous exotic pen names. His poems, articles, exercises, charades, applications (for example, a hand-drawn map of Holland), and stories to be continued were published in the journal.
When the journal was sought-after, V.Brusov decided to send his works to various other journals. In 1889, his article entitled «In Defense of Sweepstakes» was published in «The Russian Sport» journal. At the same time V.Brusov read the works of Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, and Semyon Nadson.
Being a sixth class’s student, V.Brusov continued his education at Lev Polivanov’s private gymnasium. Lev Polivanov was an innovator, the author of books on the Russian classic writers and anthologies on the Russian literature. While in this gymnasium, V.Brusov read the famous works of prominent Russian writers Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Goncharov, et al.
In 1889 V.Brusov started writing his autobiographical notes, and since the autumn of 1890 he kept a diary entitled «My Life. The Materials for My Autobiography».
1892 was a very notable year in V.Brusov’s creative life. By that time he recognized himself as a poet and sent his verses to the innovative (for that time) journal «The Northern Messenger». He wrote in his diary: «I was born to be a poet. Yes! Yes! Yes! »
In 1893, V.Brusov entered as a student to the Department of History and Philology of the Moscow University.
In 1894 – 1895, V.Brusov published three volumes of verses entitled «The Russian Symbolists».
The verses and translations included into these volumes were signed by different names; however, V.Brusov was the author of majority of works. He used various pen names – Aurelius, Garmody, Moskvityanin, Nelly, Pentewere, Spassky, Comrade Herman, et al. The responses and reviews of the books were negative. V.Brusov came to a conclusion that the Russian speaking audience should have read the works of the foreign symbolists to comprehend the aesthetics of symbolism. In late December of 1894, his translation of P.Verlaine’s almanac entitled «Romances without Words» was published.
The almanac published in Moscow in 1895 was entitled «Chefs D’œuvre» («The Masterpieces») and signed by V.Brusov’s proper name. The almanac published in 1897 was entitled «Me Eum Esse» («It’s Me»). The book was marked by the poet’s own style notable for egocentricity and bright artistic images, as opposed to the sad petty-bourgeois world.
The book «On Art», where V.Brusov argues with the theses set forward by Leo Tolstoy in the essay entitled «What is Art? », was written in 1899. Both V.Brusov and L.Tolstoy believed that the art was a means of communication. However, proceeding from «a common thesis», V.Brusov and L.Tolstoy came to the controversial conclusions: while L.Tolstoy tended to restrict the form and content of the sphere of creative activity, V.Brusov was a proponent of complete freedom in art.
In 1901, V.Brusov (together with Sergey Polyakov and Jurgis Baltrushaitis), founded in Moscow «The Scorpio» Publishing House, aiming to meet the needs and requirements of the new, decadent branch of literature.
On the same year, the almanac «Tertia Vigilia» was published. The peculiarity of this book was the inclusion of V.Brusov’s original and translated works in it. The book got a more positive review as compared with V.Brusov’s previous almanac. The series «The Sweethearts of Centuries» first appeared here, with the topic later transferring into the leading motive in V.Brusov’s creative activities.
The almanac entitled «Urbi et Orbi» was published in 1903, with the urban topic being more significant. The poet described a big city’s life, his interest in the reality is becoming obvious, and he was the first to depict the life of a new, capitalist city. This topic became indispensable accessory of his poetry.
In 1904-1909 V.Brusov was the editor of the journal «Vesy» («The Scale») which became a leading literary publication of the Russian symbolist movement. The readers of the journal got acquainted with the masterpieces and newest tendencies of the contemporary poetry, new books, performances and exhibitions. The representatives of the journal were the first to keep in touch with the creators of various similar international editions.
In 1906, V.Brusov’s almanac entitled «Stephanos» was published. The almanac opens by «The Evening Songs» series, where the poet carols exotic nature and everyday life, love, et al. Andrey Bely called him «a poet of passion».
In 1908, V.Brusov published an almanac «The Roads and Crossroads», where he had summed up his creative achievements being on the verge of search for new tendencies.
On the same year, «The Fiery Angel» was published. In this novel V.Brusov made an attempt of Russianization of the Western European adventure novel. However, the feedback of literary critics was quite restrained. It was too fantastic to be considered as a historical novel and too non-realistic to become a psychological one.
On the next year, the almanac «The French Lyricists of the XX Century» was issued.
V.Brusov’s first storybook entitled «The Earth’s Axis» was published in 1910.
In 1911, the almanac «The Collection of Verses» by Paul Verlaine translated by V.Brusov, with a brief critical and biographical essay, bibliography and 6 portraits, was published.
In 1912, the almanacs «Those Far and Near» and «The Mirror of Shadows» were published. In 1913, the «Sirin» Publishing House initiated the publication of V.Brusov’s complete works. In total, the «Sirin» issued 8 uncoordinated volumes; however, initially they had intended to issue 25 volumes.
| On the same year, the almanac «The Verses to Nelly» was published. The title of the almanac was equivocal: the verses were either written by Nelly or dedicated to her. Actually V.Brusov was the author of the book, though he meticulously concealed the fact. The book was dedicated to N.Lvova and was not included in any of V.Brusov’s posthumous publications, since the literary critics had considered it to be an unsuccessful joke.
The almanac «Nights and Days» was issued on the same year.
