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16 February 2017
MayakovskyA Biography 
by Bengt Jangfeldt, translated by Harry Watson.
Chicago, 616 pp., £26.50, January 2015, 978 0 226 05697 5
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Volodya: Selected Works 
by Vladimir Mayakovsky, edited by Rosy Carrick.
Enitharmon, 312 pp., £14.99, November 2015, 978 1 910392 16 4
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... When​ VladimirMayakovsky shot himself in 1930, some Soviet writers interpreted it as an act of protest: stifled by political censorship, he couldn’t go on. In the decades since, the suicide of the great poet of the ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

David Jackson: Russia and the Arts

18 May 2016
... of whom will be familiar – Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov. It also takes in significant but less well-known figures, such as the formidable critic Vladimir Stasov, whose efforts did a great deal to shape the cultural scene. The portraits are drawn from the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the first museum dedicated to Russian art ...

Drowned in Eau de Vie

Modris Eksteins: New, Fast and Modern

21 February 2008
Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond 
by Peter Gay.
Heinemann, 610 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 434 01044 8
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... energy of interwar political extremism and especially by its uncompromising shredding of the past. ‘I write nihil on anything that has been done before,’ declaimed the Bolshevik poet-enthusiast VladimirMayakovsky. As to the fate of this urge, Gay accepts the more or less standard view that Modernism lost its momentum and inspiration as it was absorbed into the mainstream. When modern art could be ...

Howling Soviet Monsters

Tony Wood: Vladimir​ Sorokin

30 June 2011
The Ice Trilogy 
by Vladimir​ Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell.
NYRB, 694 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 1 59017 386 2
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Day of the Oprichnik 
by Vladimir​ Sorokin.
Farrar, Straus, 191 pp., $23, March 2011, 978 0 374 13475 4
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... In Vladimir Sorokin’s novel The Queue, one of the protagonists is struggling with a crossword: ‘1 Across – Russian Soviet writer.’ Suggestions come from people next to him in the long line that is the ...
28 November 2002
Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia 
by Orlando Figes.
Allen Lane, 729 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 7139 9517 3
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... By the end of the century, Moscow had become a centre of artistic experimentation, the place where Scriabin (to whose museum Stravinsky made a pilgrimage in 1962), Kandinsky, Malevich, Pasternak and Mayakovsky lived. After the Revolution, ‘it became the Soviet capital, the cultural centre of the state, a city of modernity and of the new industrial society the Bolsheviks wanted to build.’ Tatlin ...
26 May 1994
Strolls with Pushkin 
by Abram Tertz, translated by Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy and Slava Yastremski.
Yale, 175 pp., £17.95, February 1994, 0 300 05279 0
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... cornets! In the Introduction Professor Nepomnyashchy points to the similarity between Pushkin jokes and Lenin jokes, taking it as an indication of the kinship between the Lenin and Pushkin cults. Mayakovsky, in Vladimir Ilich Lenin, written soon after Lenin’s death, begins by expressing his fear lest      processions and mausoleums an established statute of devotions should cover with sickly ...
15 September 1988
Children of the Arbat 
by Anatoli Rybakov, translated by Harold Shukman.
Hutchinson, 688 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 09 173742 7
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Pushkin House 
by Andrei Bitov, translated by Susan Brownsberger.
Weidenfeld, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 297 79316 0
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The Queue 
by Vladimir​ Sorokin, translated by Sally Laird.
Readers International, 198 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 9780930523442
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Moscow 2042 
by Vladimir​ Voinovich, translated by Richard Lourie.
Cape, 424 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 224 02532 5
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The Mushroom-Picker 
by Zinovy Zinik, translated by Michael Glenny.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £11.95, January 1988, 0 434 89735 3
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Chekago 
by Natalya Lowndes.
Hodder, 384 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 340 41060 4
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... movements of the individual psyche, turns out to provide – if metaphorically – that generalised public statement which would have been expected from the other novel. Stichomythia run wild, Vladimir Sorokin’s The Queue consists solely of one-line exchanges between members of a queue – the longest in Moscow – which, some two thousand strong, winds its way up and down the alleys and streets ...
4 April 1996
... to have the last word where the Bolshoi is concerned) because of his opposition to a contract system of employment, designed in part to cut the huge cost of the theatrical army. The business manager, Vladimir Kokonin, defeated him in a fashion unthinkable in Soviet times. ‘People are going to have to start justifying their salaries,’ Kokonin announced. ‘We don’t want time-serving civil service ...
4 November 1982
The Correspondence of Boris Pasternak and Olga Friedenberg 1910-1954 
edited by Elliott Mossman, translated by Elliott Mossman and Margaret Wettlin.
Secker, 365 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 436 28855 9
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... not Pasternak’s view of the matter. Writing in 1958 to the young linguist V.V. Ivanov, he maintained that the ‘ “majority” should not cross the threshold of poetry’. He could never say, in Mayakovsky’s words, ‘the more poets – good ones and varied – the better.’ He strongly objected to ‘a multiplicity of people working in art’, because this inhibited ‘the emergence of someone ...

