Showing posts from August, 2015

A. V. Lunacharsky: Vladimar Mayakovsky, Innovator

It has been said many times that Mayakovsky’s espousal of the proletarian cause was not a chance occurrence. This means that the prerequisites for taking him in this direction existed within him, for in our times there are many people and not a few poets, but not all people, not all poets follow this road. However, this inner voice would never have led him as it did, if not for our times, for no one determines his own way, but the way of any man is determined, to a great extent, by his times and surroundings. In speaking of Mayakovsky’s work and life, we speak of his encounter as an individual with the proletarian revolution as a colossal social phenomenon.

The proletariat and its revolution existed in a latent form long before October 1917, and even before 1905. Mayakovsky knew of the existence of this great force and at times he came quite close to it in his everyday life, yet, during his early period, he was still quite removed from it. One can say that when Mayakovsky embarked upon…

Yevgeny Yevtushenko: Poets must reach out to ordinary people

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: This year has been declared the Year of Literature. This is the state showing that it wants to help Russian literature. But how should we do this? Yevgeny Yevtushenko: 
My answer is very simple – we must reach out to ordinary people. Our intelligentsia simply does not understand how detached it is from the general public. I have travelled across Russia giving readings of my own poetry alongside recitals of great works by famous actors, and the venues were packed everywhere. 
RG: What was the longest poetry reading in your life?
Y.Y.: In 1963, when I read my long poem, Bratsk Station, in full before an audience of workers. It was a venue for about 800 people, but they put speakers out on the street, and people stood and listened there, too. It was a very chilly day in April. I read for four-and-a-half hours without a break. There were children in the audience as well. That was one of the happiest days of my life. What is any Nobel Prize worth compared to that?
RG: The ti…

Bulat Okudzhava: Paper Soldier

Once there lived a soldier-boy,
None handsomer or braver,
but he was just a children's toy
A soldier made of paper.
He'd change the world, or so he said,
for joy and peace he'd labour,
but he was hanging by a thread,
a soldier made of paper.

He'd bravely go through fire and smoke, 
He'd die for you twice over. 
But he was just a laughing-stock, 
a soldier made of paper. 
You wouldn't trust a paper guy,
With secrets or your favour. 
And why is that? I'll tell you why,
'cause he is made of paper.

He challenged fate, prepared to die,
Marched on another caper,
"Ready, fire!" was his cry,
Forgetting he was paper.
"Forward march! We stand or fall!"
He, burning into vapour,
Died under fire for nothing at all, 
'cause he was made of paper.

'I would like to live and die in Paris': Mayakovsky abroad

Vladimir Mayakovsky was one of the major Russian poets of the first half of the 20th century and a leading member of the futurism movement. His poems, which are marked by their rebellious spirit and unconventional broken rhythm, are still popular. He invented new words, randomly placing them within sentences, while the lines of his poems themselves form symbolic visual representations in their own right.
Mayakovsky was unconventional in his private life too: from 1918, he lived in a ménage à trois with his lover Lilya Brik and her husband Osip Brik. He conducted numerous affairs with other women at the same time. 
Mayakovsky travelled outside the Soviet Union nine times and had dreams of travelling around the world. During his trips, he delivered lectures, recited poetry and had meetings with various cultural figures.
He returned from each of those trips with suitcases full of books, magazines and copies of drawings, which he distributed them among his friends, eager to share new ideas f…

Dmitry Merezhkovsky: Rediscovering a controversial early symbolist

As Russia marks 150 years since the birth of Symbolist writer Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Alma Classics are publishing the first unabridged English translation of Leonardo da Vinci: The Resurrection of the Gods, the story of the painter’s life.

Ignat Avsey, who died in 2013, translated several novels by Dostoevsky and specialized in unearthing forgotten literary gems. He regarded this posthumously published Leonardo as his most important translation, and it could be a spark that helps reignite Merezhkovsky’s reputation.

At nearly 700 pages, Merezhkovsky travelled in the artist’s footsteps, and his landscapes are vivid. This novel, first published in 1900, was the second part of a Christ and Antichrist trilogy, dealing, as much of Merezhkovsky’s work does, with the nature of religion. Like Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, Leonardo is full of devils, bacchants and naked, flying witches.

Merezhkovsky, one of 10 children, was born on Aug. 2, 1865. His father served as a privy councilor under Al…