Aleksandr Blok Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

ph_0111206252-Blok.jpg Aleksandr Blok Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Aleksandr Blok was the best poet in the second wave of Russian Symbolists at the beginning of the twentieth century. His early poems are included in the collections Stikhi o prekrasnoy dame (1904; verses about the beautiful lady) and Ante lucem (1909; before light), which express his adoration of mythical Sophia, in fact his later wife. His exuberance later changed to a more somber mood, the beautiful lady being replaced by a stranger (neznakomka), in Puzyri zemli (1916; earth’s bubbles), Gorod (1916; the city) Snezhnaya maska (1907; the masque of snow), and Faina (1916). World War I brought a patriotic fervor to his poetry, in Na pole Kulikovom (1908; on the field of Kulikovo) and Vozmezdie (1922; retribution). His masterpiece, Dvenadtsat (1918; The Twelve, 1920), expresses his reaction to the Russian Revolution, which seems to be both receptive and skeptical. Blok also wrote essays about literature, theater, music, and culture.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Aleksandr Blok received no awards for his dramatic works, but his plays were highly praised by critics and appreciated by the theater public. In addition to his plays, he wrote several notable essays about drama. His reputation will always be based on his poetry; however, even though his plays are more closet dramas than effectively staged plays, they remain significant achievements in Russian literature during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Aleksandr Blok wrote three lyrical plays, the first of which, Balaganchik (pr., pb. 1906; The Puppet Show, 1963), was staged immediately and widely. The second, Korol’ na ploshchadi (pb. 1907; The King in the Square, 1934) was never staged, although its material was absorbed into other works. Roza i krest (pb. 1913; The Rose and the Cross, 1936) was popular in print and had more than two hundred rehearsals at the Moscow Art Theater, but was never publicly staged. Several additional dramatic monologues failed before presentation. Blok also wrote critical essays on poetry and drama as well as a series of articles dealing with the role of the intelligentsia in Russian cultural development, translated several plays from French and German for stage production, and edited his mother’s translation of the letters of Gustave Flaubert. Much of his work was reissued in various collections during his lifetime, and posthumous editions, including diaries, letters, and notebooks, have appeared regularly. A scholarly collected works in nine volumes has been completed in the Soviet Union.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Aleksandr Blok was the leading Russian Symbolist and is universally regarded as one of the most important Russian poets of the twentieth century. The Symbolists were interested in poetic reform to reshape the partly sentimental, partly social-oriented poetic idiom of the second half of the nineteenth century. They favored a return to mysticism, albeit with modern overtones, free from the rational tenor of the scientific age. The movement’s early exponents, notably Konstantin Balmont and Valery Bryusov, incorporated French Symbolist ideas into their work, but when Blok began to write at the turn of the century, Symbolism was no longer a single unit. It had disintegrated into literary factions that reflected the movement’s precepts in their own way. Though Blok paid homage to the search for spiritual values, his mysticism owes as much to the writings of his uncle, the religious philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, as to Stéphane Mallarmé, with whom he shared the striving to give shape to the “music of the spheres,” the elusive entities beyond reality.

In contrast to his eccentric fellow Symbolists and the equally whimsical linguistic experimenters of other movements, Blok stood out as a contemplative, sincere individual whose philosophical concerns were as important as the language used to express them. He attached an almost metaphysical significance to the creative power of the poet, and this belief in the transcendental quality of art led him to reach...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Berberova, Nina. Aleksandr Blok: A Life. Translated by Robyn Marsack. New York: George Braziller, 1996. A biography originally published in 1996 by Carcanet Press Limited, Britian, and by Alyscamps Press, France.

Chukovsky, Kornei. Alexander Blok as Man and Poet. Translated and edited by Diana Burgin and Katherine O’Connor. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1982. A very good Soviet monograph, equally divided between biography and critical analysis of Blok’s work. Best known as a scholar of children’s literature, Chukovsky was a friend of Blok, and his account is enriched by personal reminiscence.

Hackel, Sergei. The Poet and the Revolution: Aleksandr Blok’s “The Twelve.” Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1975. One of the best analyses of the contents and form of Blok’s best-known work, “The Twelve.” It covers the background of the poem, its characters, especially Jesus Christ, and the formalistic aspects.

Hellman, Ben. Poets of Hope and Despair: The Russian Symbolists in War and Revolution, 1914-1918. Helsinki: Institute for Russian and East European Studies, 1995. Surveys and compares the work of half a dozen Russian symbolists of the World War I period, including Blok. Includes bibliographical references.

Mochulsky, Konstantin. Aleksandr Blok. Translated by...

(The entire section is 467 words.)