Nature and the City in Elena Guro’s ‘Organic’ Futurism

Marina Alexandrova, The University of Texas at Austin

In Elena Guro’s artistic universe, the development, movement, and change are always given preference over the fixed, static, and limited. However, unlike many other futurists, Guro did not share the modernist fascination with the speed and progress associated with urban life. Quite the contrary, city becomes the site of disruption of harmony and unity of human being and nature, the site of “удавление души” (“strangulation of the soul”) and its severance from the soul of the universe. In Guro’s dichotomy of the city and nature, the former is always shown as a site of corruption and loss of innocence and the latter as a vital source of creativity and salvation. Thus, Elena Guro’s concept of the future as a restored harmony between human beings and the universe, consistently expressed through the organic interweaving (or tracery) of visuality, textuality and musicality of her fiction, poetry and art works, presents an alternative to Russian urban-oriented egofuturism.

To substantiate my thesis, I focus on three of her stories, “Ранняя весна” (“Early Spring”), “So Life Goes,” and “The Feast of Earth,” which, in my opinion, form a kind of thematic triptych. The first story, written in 1905, foreshadows the binary of the city as a masculine domain and nature as a realm of feminine creative force that can be traced in later Guro’s art and writing. The second short story, “Так жизнь идет” (“So Life Goes”) (1909), presents a strikingly dark vision of the viciousness of urban setting and its corruptive influence on a young innocent being; the image of the city is constructed as simultaneously a powerful entity that tortures and dominates its inhabitants and as an artificial creation, subjected to the will of men. And, finally a particularly illuminating story “Пир землиСказка-поэма” (“The Feast of Earth”) (1910-1912), Nature becomes a complete character, an epitome of femininity and a source of creative energy and inspiration.