Reading: Bely and Pynchon: Anatomists of History


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Bely and Pynchon: Anatomists of History


Alexei Lalo

European Humanities University, Minsk
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Both Herman Melville and Andrei Bely (1880–1934) have found "some imaginative grounds for invidious comment" on "the capital founded by Peter the Barbarian." However, the former did it in passing, just to enhance the ambiguity about Captain Vere and his course of action, whereas the latter dedicated to this capital his most powerful work, the novel Petersburg, first published in 1916. Who could foretell that a new "tragedy of the palace"–in this case, the "red horror," to use the phrase from Bely's novel–was bound to occur only one year later? Yet Bely's vision of Russia's "Interregnum in Providence" (another Melvillean phrase [MD 311] between the two revolutions–that of 1905 and that of February 1917–was insightful, encyclopedic, satirical, and almost prophetic. Ironically, much like the setting of his most accomplished novel, Bely himself was haunted throughout his life by paranoiac images of provocation, conspiracy, secrecy, and supposedly had a persecution complex–as if he were a character from a Pynchon novel.
How to Cite: Lalo, A., 1999. Bely and Pynchon: Anatomists of History. Pynchon Notes, (44-45), pp.35–50. DOI:
Published on 22 Sep 1999.
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