Zinovieva-Annibal, Lydia Dmitrievna (1866–1907) By Baer, Brian James
A Russian prose writer and dramatist, Zinovieva-Annibal (with her second husband, Viacheslav Ivanov) hosted the influential literary salon known as The Tower. Born in St Petersburg into an aristocratic family, Zinovieva-Annibal was a rebel and nonconformist throughout her life and in her work. She was known for her intensity and eccentricity. Writing in various genres, she produced Symbolist plays, such as The Rings [Kol’tsa] (1904) and The Singing Ass [Pevuchii osel], the novels Thirty-three Abominations [Tridtsat’-tri uroda] (1907) and The Tragic Menagerie [Tragicheskii zverinets] (1907), and other short stories, many of which were published only posthumously in the collection entitled No! [Net!] (1918). Zinovieva-Annibal is perhaps best known for Thirty-three Abominations, the first work of Russian literature to deal openly with the theme of lesbianism, which is portrayed in a decadent, tragic light. Like the short story ‘The Head of the Medusa,’ Thirty-three Abominations critiques the objectifying male gaze. The semi-autobiographical Tragic Menagerie, considered by critics to be her strongest work, is a female Bildungsroman, which traces the evolution of the heroine, Vera, from childhood to adulthood, when Vera is able ultimately to reconcile nature and culture on the Italian seashore.