Homosexuality and Reflections on Contemporary Homoerotic Literature in Two Plays of 1907-1908, N. Faleev's Immortelles (Immorteli) and A. Kosorotov's On the Hill (Na gore) (unpublished)

Alexander G. Timofeev, St.Petersburg Writers' Union

By the mid-1990s historians of Russian literature probably shared a myth that homoerotic themes of the Russian "Silver Age" were limited to some writings by M. Kuzmin, V. Ivanov, L. Zinov'eva-Annibal, Z. Gippius, etc.

As for the literary situation of 1907-08, one should mention suc homoerotic texts as Kuzmin's Three Plays (esp. The Dangerous Precaution) and his verse collection Nets (two separate editions of Kuzmin's homoerotic novel Wings also appeared in 1907-08 soon after its first publication in the journal Scales), Vjacheslav Ivanov's small book of poems Eros and Lidija Zinov'eva-Annibal's story "Thirty-Three Monsters." A common feature of these dramatic, prose, and poetic works is that their authors, either true symbolists or those whose views had obvious connections with symbolism, treated homosexuality as joyful revelation changing moods, if not states of mind, of their heroes. The use of ancient cultures and its notions in the "defense" of homosexual love was very extensive.

The basic idea of my paper is to show the difference in treatment of homosexuality between the foregoing works of "high" literature and two newly found plays of minor dramatists of the Russian "Silver Age," N. I. Faleev's (pseud. Chuzh-Chuzhenin) Immortelles and A. I. Kosorotov's On the Hill. Second, I'm going to place these new texts into the appropriate literary context of their epoch.

Faleev's and Kosorotov's plays don't have much in common with Kuzmin's or V. Ivanov's (in Eros) attitude towards homosexuality, but their mere existence in the literary process seems to be due to the fact of publication of such pieces as Wings, Eros or The Dangerous Precaution. For instance, the "dramatic caricature" Immortelles by N. Faleev just makes fun of sexual relations of any kind, as well as of some scandalous contemporary literary groupings and publishing activities and, therefore, can be analyzed as a parody of Kuzmin's Wings, the idea of mystical anarchism, its adherents, etc., etc.

On the contrary, Aleksandr Kosorotov's "comedy in 4 acts" On the Hill (or, in its later version, "comedy in 4 acts and 5 pictures") is a wide panorama of provincial estate life in Russia in the times of First Russian Revolution. Its author said that he had intended to convince the Russian public that homosexuality is a diagnosis of spiritual illness, a sign of the poor health of society. This opinion was formulated in Kosorotov's cover letter to his censor, Oscar Lamkert, when the dramatist had sent him the typescript of On the Hill for second consideration. Nevertheless, Kosorotov's "comedy" was banned, because his representation of homosexuals (both men and women) was serious and, to some extent, sympathetic (unlike N. Faleev in his Immortelles).

I hope to achieve my aim in the paper proposed by demonstrating various principles of writing homoerotic scenes used by M. Kuzmin and minor dramatists. The analysis of literary context and numerous controversies found in the new plays (e.g. polemics with certain ideas of Kuzmin's Wings in Immortelles and/or the discussion of literary merits of Chexov's The Sea Gull by some of the heroes of Kosorotov's On the Hill) will be of great importance. In addition, I will provide valuable biographical and archival information about the two authors of these "implicitly gay" Russian plays and Kosorotov's contact with Russian censorship of 1907-08.

Manuscript Sources/Bibliography

1. Kosorotov, A. I. Na gore. Manuscript Department of Russian National Library (St. Petersburg), K. P. Larin's collection, No. 483. Annotation: Unauthorized typescript.

2. Kosorotov, A. I. Na gore. St. Petersburg Theatre Library, No. 1/K-71. Annotation: Unauthorized typescript.

3. Kosorotov, A. I. Na gore. St. Petersburg Theatre Library, No. 17927. Annotation: First censored authorized copy.

4. Kosorotov, A. I. Na gore. St.Petersburg Theatre Library, No. 36943. Annotation: Authorized copy, made for second consideration by the censor (?).

5. Faleev, N. I. Immorteli. St. Petersburg Theatre Library, No. 19174. Annotation: Censored typescript copy, first version of the play.

6. Faleev, N. I. Immorteli. St. Petersburg Theatre Library, No. 19266. Annotation: Censored typescript copy, second version of the play.

7. Faleev, N. I. Immorteli. St. Petersburg Theatre Library, No.57959. Annotation: Censored proof copy, third version of the play.

8. Kosorotov, A. I. A notebook. Manuscript Department of the Institute of Russian Literature (St. Petersburg), fond 53, no. 36.

9. Blinkina O. E. [A biographical article on Kosorotov]. Russkie pisateli: 1800-1917. Biograficheskij slovar'. [Vol.] 3. K-M. M., 1994. P. 98-99. Annotation: See bibliography and manuscript sources.

10. Timofeev, Aleksandr. "Mnimoie torzhestvo uranistov, ili P'esa ne toj gory," Chas pik (St. Petersburg), 1996, no. 202, November 20; no. 206, November 27; no. 210, December 4. Annotation: First information available on Kosorotov's play Na gore; first publication of Kosorotov's letter to his censor, Oskar Lamkert.

11. Kuzmin, M. Theatre. In 2 books (in 4 volumes). Compiled and annotated by A. Timofeev. [Oakland, Ca]: Berkeley Slavic Specialties, 1994. (Modern Russian Literature and Culture: Studies and Texts. Vols. 30-31).

12. Bogomolov, N. A. "Mixail Kuzmin osen'ju 1907 goda," Lica: Biograficheskij al'manax. [Vol.] 5. M.; SPb., 1994. P. 425-443.

13. Karlinsky, Simon. Russia's Gay Literature and History (11-th – 20-th centuries). Gay Sunshine Press, 1976, no. 29-30, p. 1-7.

14. Out of the Blue: Russia's Hidden Gay Literature. An Anthology. Ed. by Kevin Moss. Intr. by Simon Karlinsky. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1997.

15. Bogomolov, N.A. & Malmstad J. Mixail Kuzmin: iskusstvo, zhizn', èpoxa. M.,1995.

16. Burgin, Diana Lewis. "Laid Out in Lavender: Perception of Lesbian Love in Russian Literature and Criticism of the Silver Age, 1893-1917," Sexuality and the Body in Russian Culture. Ed. by Jane T.Costlow, Stephanie Sandier and Judith Vowles. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993. P. 177-203.