Przybyszewski's Vechnaja skazka in Sologub's Creation of Pobeda smerti

Jason A. Merrill, Michigan State University

As part of his experimentation with mythopoesis, Fedor Sologub wrote several dramas that borrow heavily from existing texts. Almost all of them contain notes from Sologub about the given work's sources; the various archival drafts of these notes show a constant tension between revealing and obscuring sources. One of the most intricately intertextual of Sologub's early dramas is Pobeda smerti (1908). Despite the several lengthy communications ("Introduction," one-act "Prologue," two-page "Note" on sources) to his audience that Sologub attached to this work, archival drafts show that he considered conveying more information about his text. Most of these drafts include a longer version of the "Note" in which Sologub points out the differences between several seemingly similar contemporary dramas and his own work. This expanded "Note," however, is problematic because of Sologub's tendency to reveal and obscure at the same time, as shown by the example of Stanis&lbar;aw Przybyszewski's Vechnaja skazka (1906). In the archival "Note," as if to distance his work from Przybyszewski's, Sologub mentions only one major difference between his play and Vechnaja skazka (his king remains in power, Przybyszewski's abandons the throne) but ignores the many similarities between the two, of which, it turns out, there are so many that it is possible to consider Pobeda smerti a reworking of Przybyszewski's drama. A close reading of the two dramas reveals major parallels between their plots and characters; I will also argue that Sologub left hidden clues that confirm his use of Vechnaja skazka as a source text. Finally I will discuss the philosophical differences between the two works: in his only major departure from Przybyszewski's text, Sologub rewrote the role of the King in his Pobeda smerti to reflect his less optimistic view of man's ability to discern the Eternal Feminine.