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Il circolo Gli amici di Hafiz (1906-1907) e gli pseudonimi, ovvero quando Pietroburgo divenne Petrobaghdad

Martina Morabito


The aim of this paper is to analyze, from an onomastic point of view, the names used within a Russian symbolist circle, The friends of Hafiz, at the same time investigating the meaning of role-play, sexuality, and literary taste in the shaping of alternative identities. After briefly considering the importance of names and pseudonyms for Russian symbolists in general, we examine the circle’s complex structure. Named after the 14th century Persian poet and made up of elite male poets, musicians, and painters from Petersburg, this circle aimed at exploring the implications of homosexual love and creativity. Each participant chose one or two pseudonyms to use during the meetings; these names were taken from the pagan world of classical Greece and from the medieval world of Persian Islam. In this way, each poet represents the collision of two distinct geographical spaces and temporal constructs in the generalised vision of an orientalised South; they applied this latter conception to the city of Petersburg, rebaptised Petrobaghdad. Comparing a book planned by the Hafizites but never actually written, to a strikingly similar project of the same period published by Aleister Crowley, we explore the artistic failure of the circle and, more generally, the concept of sterility in Russian symbolism. We also comment on some of the circle’s self-portraits, in both painting and poetry, as demonstrations of identity that remain fluid and undefined in a game of renaming (pereimenovanie).

Parole chiave

Russian symbolists; The friends of Hafiz; names and pseudonyms

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