2006 | 55 | 4 | 501-527
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This article is focused on the self-creation attitude of a recently rediscovered Russian female writer, Zinaida N. Hippius (1869-1945). The basis of this paper is comparison of her four prose works. All the works contain a noticeable autobiographical element (Dnevnik lubovnykh istorii, 1893-1904, Avtobiograficheskaya zametka, 1914-1916, Peterburskie dnevniki, 1914-1919, Dmitry Merezhkovsky 1943-1945). She needed a particular way of narration to present interesting details from Russia's daily life at the time. She was also trying to notice the process of philosophical need of people involved in the religious Renaissance in Russia at the turn of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Those people were also seriously touched by such unexpected events as revolutions, civil war, and inevitability of emigration. Moreover, they had to change their former way of reasoning and were forced to adapt to unknown political, economical, and cultural realities far away from their country of origin. The attempt to compare all these texts allowed the discovery of a certain sensibility to social affairs broadly understood as a history of development of mankind, being permanently watched by the Russian female writer. Besides this, a reader can follow a gradual passage from self-psychoanalysing intimate diaries, via analyses of external reality, caused by historical convulsion, to a synthetic approach to highly intimate matters with elements of social and political life. (Cf. the rediscovered biography of Hippius's husband, famous Russian man of letters and Orthodox theologian, Dmitry S. Merezhkovsky, widely read at his time.) A characteristic attribute of Hippius' style is permanent reduction of the course of narration to situations, persons or places well known to the writer from her own experience or other reliable sources. In her latest works, she often interrupts her narration to explain to the reader why she has to use unreliable sources, or merely to point at the source of information (e.g. Peterburskie dnevniki). Another highly evident feature of Hippius' autobiographical prose is an attempt to avoid repeating herself. It is visible mainly in the descriptions of situations and people she discussed in her previously works (e.g. in Merezhkovsky's biography). Hence, Hippius sends the reader back to her previous autobiographical productions increasingly often. In this, the authoress is guided by the pressure of importance of the specific moment, which in her opinion means a separate chapter in human history. Thus, each of the works analysed is important as a historical document of its time. Hence, each was written by daily life, which is the reason why three of them were not finished. In the fourth, entitled Avtobiograficheskaya zametka, Hippius evidently disputes her own literary image of a decadent poetess. What is most interesting, this text was written to order: it was completed and published close to the first world war. In it, she declares also her preferences of more objective prose works over poetry. Obviously, it could be a certain expression of an intellectual game with the reader, as it can be in all of memoirs. Moreover, all the works discussed form a draft of self-shaping personality of a person influenced by Russian religious Renaissance, presenting at the same time the means used by a beginner chronicler.
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  • N. Pietkiewicz, Instytut Historii PAN, Pracownia Bibliografii Retrospektywnej, ul. Rynek Starego Miasta 29/31, 00-272 Warszawa, Poland
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