An Exhumation of Lilith, Eve, and the Quiet Children: Western Sources for Sologub's A Legend in Creation

Chris Cosner, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Sologub's fantastic novel trilogy, A Legend in Creation (Tvorimaja legenda, 1913-14), was first composed serially under the general title Sepulchral Spells (Nav'i chary, 1907-1912). The main character, Trirodov, is equal parts magician, chemist, and poet, and imposes his creative will on reality, across the boundaries of death, space, and time. The trilogy has been recognized as one of Sologub's strangest and most original works. Nonetheless, these novels owe some of their inspiration to previous literature. For example, Johannes Holthusen has discussed the influence of Ludovico Ariosto, Edgar Allan Poe, Fedor Dostoevskij, Jules Verne, and Dmitrij Merezhkovskij on the trilogy; Elena Magomedova has investigated the gnostic subtexts of A Legend in Creation; Lena Szilárd and Péter Barta have discerned a Dantean structure behind the plot; and Irene Masing-Delic has demonstrated the influence of Nikolaj Fedorov and Vladimir Solov'ev, as well as discovering echoes of Pygmalion in Trirodov and Elisaveta's relationship. A search through turn-of-the-century Western literature with an eye for works that may have inspired Sologub's trilogy reveals some previously uninvestigated similarities to popular literature by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (L'Eve future), George MacDonald (Lilith), Marie Corelli (The Soul of Lilith), and Anatole France ("La fille de Lilith," already investigated by Shemjatova (1997) in regard to Sologub's short fiction) in Sologub's development of Lilith, Eve, the quiet children, and even Trirodov. The novels by Corelli and Villiers de l'Isle-Adam discussed in this paper may serve as examples of the popular image of the scientist--magus, yet there are also curious similarities between their heroes and Sologub's scientist--poet, Trirodov, their discussion of the nature of love, and their utopianism. For several reasons, MacDonald's allegorical novel is an almost certain inspiration for Lilith and the quiet children, but no connection between them has heretofore been noted. Delving into more canonical works, several clues lead to Wagner's Tannhäuser as a significant source for Sologub's conception of Trirodov's relationships with Lilith and Elisaveta. The key ingredient shared by all of the works discussed is a search for the perfect female companion and for an ideal conception of love. With the perspective given by these European works, Trirodov's quest to combine the earthly and the ideal in his true love, Elisaveta, as well as several details in the trilogy, appear as not altogether unusual nor unique to the context of the Russian Symbolists' zhiznetvorchestvo.