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Dudareva, M. A. (2020). The Apophatics of the Russian Language and Culture in the Works of Nikolay Gumilyov (On the Example of the Poem “The Giraffe”). Heritage of Centuries, (1), 98-104. https://doi.org/10.36343/SB.2020.21.1.009

The Apophatics of the Russian Language and Culture in the Works of Nikolay Gumilyov (On the Example of the Poem “The Giraffe”)

  • © Dudareva Marianna A Cand. Sci. (Russian Literature), Senior Lecturer, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, Moscow, Russian Federation


The article considers the problem of the apophatics of the Russian language and culture, which manifests itself at the conceptual level of the language. The aim of the study is to identify apophatic ideas contained in Gumilyov’s poem “The Giraffe”. The material for the study was the text of this work, as well as the works of Russian and foreign cultural scientists and literary scholars. The methodology is reduced to a holistic analysis of a literary text using structural, typological and comparative methods of research. These methods allow studying the features of the penetration of the folklore tradition (and with it the tanatological complex) into a work of art. The author points out the connection of adjectives bearing the semantics of the inexplicable with the apophatic picture of the world, which finds expression in philological studies, especially those related to mortal problems. In popular culture, ideas related to the “other world” acquire the status of the unknown, and this world appears as the “inverse correlate” of the real world. In close connection with this, two topoi in the text of the studied poem are noted: the world in which the characters live and the distant world of Africa. The latter world creates a folklore reality in the work. The poet compares the image of a giraffe with the Moon, which occupied one of the main places in the traditional cosmogony of the peoples of Africa. Mythological consciousness often identifies animals with celestial objects, so it can be assumed that Gumilyov rethought the plot about the Moon disguised in the skin of an animal. The far Lake Chad is an image of the “other world”, an ideal land, and the image of a giraffe symbolizes a breakthrough from darkness to light. In this context, the narrator of the poem, turning to his beloved, appears as a priest prophesying about the sacred reality. He cannot describe this reality to the heroine other than by denying the categories of the real world, and this manifests the apophaticity of the situation. The heroine’s crying is perceived as catharsis, also revealing the sacred sphere. The folkloristic commentary and analysis of the lexical units of the text led to the conclusion that the heroes of the poem (the narrator and his silent listener) are physically in one space, but metaphysically belong to different worlds. The paradox of the space is that the ideal African country of the light, “another kingdom”, is accessible only with absolute trust, faith in its existence. This is the apophatic effect in Gumilyov’s poem “The Giraffe”.

Keywords: traditional folk culture, apophatics, poetics, folklore, myth, symbol, “another kingdom”, Gumilyov, African culture