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Posts tagged Valery Briussov

From the flaps to the 1975 Neville Spearman edition of The Fiery Angel (a reprint of a 1930 edition, now in print from Dedalus):

Valery Briussov’s historical novel, written in 1907, is a dramatic re-creation of a sixteenth-century world in which forces of demonology and witchcraft are real and powerful.

The story of the soldier, Rupprecht, captivated by a lady called Renata, who is tormented by demons, and their subsequent struggles, is an archetypal tale of horror and possession. The set piece of the witches’ sabbath—an authentic description—is particularly powerful, and should be read by anyone who  wants to understand what witches were supposed to do on these occasions. 

For a writer of the pre-Freudian era, The Fiery Angel is a remarkably convincing tour de force of abnormal psychology. Being a poet Briussov had an inkling of the strange truth about witches: that the powers of the human mind are far greater than we understand, and that they can be released by symbols.

Prokoviev’s opera, The Fiery Angels, was based on Briussov’s novel.

The back flap of the dustjacket reveals that Neville Spearman were doing a lot of Arkham House reprints in the 70s.

Colin Wilson called Fiery Angel ”one of the most remarkable novels ever written on the subject of magic and witchcraft.” From his intro:

By the age of twenty, Briussov had totally absorbed the gospel of decadence, as encapsulated in Huysmans’ A Rebours and Villiers de Lisle Adam’s Axel , with its famous line: “Live? Our servants can do that for us.” In 1894, when he was 21, he was part-author of a book called Russian Symbolists, which achieved a success de scandale. In the following year came his Chefs D’Oevres, which was greeted by the press with sneers and derision. In fact, Briussov was fighting in Russian the battle that Swinburne, Rosetti and the Pre-Raphaelites had fought in the 1860s; and, as in England, there were plenty of conservative critics to denounce the “fleshly school of poetry.”

Jacket designed by Laurence Cutting

10/30/2011 update: I realized Briussov is featured prominently in The Dedalus Book of Russian Decadence: Perversity, Despair and Collapse.