Authors: Dmitry Merezhkovsky

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Russian novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Khristos i Antikhrist, 1896-1905 (collective title for the following 3 novels; Christ and Antichrist, 1901-1905)

Smert bogov: Yulian Otstupnik, 1896 (The Death of the Gods, 1901; also known as The Death of the Gods: Or, Julian the Apostate, 1929)

Voskresshiye bogi: Leonardo da Vinci, 1901 (The Forerunner, 1902; also known as The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, 1928, 1953)

Antikhrist: Pyotri Aleksey, 1905 (Peter and Alexis, 1905)

Aleksandr I, 1913

Chetyrnadtsatoye dekabrya, 1918 (December the Fourteenth, 1923)

Rozhdeniye bogov: Tutankamon na Krite, 1925 (The Birth of the Gods, 1925)

Messiya, 1926-1927 (Akhnaton, King of Egypt, 1927)

Drama:

Makov tsvet, pb. 1908

Pavel I, pb. 1908

Budet radost’, pb. 1916

Romantiki, pb. 1917

Tsarevich Aleksey, pb. 1920

Poetry:

Stikhotvoreniya, 1883-1887, 1888

Simvoly, 1892

Nonfiction:

Flober v svolkh pis’makh, 1888 (The Life Work of Flaubert, 1908)

Kal’deron, 1891 (The Life Work of Calderon, 1908)

Mark Avreliy, 1891 (The Life Work of Marcus Aurelius, 1909)

Montan, 1893 (The Life Work of Montaigne, 1907)

O prichinakh upadka i o novykh techeniyakh sovremennoy russkoy literatury, 1893

Vechnye sputniki, 1897

L. Tolstoy i Dostoyevsky, 1901-1902 (Tolstoi as Man and Artist, with an Essay on Dostoievski, 1902)

Akropol’, 1911-1913 (The Acropolis, 1909)

Joseph Pilsudski, 1920 (English translation, 1921)

Tsarstvo Antikhrista, 1921 (with Z. N. Gippius, D. V. Filosofov, and N. V. Zlobin)

Napoleon, 1929 (2 volumes; includes Napoleon, cheloviek [Napoleon, the Man, 1928, also known as Napoleon: A Study, 1929] and Zhizn’ Napoleona [The Life of Napoleon, 1929])

Atlantida-Yevropa, 1930 (The Secret of the West, 1933)

Michael Angelo, and Other Sketches, 1930

Translation:

Dafnis i Khloya, 1897 (of Longus’s Daphnis and Chloë)

Biography

Though Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky (mehr-uhsh-KAHF-skee) wrote many poems and essays, he is known in the Western world chiefly for his historical romances. One of the last Russian novelists to write from the philosophical background of “Old Russia,” his philosophical difficulties represent the intellectual and moral struggles of the aristocracy as it lost political power to the lower classes. His trilogy of novels, known by the general title Christ and Antichrist, was intended to set forth a solution to the era’s religious doubts and to present an alternative to both ascetic Christianity and hedonism by fusing the flesh and the spirit into a new religious philosophy.{$I[AN]9810000093}{$I[A]Merezhkovsky, Dmitry}{$I[geo]RUSSIA;Merezhkovsky, Dmitry}{$I[tim]1865;Merezhkovsky, Dmitry}

Merezhkovsky’s early years prepared him especially well for his career as a writer. He was brought up as a member of the aristocracy by his noble father. He had a good classical education and upon entering the University of St. Petersburg in 1884 studied the Greek and Roman civilizations intensively. A brilliant student, he completed in two years the studies that supplied him with the backgrounds for his best novels. He also read widely in scientific philosophy, but these studies left his religious nature unsatisfied. He began to try to synthesize materialism and spirituality into a new whole.

He traveled to the Caucasus because of a lung condition, and there met and married Zinaida Hippius, the leading woman poet of Russia. They traveled for many years in Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor, spending very little time in their native country. In about 1900 he formulated the religion of “The New Road.” For a time he and his wife conducted a salon devoted to the discussion of this new religion that tried to reconcile the egoism of Friedrich Nietzsche and the altruism of Leo Tolstoy, but the repressive czarist regime soon dissolved this unorthodox little society. Because he had sympathized with the 1905 revolutionists, Merezhkovsky was compelled to flee to Paris. He returned to Russia in 1910 and opposed entry into World War I. He opposed the Bolsheviks even more vigorously and was sent to Siberia in 1918. In 1920 he escaped to Paris, where he and his wife spent their remaining years writing polemical tracts against Soviet materialism and books explaining “The New Way.” Merezhkovsky died during the occupation of Paris, perhaps of malnutrition.

His novels, though clumsily constructed, show a raw power in the presentation of impressive historical scenes. The Death of the Gods (sometimes called Julian the Apostate) makes full use of his knowledge of ancient Mediterranean culture. The sweep of historical events is absorbing, and the philosophical theme, though it tends to make characters mere embodiments of ideas, provides a unifying perspective as the trilogy ranges freely over European history. Merezhkovsky sees the complete rout of the paganism represented by Julian as an unfortunate event, but his spirits rise as he tells of the resurrection of the dead gods during the Renaissance. The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci celebrates the restoration of fleshly values to the ascetic European world. Da Vinci represents the fusion of flesh and spirit that Merezhkovsky sought. The Antichrist rises again in Peter the Great, however, and Merezhkovsky is aware, in Peter and Alexis, that the struggle to achieve a balance between the demands of the flesh and the spirit is a constant one.

In his book Tolstoi as Man and Artist, with an Essay on Dostoievski, Merezhkovsky attacks Tolstoy for his lack of interest in the supernatural and praises Fyodor Dostoevski for his concern with both the natural and supernatural worlds. It was for similar reasons that Merezhkovsky attacked Soviet communism: This new Antichrist, with its materialistic foundations, was a danger to the synthesis Merezhkovsky hoped would become a final and enduring belief for all.

BibliographyBedford, C. Harold. The Seeker: D. S. Merezhkovsky. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1975. A detailed analysis of Merezhkovsky’s religious beliefs.Campbell, Harry M. “Merezhkovsky’s Christ and Antichrist.” Western Review 13, no. 1 (1948). Evaluates Merezhkovsky’s trilogy.Hellman, Ben. Poets of Hope and Despair: The Russian Symbolists in War and Revolution, 1914-1918. Helsinki: Institute for Russian and East European Studies, 1995. Contains a chapter on Merezhkovsky.Matlaw, Ralph E. “The Manifesto of Russian Symbolism.” Slavic and East European Journal 15, no. 3 (1957). Discusses the importance of Merezhkovsky’s work for Russian symbolism.Pachmuss, Temira. D. S. Merezhkovsky in Exile: The Master of the Genre of Biographie Romancée. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. Discusses Merezhkovsky’s emigrant period.Rosenthal, Bernice Glatzer. Dmitri Sergeevich Merezhkovsky and the Silver Age: The Development of a Revolutionary Mentality. The Hague, the Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975. Examines Merezhkovsky’s role in the Russian cultural renaissance at the turn of the twentieth century and the political implications of its aesthetic ideas.Stammler, Heinrich A. “Russian Metapolitics: Merezhkovsky’s Religious Understanding of the Historical Process.” California Slavic Studies 9 (1976). Deals with Merezhkovsky’s views on religion, history, and politics.
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