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Vengerova, Zinaida (1867–1941)

Vengerova, Zinaida (1867–1941)

Russian literary critic. Name variations: Zinaida Vengérova; Zinaida Afanas'evna Vengérova. Born in 1867 in Russia; died in 1941; sister of Isabelle Vengerova (1877–1956); educated at universities in Russia and England and at the Sorbonne in Paris; married N.M. Minskii (a poet and critic), in 1925 (died 1937).

Zinaida Vengerova was a literary critic and translator who built bridges between the Russian and Western European modernist literary and artistic worlds. Born in Russia in 1867, she was active in the last decades of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. Vengerova translated the latest and most advanced writings from Western Europe into Russian; she also wrote essays on such influential figures as Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, German dramatist Gerhard Hauptmann, and, from England, science-fiction writer H.G. Wells and poet Ezra Pound. She lectured on Russian writers abroad, and allied herself with a characteristically Russian feminism that avoided affiliation with wider feminist movements, instead locating the forefront of women's advances with modern Russian women themselves.

Vengerova was better educated than all but a very few women of her time, undertaking university-level literary studies not only in Russia but also, between 1887 and 1891, at the Sorbonne in Paris and at various English universities. For 15 years, she wrote a column on European literature for the Russian periodical The Herald of Europe. Living in St. Petersburg, she exchanged ideas with other leading Russian minds of the time, such as those who surrounded the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. For many years she was a widely published critic in Russia; her essays filled a three-volume collection, Literary Characteristics, published between 1897 and 1910. Her English Writers of the 19th Century was published separately in 1913. Vengerova spent the years of the First World War in England, where she frequently lectured and gave interviews on culture and literature in her homeland, as well as on the status of Russian women. She returned to Russia following the Communist Bolshevik takeover in 1917. However, she left Russia for good in 1921, moving first to Berlin and then to London, where she married the writer N.M. Minskii in 1925. The couple moved to France, and following Minskii's death there in 1937 Vengerova lived out the rest of her life in New York City with her sister Isabelle Vengerova , a pianist. She died in 1941.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

James M. Manheim , freelance writer, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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