Deaths at Two O’Clock

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Suicide in the USSR

17 February 2011
Lost to the Collective: Suicide and the Promise of Soviet Socialism, 1921-29 
by Kenneth Pinnow.
Cornell, 276 pp., £32.95, March 2011, 978 0 8014 4766 2
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... claimed suicide as its own. The rubric also covered prostitution, abortion, alcoholism, youth homelessness and crime. Mikhail Gernet, an academic who had taught at Moscow University and worked at Vladimir Bekhterev’s Psychoneurological Institute before the Revolution, was the leading figure here. Like Leibovich, he seems to have been neither a Marxist nor a Party member, but his career prospered ...

The Girl Who Waltzes

Laura Jacobs: George Balanchine

8 October 2014
Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer 
by Elizabeth Kendall.
Oxford, 288 pp., £22.99, August 2013, 978 0 19 995934 1
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... and in this moment their bodies, the over-and-under inward curves, seem to merge in the shape of a treble clef. ‘I am not a man, but a cloud in trousers,’ Balanchine would often say, quoting Mayakovsky. ‘Sometimes I would like to be one of the sounds created by Tchaikovsky,’ Ivanova once wrote, ‘so that sounding softly and sadly, I could dissolve in the evening mist.’ Affinity is a kind of ...

Vodka + Caesium

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Nostalgia for the USSR

19 October 2016
Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait.
Penguin, 294 pp., £9.99, April 2016, 978 0 241 27053 0
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Second-Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Bela Shayevich.
Fitzcarraldo, 694 pp., £14.99, May 2016, 978 1 910695 11 1
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... had grown poor, of course, but it wasn’t just for the spare cash – it was because ultimately books had disappointed them.’ Many people didn’t even bother to sell them. ‘Volumes of Gorky and Mayakovsky piled up in the dumpsters. People would drop the complete works of Lenin off at the paper recycling centre.’ For people who still identified with Soviet values, it was an agonising time. ‘I’ve ...

Diary

Craig Raine: In Moscow

22 March 1990
... what a curious sensation it is to emerge from the gloom of the transit corridor into the designer dusk of Sheremetievo airport and the ring-mail burnished rust of the ceiling’s empty pilchard tins. Vladimir Stabnikov is waiting for us. I have met him before, in England and in the Soviet Union. Small, thick-set, black-eyed, densely-bearded, restlessly rubbing his hands, inexplicably powerful, grinning ...

One Exceptional Figure Stood Out

Perry Anderson: Dmitri Furman

29 July 2015
... of their language, generally remained – Bunin, Aldanov, Nabokov were the exceptions, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Pasternak the rule; not to speak of those who sided with the revolution (Platonov, Babel, Mayakovsky) – the human sciences were badly affected. Of those who stayed, the Formalists and their kin survived best: Shklovsky, Tynyanov, Eikhenbaum; Voloshinov and Bakhtin; Propp. Political science ...

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