Biography Fyodor Sologub

Fyodor Sologub

photo of Fyodor Sologub
  • Time Period1863 - 1927
  • Place
  • CountryRussia

Poet Biography

Fedor Kuz'mich Teternikov (Fyodor Sologub) was born in St. Petersburg. His father, a tailor and a shoemaker, died when Sologub was four. His mother was illiterate and worked as a servant and laundry woman. After graduating from a community college and Teachers' Training Institute in 1882, Sologub worked, with his mother and sister, as a teacher in provincial schools in Northern Russia. He taught mostly mathematics and in 1892 he returned to St. Petersburg, where he taught at the town community college and then was appointed inspector of schools. In 1907 he devoted himself entirely to writing. In the same year his sister died - the loss left deep marks on Sologub's calm poetry.
"Forgotten are wine and merriment,
Abandoned are armour and sword.
Alone he descends to the dungeon,
And refuses to light a lamp."

As a writer Sologub started his career in the 1880's in magazines and published his first collection of poetry, Stikhi, in 1886. By 1889 he had begun to translate the poetry of Verlaine.

Sologub's portrayals of children have arisen debate - some critics regard their innocence in a decadent milieu as a contrast to the vile adults, some look hints of paedophilic imagination. Sologub's children are often haunted by abnormal psychic experiences and a longing for death. The sexual undertones of Sologub's work and correlation of sex and death was noted in 1909 by G.S. Nezlobin in his study "The Pornographic Element in Russian Literature". Sologub's reputation as the 'incomparable Russian pornographer' was thus secured.

Sologub wrote his most famous novel, Melkii bes (The Petty Demon), during the years when he was a schoolteacher and completed it in 1902. The book was published in 1907 and dramatized in 1909 as a five-act tragedy.

Plamennyi krug (1908, Circle of Flame), Sologub's collection of poems, was a kind of manifest of his belief that a poet is a seeker in the worlds of forbidden knowledge, magic and Eros.

As a poet Sologub was enormously productive. The years from 1896 to 1908 is considered his best period. His collected works, published in St. Petersburg in 1913-14, had nineteen volumes, the five last volumes comprising works written over a period of about two years.

Sologub died in Leningrad on December 5, 1927. He was said never to have been seen laughing during the whole of his life.