Saturday, October 31, 2015
A Shaman in Paris
Alexei Remizov was a Russian writer in exile in Paris: but not only a writer, an artist, a craftsman, a storyteller, a fabulist, a shaman. His work has only been tantalisingly translated into English: enough to see that here is an original visionary.
In Wormwood 25, Avalon Brantley, author of Descended Suns Resuscitate and Aornos, celebrates this neglected figure with a fervent evocation of his life and work, starting with a recreation of his rooms:
“In his study one sees more than one small candlelit ikon, snake skins and bits of bone, a shred of rope strung with strange little amulets and charms, unsettling arrangements of twine and twigs. Mysterious dolls—zoomorphic poppets composed of suede, cloth, even scrap metal—gaze from cluttery shelves or from corners near the ceiling. These latter are his ongons, representations of ‘spirit helpers’, after ancient Siberian tradition. Remizov once remarked to a friend that these are ‘toys which have a heart, and they breathe’”
She also suggests that though Remizov drew on ancient sources for his art and fiction he was also working as a modernist:
“Remizov’s tragedy is a Modernist’s. He worked alone, his own way, rather than as part of any wider literary movement, so that those literati with the cultural background to possibly appreciate the depths of his talent chose in large measure instead to ignore it, whilst the general reading public, lacking the intelligentsia’s resources for comprehending much of what the Modernist school was doing, quickly dismissed him as incomprehensible before seeking other, easier trends of literary diversion”
This is one of the first studies of Remizov in English and it is characterised by Avalon’s sympathetic understanding of what he was trying to do. It is sure to direct new attention to this remarkable figure.