By Vladimir E. Alexandrov

A number one Russian Symbolist poet, essayist, and mentor to a whole iteration of writers, Andrei Bely (1880–1934) completed maximum renown for 3 superb novels: Petersburg — which has been ranked with the masterpieces of Joyce, Kafka, and Proust — The Silver Dove, and Kotik Letaev. Vladimir Alexandrov argues cogently that the main-spring of Bely's complicated artwork is his belief of Symbolism as a brand new type of cognition that hyperlinks the person, the fabric global, and the transcendent realm. Supplementing shut textual research with fabric drawn from Bely's theoretical and autobiographical writings, Alexandrov lines intimately how this belief advanced from 4 early experimental prose narratives to the main novels, and the way it really is manifested of their subject matters, shape, and magnificence. Alexandrov additionally presents lucid discussions of the numerous effect that a number of philosophical and occult structures had on Bely's artwork, and of the theoretical challenge of what constitutes a Symbolist novel.

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But basically Bely abandons the Schopenhauerian world view after the first part and replaces it with one derived from Nietzsche and Soloviev. The consequence is that the first part seems incompletely attached to the rest of the Symphony. Nevertheless, several bridges do cross the gap. In most abstract terms, the world views in the first and later parts are congruent. An essentially passive attitude toward cosmic events is held up as correct in the last three parts. Thus, the implicitly deterministic atmosphere of part one is preserved later in the Symphony as well, although for different reasons.

That Bely himself experienced such a shift in tastes is also amply illustrated in his memoirs, 4 8 all of which militates against (but does not preclude) the temptation to see part one simply as a wide-angle survey of a city teeming with stories, and the rest of the Symphony as a sudden narrowing of the focus onto a few individual figures. A final possibility should also be mentioned. Bely was only twenty years old when he wrote the Second Symphony, and this was his first completed long work after the juvenile First Symphony.

32 These avowals do much to explain why the First Symphony's large-scale structure bears only a superficial resemblance to the sonata form. 33 The general notion of symphonic music may have appealed to Bely for the same reasons that abstract language did in the First Symphony. Symphonic music is also abstract, and, at the same time, lends itself well to a range of emotional interpretations. The spectrum of feelings and attendant inner states that it induces are thus like the content that a symbol can subsume.

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