In 1914, V.Brusov went to the frontline of the World War I as a war correspondent, to track and survey military events. He told about the heroes of the battles, recorded the conversations with soldiers, pilots, reflected the moods of the participants of military events and his own impressions of what he had seen and experienced. This experience resulted in the rethink of V.Brusov’s attitudes.
In 1915, on Maxim Gorky’s invitation, V.Brusov cooperated with «The Chronicle» journal. At the same time, the representatives of «The Moscow Armenian Committee» initiated the publication of the anthology of Armenian poetry. Responding to the offer to become the editor of the almanac, V.Brusov accomplished a titanic task: he translated and edited the best examples of Armenian poetry. V.Brusov proved himself not to be merely a translator but also an editor, researcher, compiler, organizer, and remained a herald of the Armenian culture until the end of his days. V.Brusov engaged into the translation activities such notable Russian poets of that period as Alexander Blok, Konstantin Balmont, Vyacheslav Ivanov, et al. This enlightens the extent of a tremendous and devoted labor implemented by V.Brusov for the creation of the «Poetry of Armenia». As a result, the standard of the anthology of Armenian poetry was created, and V.Brusov’s translations were recognized as exemplary ones.
Without being restricted to the frames of the translation activity V.Brusov also learned the history of Armenia and actually unveiled the enormous richness of multi-centennial Armenian poetry to the Russian readers. The almanac had a tremendous feedback.
In 1916, V.Brusov published the almanacs «Seven Colors of the Rainbow», «A Compilation of the Latvian literature», «A Compilation of the Armenian Literature», where the translations of Raphael Patkanyan, Vahan Teryan, Alexander Tsaturyan, Avetik Isahakyan, and others were included.
In 1917, Alexander Pushikn’s poem «Egyptian Nights» was published. It is worth to note that the story’s final was written by V.Brusov. On the same year, «A Compilation of the Finnish Literature» almanac was published.
V.Brusov’s enormous work entitled «The Experiences on Metrics and Rhythm, on Euphony and Consonance, on Strophe and Forms. The verses of 1912-1918» was published in 1918.
On the same year, the book «The Chronicle of Historical Destinies of the Armenian nation from VI BC up to the Present Days» was published.
After the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia, V.Brusov did not emigrate from the country. He accepted the Soviet power and got actively involved in cooperation with the Soviet institutions. Since 1918 to 1919 he was the Head of the Library Department of the People’s Commissariat for Education and the Moscow Library Department. In December 1919, V.Brusov was appointed as a deputy head of the Literary Department of the People’s Commissariat for Education, and on November 22, 1920, he became the Head of the Department. In 1920, V.Brusov joined the Communist Party, yet his relations with the new authorities were quite complicated. However, Vladimir Lenin’s death impressed V.Brusov: the poet’s moods are reflected in a cantata entitled «On Lenin’s Death».
V.Brusov combined his literary activities with quite unexpected position at the Central Department on Horse Breeding, where he elaborated a strict structure of horse breeding schools.
In 1921, V.Brusov established the Supreme Institute of Literature and Art. He was not merely its founder, but also an ideological inspirer, the professor and rector till the end of his life. A lot of talented writers and poets are among the Institute’s graduates: a specialist in literature Boris Purishev, novelists Lev Sheynin, Ivan Katayev, poets Elena Blaginina and Nikolay Dementiev, et al. On the same year V.Brusov started his experiments with what is called now «the scientific poetry» in the almanacs «The Distant Territories» and «Mea». The latter was published on the day of the poet’s death. V.Brusov’s «scientific poetry» was somewhat unusual for the readers, since the poet used scientific terminology from mathematics, astronomy, biology, history and other sciences, trying to draw parallels between the science and art. The feedbacks to V.Brusov’s experiment were quite ambiguous: from ironical and negative attitude to the attempts to characterize the author’s interest in the scientific terminology as «a creative upraise».
In 1923, in connection with his 50th anniversary, V.Brusov received a charter from the Soviet government, in which the poet’s numerous merits before «the whole country» were mentioned and the government expressed «the gratitude of the Workers’ and Peasants’ government».
On December 16, 1923, V.Brusov’s 50th anniversary was solemnly celebrated at the Academy of Arts, and on December 17 of the same year at the Moscow «Bolshoi Theatre». The delegation of Soviet Armenia was present at this ceremony. An Armenian gusan (rhapsode) performed a song by Sayat-Nova, who was V.Brusov’s beloved poet, and placed a national musical instrument «kemancha» to the poet’s feet as a sign of the Armenian people’s gratitude to their friend. At the same time the government of the newly founded Republic rendered to V.Brusov the honorary title of a People’s Poet of Armenia for his contribution in promoting the Armenian poetry among the Russian readers and learning Armenia’s centuries-old culture.
The poet had numerous new ideas and creative, organizational and publishing plans and projects, which regretfully never came to realization. In less than a year after the solemn celebration of his 50th anniversary at the Moscow «Bolshoi Theatre», Valery Brusov passed away on October 9, 1924.
V.Brusov’s great creative heritage, his image of an encyclopedically educated, erudite person, the witness of two wars and three revolutions, motivates a reader to a constant deepening of his/her knowledge and skills, to be able to read the masterpieces of the world literature and culture. «If I could live a hundred lives I wouldn’t be able to satisfy my thirst for knowledge», said V.Brusov. His words stimulate a reader to take more and more of the worldwide literature’s masterpieces.