Gippius, Zinaida (Nikolaevna) 1869-1945 (Zinaida Hippius, Zinaida Merezhkovsky, Anton Krayny)
GIPPIUS, Zinaida (Nikolaevna) 1869-1945 (Zinaida Hippius, Zinaida Merezhkovsky, Anton Krayny)
PERSONAL: Born November 20, 1869, in Belevo, Russia; died September 9, 1945, in Paris, France; married Dmitry Merezhkovsky (a Russian theorist, novelist, and poet), 1889.
CAREER: Poet, novelist, and essayist.
Novye liudi: Rasskazy, pervaya kniga (title means "New People: Stories, First Book"), 1896.
Zerkala: Vtoraya kniga (title means "Mirrors: Second Book of Stories"), 1898.
Sobranzie stikhov, 1904.
Alyi mech, 1906.
Chernoe po bielomu, 1908.
Literaturnyi dnevnik, 1908, reprinted, W. Fink (Munich, Germany), 1970.
Chortova kukla, 1911.
Lunnye murav'i, 1912.
Nebesnyia slova, 1921.
Zhivyia litsa, 1925.
Chto dielat' russkoi emigratsii, 1930.
Dmitry Merezhovsky, YMCA Press (Paris, France), 1951.
Stikhotvoreniia i poemy: Collected Poetical Works, W. Fink (Munich, Germany), 1972.
Poslednie stikhi, (title means "The Last Verses"), Prideaux Press (Letchworth, England), 1974.
Also published various works under the names Zinaida Hippius, Zinaida Mererzhovsky, and Anton Krayny.
SIDELIGHTS: Russian poet, novelist, and essayist Zinaida Gippius was known as much for her biting criticisms of various contemporaries as for her poetry, much of which contains religious imagery. Gippius, who even tried to start a religious movement, was well known in Russian literary circles during her lifetime and befriended many fellow poets, including Alexandr Blok.
One of her better-known works, Zhivyia litsa, is a collection of sketches about the literary people around her. Her poetry covers many topics. Several poems revolve around the difficulties of everyday life, while others are spiritual pleas to God. Gippius also published various fictional works, particularly early in her career. Her first work, a short story titled "The Illfated Girl," provides a twist to Nikolai Karamzin's 1792 tale "Poor Liza." In her work, which was published in 1890, Gippius, through the story's lower-class female, narrates her protagonist's betrayal by an upper-class boy. Gippius published a series of short-story collections, including Novye liudi: Rasskazy, pervaya kniga and Zerkala: Vtoraya kniga rasskazov. These works also mentions spirituality and man's need to connect with God.
Gippius, born into a cultured family, was educated by private tutors. She married fellow poet Dmitry Merezhkovsky, a well-known theorist and symbolist. Influenced by her husband, Gippius also began to form serious ideas about religion and philosophy. Between 1905 and 1917 the couple lived in a St. Petersburg apartment which became the center of a literary and philosophical movement. Poets and other like-minded individuals frequently came to discuss the ideas of the day.
The couple was particularly concerned about the Russian Orthodox Church. Believing the Church had strayed from its original purpose of serving God, they founded a new faith, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. They, and other members, wrote their own liturgies and prayers and modeled their services after the practices of the earliest Christians.
Gippius began publishing her poetry in 1888. Poems such as "Song" (1893), "Impotence" and "Flowers of Night" (both in 1894) established her in the Russian literary world. Expressing notions of self-disgust and disdain for temporal existence, the author established a pattern with these early poems.
Reaching her greatest fame between 1910 and 1917, Gippius was also recognized for her sense of outrageousness and exhibitionism. Her writings often attack perceived differences between men and women, and she often addressed human sexuality. "She viewed everything that was the 'feminine world' as something uninteresting, boring and banal," a historian wrote in Voice of Russia. "Her evil-wishers gossiped about her 'antifeminity.' But the others said that it was a result of hard self-work." Her work influenced many other important writers throughout Russia, and some critics consider her among the most important female poets in her homeland.
Gippius and Merezhkovsky moved to Paris in 1920, where they continued to host groups as they did in St. Petersburg. They also founded in 1927 the Green Lamp Society, which met for about a decade. While in Paris, Gippius continued to publish various works. Most critics, however, felt these works did not equal the quality of her earlier efforts. However, using the pseudonym Anton Krayny, Gippius did publish Zhivyia litsa. Her reminiscing of St. Petersburg literary acquaintances attracted much critical attention. In one of the book's sketches, "Moy lunny drug" ("My Moonlight Friend"), Gippius details her and Blok's efforts to attain spirituality through poetry.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Buck, Claire, editor, Bloomsbury Guide to Women'sLiterature, Prentice Hall (New York, NY), 1992, p.247.
Encyclopedia of World Literature in the TwentiethCentury, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Voice of Russia,http://www.vor.ru/culture/ (1996), "Heroine of the Silver Age."*