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Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky
Synopses & Reviews
Few poets have led lives as tempestuous as that of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Born in 1893 and dead by his own hand in 1930, Mayakovsky packed his thirty-six years with drama, politics, passion, andand#151;most importantand#151;poetry. An enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Revolution and the emerging Soviet State, Mayakovsky was championed by Stalin after his death and enshrined as a quasi-official Soviet poet, a position that led to undeserved neglect among Western literary scholars even as his influence on other poets has remained powerful.
With Mayakovsky, Bengt Jangfeldt offers the first comprehensive biography of Mayakovsky, revealing a troubled man who was more dreamer than revolutionary, more political romantic than hardened Communist. Jangfeldt sets Mayakovskyand#8217;s life and works against the dramatic turbulence of his times, from the aesthetic innovations of the pre-revolutionary avant-garde to the rigidity of Socialist Realism and the destruction of World War I to the violenceand#151;and hopeand#151;of the Russian Revolution, through the tightening grip of Stalinist terror and the growing disillusion with Russian communism that eventually led the poet to take his life.
Through it all is threaded Mayakovskyand#8217;s celebrated love affair with Lili Brik and the moving relationship with Liliand#8217;s husband, Osip, along with a brilliant depiction of the larger circle of writers and artists around Mayakovsky, including Maxim Gorky, Viktor Shklovsky, Alexander Rodchenko, and Roman Jakobson. The result is a literary life viewed in the round, enabling us to understand the personal and historical furies that drove Mayakovsky and generated his still-startling poetry.
Illustrated throughout with rare images of key characters and locations, Mayakovsky is a major step in the revitalization of a crucial figure of the twentieth-century avant-garde.
A Life at Stake is the first serious biography of the legendary Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Physically imposing, crude, a sexual adventurer and ex-convict, Mayakovsky rose to fame between 1912 and 1917 as a Futurist agitator and the author of radical poems and plays. He embraced the Russian Revolution and became one of its most passionate propagandists, then at the age of thirty-six took his own life, disappointed in the course of Soviet society and ravaged by private conflicts. Mayakovskyand#8217;s poems are as exhilarating today as when he declaimed them for friends in smoky flats in Moscow, Berlin, Paris, and New York. In Bengt Jangfeldtand#8217;s propulsive biography, Mayakovskyand#8217;s life, too, is compelling: a story of constant, passionate upheaval against the background of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, Stalinand#8217;s terror, and cycles of anti-Semitism. Mayakovsky emerges from this biography a highly vulnerable figure, more a dreamer than a revolutionary, more a political romantic than a hardened Communist.
From the time his first, futurist poems were published in 1912 until his suicide at the age of thirty-six, Vladimir Mayakovsky made theatrical appearances in his written work and perfected an iconoclastic voice James Schuyler called "the intimate yell." As the poet laureate of the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky led a generation that staked everything on the notion that an artist could fuse a public and a private self. But by the time of Stalin's terror, the contradictions of the revolution caught up with him, and he ended in despair.
A major influence on American poets of the twentieth century, Mayakovsky's work remains fascinating and urgent. Very few English translations have come close to capturing his lyric intensity, and a comprehensive volume of his writings has not been published in the past thirty years. In Night Wraps the Sky, the acclaimed filmmaker Michael Almereyda (Hamlet, William Eggleston in the Real World) presents Mayakovsky's key poems--translated by a new generation of Russian-American poets--alongside memoirs, artistic appreciations, and eyewitness accounts, written and pictorial, to create a full-length portrait of the man and the mythic era he came to embody.
About the Author
Michael Almereyda's films include Nadja, Hamlet, William Eggleston in the Real World, and New Orleans Mon Amour. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Artforum, The Believer, and Film Comment.
Table of Contents
A Most Joyous Date
1. Volodya, 1893andndash;1915
2. Lili, 1891andndash;1915
3. A Cloud in Trousers, 1915andndash;1916
4. The First Revolution and the Third, 1917andndash;1918
5. Communist Futurism, 1918andndash;1920
6. NEP and the Beginnings of Terror, 1921
7. Drang nach Westen, 1922
8. About This, 1923
9. Free from Love and Posters, 1923andndash;1924
10. America, 1925
11. New Rules, 1926andndash;1927
12. Tatyana, 1928andndash;1929
13. The Year of the Great Change, 1929
14. At the Top of My Voice, 1929andndash;1930
15. The First Bolshevik Spring, 1930
16. A Game with Life as the Stake
17. Mayakovskyandrsquo;s Second Death
Index of Names
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