Aleksey Mikhailovich Remizov (1877 - 1957)

Aleksey Mikhailovich Remizov is an outstanding and one of the most original modernist writers of the XX century. In the history of Russian literature he keeps the place of a literary language and narrative forms master. He influenced A.Tolstoy, M.Prishvin, Y.Zamyatin, B.Pilniak, the writers of the «Serapionis Brothers» group.

Remizov was born in Moscow in a rich merchant family. Since childhood he had abilities for drawing, calligraphy and literature. In 1895 after finishing Alexandrovsky Commercial College he entered the Natural Sciences Faculty of Moscow University as an irregular student. He took a great interest in Marxism, participated in students' disturbances, suffered repressions, was kept in prisons and banished up to 1903.

Remizov published his first work - a folklore pastiche «Plach Devushki pered Zamuzhestvom» - in 1902. He considered Dostoevsky, Gogol and Leskov his literary tutors, but also was influenced by European and Russian symbolists (M.Meterlink, S. Pshebyshevsky, K.Balmont, V.Brusov) and ideologically led by such philosophers as F.Nitzsche, L.Shestov and V.Rozanov. Spiritual sources of his creating activity can be found in folklore and Old Russian literature as well.

In 1903-1904 the writer served as a repertoire administrator in V.Meyerkhold's «Tovarischestvo Novoy Dramy» («New Drama Society»). Since 1905 Remizov living in Petersburg entered the modernist literary circle, became close friends with V.Ivanov, A.Blok, A.Bely and others. From the very beginning of his literary life the autobiographical approach had become the constant feature of his creating activity. Such main topics of his writing as tragic destiny, immensity of human suffering, insolubility of the Good and Evil dilemma in a human's soul were developed in a novel «Prud» (1905-1911), short stories «Na Etape» (1903), «Serebryanye Lozhki» (1906), in the tales «Chasy» (1908), «Krestovye Sestry» (1910) and others.

As Remizov thought, the national outlook was very close to fundamental ontological principles of the Good. He had been creating fairy tales, legends based on folklore sources and Old Russian literature texts for all his life. His fairy tales book »Posolon'« (1907) became very popular. Remizov linked the world of kindness and light to the world of dream. He found it in a fantastic far, in former Old Russia and in the mythological space of invented Obezianiya Velikaya and Volnaya Palata, or Obezvelvolpal (The Monkeys' Great and Unrestricted Chamber) - a comic «secret society», a sort of an adult game. The founders of the imaginary state were fantastic monkeys, creatures resembling ideal sentient horses invented by J.Swift, who admitted only kind, talented and cheerful people. The society was headed by a monkey king Asyka, and all the affairs were managed by the permanent secretary («kantselyarius») Remizov, who sent patents to those who was given the honor of being admitted as the members of the Chamber and received titles of monkey princes, cavaliers, servants, etc. Many representatives of Russian literature elite such as A.Blok, M.Gorky, A.Akhmatova, N.Gumilev, A.Bely, V.Rozanov and others were members of Obezvelvolpal».

In 1910-1912 the Complete Works of Remizov were published. A new highly productive period in the writer's work endured from 1917 to 1921. Remizov regarded the Revolution as a force transforming the world, but at the same time bringing sorrow and suffering to the people («Slovo o Pogibeli Russkoi Zemli», a chronicle »Vseobschee Vosstanie», «Vzvikhrennaya Rus»). In 1921 he left the Soviet Russia and settled down in Paris since 1923.

Remizov's main business in emigration was creating memoirs books about Russia on the break of the XIX and XX centuries, about the «Silver Age» in literature and his own fate; the books partly published during his lifetime – «Podstrizhennymi Glazami» (1951), «Iveren» (published in 1986), «Peterburgsky Buerak» (partly published in 1981).

Remizov was a recognized master of calligraphy and an original artist. Since the early 1930s the writer had created a unique genre of manuscript album books which combined a text with original graphics. After the World War II he naturalized as a Soviet citizen, but the blind grown writer never returned home. Remizov was buried at the Russian graveyard Saint-Genevieve-des-Bois near Paris.

Pushkinsky Dom is one of the main repositories of Remizov's archive and museum materials in Russia. The writer's creative manuscripts, letters, drawings, photos, his graphic, painted and sculptural images are stored at the Manuscript Department and the Literature Museum. The core of the archive documents of this period is the half of the writer's personal archive having donated by Remizov for storage before his departure abroad. His individual fund continued to be complemented in the 1920s and later in the 1950s with the help of the writer himself, who was on friendly terms with the Institute scholars. Before his death he expressed a will to endow all his archive materials of the emigrant period for storage to Pushkinsky Dom. It was partially established by Remizov's will executors.

Nowadays Pushkinsky Dom is the world's centre of studying and popularization of Remizov's literature legacy. In 1992, 1997 and 2001 the Institute held international conferences on Remizov's works and organized unique exhibitions: «Volshebny Mir Alekseya Remizova», where the writer's manuscripts, drawings, personal things from all the state and many private collections of Russia were displayed, as well as the other exhibition – «Skazki Alekseya Remizova v Risunkakh Avtora, Detey i Khudozhnitsy Very Pavlovoi». In 2000-2003 Pushkinsky Dom and the »Russkaya Kniga» Publishing House established Remizov's Complete Works book, the first one after his death, scholarly edited and commented.

A.M. Gracheva