"He is not with them, he is with us, he is ours ... ": Andrej Belyj's Literary Potrait of Leonid Andreev

Frederick H. White, University of Southern California

Andrej Belyi first published a literary portrait of Leonid Andreev in 1922 and a second version in The Beginning of the Century (Nachalo veka) a decade later. Belyj's memoirs are not typically known for their historical or factual accuracy. As L. Fleishman states: "Often discrepancies, inconsistencies, and sharp contradictions emerge when accounts of the same events and portraits of the same people in various volumes of the memoirs are compared." In the 1922 version, the main motif is the "knowing glance," by which Belyj makes the claim that Andreev was an unwitting quasi-Symbolist.

A great deal of energy has been spent discussing whether Andreev was a "Realist" or a "Symbolist." V. Bezzubov confronts this issue quite well in the conclusion of his book on the subject; therefore, we will not engage in a discourse over literary classifications. It is a fact that Andreev did not see himself as a strict member of any one literary group. His early works are more closely related to "realistic" trends and some of his works after 1906, especially his plays Life of Man (Zhizn' cheloveka) and Tsar Hunger (Car' Golod), were written in the spirit of the Symbolist movement. However, membership in these literary groups seemed to rely heavily on socio-economic background, and Andreev did not fit the intellectual and social mold of the Symbolists. Andreev's personal life was connected to writers of the "Realist" camp and Andreev himself disliked the majority of Symbolist works.

In order to understand Belyj's literary portrait of 1922, it is important to investigate his critical stance towards Andreev prior to 1919. For almost their entire relationship Belyj interpreted Andreev's works in a favorable, often highly personalized, light--making Belyj one of the only Symbolists that maintained a consistently positive critical stance towards Andreev. It has even been argued that this positive criticism was made in an attempt to lure Andreev to the Symbolist literary camp. In this paper, I will show that Andreev is presented in the memoir according to Belyj's own personalized interpretation, following in the line of his literary criticism. Therefore, Belyj's literary portrait of 1922 can be understood as an extension of his literary criticism and as a final attempt to claim Andreev (at least partially) for the literary category Symbolist.