Silver Dove, The

Andrei Bely, Antony Wood
The Silver Dove, published four years before Bely's masterpiece Petersburg, is considered the first modern Russian novel. Breaking with Russian realism, and a pioneering Symbolist work, its vividly drawn characters, elemental landscapes, and rich style make it accessible to the Western reader, and this new translation makes the complete work available in English for the first time.Dissatisfied with the life of the intelligentsia, the poet Daryalsky joins a rural mystic sect, the Silver Doves. The locals, in particular the peasant woman Matryona, are fascinated by the dashing stranger. Daryalsky is in turn taken in by the Doves' intimacy with the mystical and spiritual--and by Matryona. Under the influence of Kudeyarov, the ruthless cult leader, Daryalsky is used in a bid to produce a sacred child. But in time the poet disappoints the Doves and must face their suspicions and jealousies--and his own inevitable dire fate.


Reviewed: 2019-10-16

This is a richly poetic symbolist novel about the dangers of sectarianism and Russia's age old dilemma of the estrangement between the intelligentsia and the people, between the Slavophiles and the Westernizers, between East and West, between art and life... all vexed questions of national identity that though nothing new were particularly prescient to artists of Bely's generation, looking for new ways to depict realities both material and spiritual (as the ways of their great nineteenth century Realist forefathers was no longer tenable; I am speaking of course of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, et. all) in a time of political turmoil, with the potential for a popular uprising never that far around the corner. In this light, the messianic and apocalyptic undertones of the novel become clear, and the whole work takes on a chilling significance when one thinks of the Bolshevik (for one could consider them a sect in their own right) coup that lay just a few years on the horizon. The final image of a sunrise (it is no coincidence that the sun rises in the east) likened to bright streaks of crimson blood, is now overburdened with the history which followed the completion of the novel, and seems a portent of the terribly bloody century which Russia and her people would have to endure.

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