Saturday, 13 January 2018

Russian Weird Writers and Some Genealogical Curiosities

Major Polish anthologies of Russian weird fiction

Some of the Russian writers I would like to read later this year are listed on the following pages:

Under the first link you will find an online compendium of the men and women, writers and artists, who contributed to Weird Tales and other weird fiction magazines of the pulp era whilst the latter provides and a short, but comprehensive historical outline of how the weird and fantastic literature evolved over the last two centuries (starting from 1825 which by some is considered the beginning of Russian fantastical literature). I notice that the first link also provides a short text on one of my favourite Russian writers, Leonid Andreyev.

Playwright, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories Leonid Andreyev, though younger than Sologub, died before him in exile. Andreyev's early works--from 1901--were a sensational best sellers. Less than two decades later, he was living in poverty in Finland, having fled the Russian Revolution. Andreyev wrote about the supernatural and extraterrestrial in his stories and plays, which were, according to a contemporary, Barrett Harper Clark, "of a morbid and pessimistic turn." Andreyev's play He Who Gets Slapped (produced in the United States in 1922) made it to the silver screen in an MGM picture from 1924. Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, and an uncredited Béla Lugosi were in the cast. By the way, Andreyev was married to the Countess Anna Wielhorska, niece of the Ukrainian artist and writer Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861). Their son was Daniil Andreyev (1906-1959), poet, mystic, and one of the innumerable victims of the totalitarian state.

I remember reading a similar entry elsewhere 12 years ago and upon the discovery of the fact that Andreyev's wife came from the same family as I do, I was propelled make a research on our common ancestry. There is a small mistake propagated across the internet that I’ve fallen victim to in the past, which I would like to correct here: Andreyev’s second wife’s name was not Anna, but Alexandra Wielhorska. She is indeed a distant collateral relative of mine.
This discovery marked the first time I started employing the Russian version of my surname (Виельгорский) for genealogical research as I knew some of the branches of my family (which itself is of Ruthenian origin) were Russianised. The Wielhorski family is a small one (currenty counting mere eight males and eighteen females in the whole of Poland), so it is usually quite easy to find each member on the family genealogical tree. As a result of the entire genealogical investigation I have come across some very interesting facts that have involved some of my ancestors (both direct ones and those forming part of the lateral branches of the family) and some classic writers I’ve enjoyed reading, including those who’ve penned weird fiction.  None of these facts, due to the language barrier and some historical socio-political reasons, were previously known to me and my closest family members. Over the years, I’ve managed to collect numerous scans, books, manuscripts, old prints by ransacking libraries, second hand bookstores, internet websites and participating in online auctions. The result is a comprehensive collection of material in Polish, English, French and Russian that has always been motivating me in furthering my comprehensive skills in these languages.
Now that we are in 2018 and one of my resolutions is mastering Russian, it is perhaps the right time to delve deeper into the language, read all of the outstanding material I've collected in the Cyrillic alphabet and document the results of the research.
Even if ancestry does not matter in the grand scheme of things, when one starts to perceive patterns of some strange serendipity amidst the backdrop of our cosmic insignificance, one is filled with wonder and an inescapable urge to pursue further investigations… and the joy of the ensuing genealogical revelations is unmatched.

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