Gothic Themes in Early Soviet Literature
Chapter 2 Gothic Castles
Zinaida Gippius, who left St Petersburg for Warsaw in December 1919, compared her city and nation to a tomb or an open grave multiple times in her final diary entries of that year. In a postscript added in April 1920, she suggested that any diarist was merely ‘a corpse, lying in the tomb. I know that even now, after all these months, nothing has changed in the tomb that is Petersburg. Only the process of decomposition continues’.1 In an open letter to the critic N. V. Chaikovskii which appeared in the Berlin émigré journal Nakanune [On the Eve] on April 14, 1922, A. N. Tolstoy cited a similar trope of Bolshevik Russia as a wasteland littered with graves. But Tolstoy (who would soon voluntarily return to Russia) criticized this image as an extravagant misconception that was already yielding to rea- son.2 In émigré culture, and particularly clearly in the fiction of writers like Georgii Peskov, P. N. Krasnov, and Vladimir Nabokov, the entirety of Russia had already, and irrevocably, become a Gothic space: desolate, haunting, terrifying. Gothic fiction is traditionally concerned with the definition and transmission of spatial boundaries; questions of property, inheritance, usurpation and reclamation recur repeatedly within the genre. The chrono- tope of Gothic is the castle, an ancient structure haunted by secrets and 1 ‘мертвец, лежа щ[ий] в могиле. Я знаю: и теперь, за эти месяцы, в могиле Петербурга ничто не изменилось. Только процесс разложения идет дальше’. Zinaida Gippius, ‘Seryi bloknot’, in Gippius, Dnevniki, 2 vols (1999), vol. 2 (Moscow: Intelvak, 1999), pp. 255–80 (p. 280). 2 A. N. Tolstoi, ‘Otkrytoe pis’mo N. V. Chaikovskomu’, in Tolstoi, Sobranie...
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