I. Grekova (GREH-koh-vah) is one of the most influential Russian women writers of the latter half of the twentieth century. Elena Sergeevna Dolgintsova was born into a traditional family of the prerevolutionary intelligentsia, and early on she developed a love for literature and such novelists as Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevski. She was raised under the tutelage of her father, a mathematician, whose profession she herself adopted. She married a specialist in ballistics, Dmitrii Aleksandrovich Venttsel’, and together they taught at the Zhukovskii Military Aviation Academy in Moscow. In addition to being the mother of three children, Grekova attained the rank of Doktor Nauk, Doctor of Science, a prestigious degree awarded to very few.
Grekova’s writing career did not begin until 1962, seven years after the death of her husband. While continuing to teach at the Zhukovskii Academy, she began writing stories; the first to be published, in 1962, was “Beyond the Gates.” She joined the Writers’ Union in 1966 but never gave up her career in mathematics, even at the behest of Aleksandr Tvardovsky, the editor-in-chief of the influential literary journalNovyi Mir (new world).
She fashioned her pen name from the name of the Latin letter igrek, which does not exist in the cyrillic alphabet but is used frequently as a mathematical symbol for an unknown quantity. Unlike the symbolism of many other literary pseudonyms in Russian literature (for example, Belyi, “White”; Gorky, “Bitter”), Grekova wished, even in her prose fiction, to affirm her ties to the world of science and to extend her dominion beyond simple words. The use of a pseudonym may not have been entirely voluntary. During the 1960’s and 1970’s the Soviet government kept strict watch over printed material and tended to prevent anyone with “sensitive”...
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