Moscow: Gos. izd., 1921. 70 pp. 13.6x18 cm. In original publisher’s wrappers. Light soiling of the wrappers, private library stamp on the front wrapper, title-page, p. 3, and p. 25. Otherwise near fine.
Rare. First edition. One of 5,000 copies.
SCARCE LIFETIME EDITION OF THE FUTURIST POETRY BY VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY.
One of the most active supporters of the October Revolution, Mayakovsky dedicated his satirical poem, 150.000.000, to the new Socialist culture and society. The work was written during the American intervention in the Russian Civil War (1919-1920) and was intended to hail the 150-million-strong Russian people’s mission in the struggle against capitalist evil and, namely, the American president Woodrow Wilson. After reciting fragments of the poem at the opening of the All-Russian Union of Poets Club in Moscow (March 5, 1920), the author read the full text on the 4th and the 20th of December of the same year, at the Petrograd House of Arts and Polytechnic Museum in Moscow, respectively. The poem first appeared in fragments in Khudozhestvennoye Slovo [i.e. Artistic Word] magazine’s October 1920 issue. In less than a year, Gosizdat published a separate edition of the poem without the name of the author mentioned. The reason for the anonymity was explained in the poem itself: 150 millions is the name of this poem’s master; 150 millions speak through my mouth; it hasn’t got one single author. Although Mayakovsky’s public recitals proved great success, the publication caused major controversy in higher circles. On 6 May 1921 in the course of one of the Soviet government’s meetings Lenin forwarded a note to Lunacharsky: ‘You should be ashamed of yourself, having supported the printing of 5,000 copies of Mayakovsky’s 150 000 000. It’s nonsensical, utterly silly and pretentious. I reckon no more than 1 of 10 books of this ilk should be published, and in 1500 copies maximum, for libraries and oddballs who enjoy reading such things. You, Lunacharsky, should be caned for your Futurism. Lenin’. In spite of Lenin’s harsh comments, the poem went on to circulate in the Soviet press without any restrictions.
A couple of years after the publication of 150.000.000, Mayakovsky’s fascination with the Soviet regime was drastically altered by disillusionment. In the late 1920s, the author completed two satirical plays: the Bedbug (1929) and the Bathhouse (1929-1930), both lampooning bureaucratic stupidity and opportunism.
Worldcat shows copies of the edition at Amherst College, New York Public Library, Getty Research, Yale University, and Stanford University.