Tales of the ego by Valerij Bryusov is one of those books to have at home on dark evenings in which we are looking for a strong emotion to experience with our eyes open, but which can also disturb the dreams that will come.
Valerij Bryusov, among the Russian writers of the late nineteenth century, was certainly the one who most welcomed motifs and styles of European literature. Thanks to his role as writer and translator, the symbolism and the materialism, cornerstones of the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé or Verlaine. Even his translations certainly enriched his literature full of influences and suggestions from other worlds, so as to define him “Russian Edgar Allan Poe”. From his novel The angel of fireSergei Prokofiev drew the musical work of the same name, as if to demonstrate the great versatility of Bryusov’s works.
The themes that have always been dear to the Russian writer are ego states, imagination bordering on delirium, the lysergic vision of action. All themes that will accompany the strange production of Bryusov’s work, which in fact stands out in the Russian panorama of his time but also in the future.
Stories of the ego they are a perfect viaticum towards the knowledge of this sui generis author, both for the short form typical of the stories, and for the clarity with which the stories strike the reader. In fact, in the nine stories collected in this elegant pocket booklet, we find all the themes of his work: delirium, doubt between reality and fictionphilosophical disquisition, paradox, self-persuasion.
In all the stories, reality appears to be the one narrated, even if, after a more distinct analysis, we realize how the narration is that of a distorted visionaffected by hallucinations originating from the soul or induced by substances.
Certainly this is the effect one has when reading the first story of the book, Now that I’ve woken upwith a clarifying subtitle (if needed): From the memoirs of a psychopath. The story is told in the first person by the protagonist who begins to give some biographical hints of his journey as an aspiring maniac.
Naturally, I was considered perverted ever since‘childhood and of course I tried to convince myself that there could be no man who shared my feelings.
It is fascinating how Bryusov manages to make the protagonist speak with frankly and without any shame of one’s childhood, of one’s adolescence and therefore of mature age. The marriagealways in literature as in life, a moment of transition and tranquility achieved, is instead analyzed by the protagonist as a period of calm before the storm. The protagonist’s mind is crossed by perversions, visions, demons that cannot be reconciled even with the achievement of a fulfilling and mature relationship.
We closely follow the would-be maniac to his inevitable conclusion, traversing his conscience and his states of hallucinationin a story that while on the one hand could make you think of an even less contained Dostoevsky, on the other hand brings out the taste for noir storytelling in perfect Edgar Allan Poe style.
The hallucination is not only the main theme of reality that is confused with the dream, but it is also what makes an old alcoholic love a woman who perhaps never existed, a woman who is perhaps only a marble head. Or that transforms a stationery shop into an indigenous world that kidnaps the saleswoman who works there, to the point of transforming the shop into its only existing reality.
Doubt is also about one’s self: we are those of the vision or those of reality? Doubt that dismays the protagonist of In the mirror.
Racconti dell’io is one of those books to have at home on dark evenings in which we are looking for a strong emotion to experience with our eyes open, but which can worry also dreams what will come of it.