St. Petersburg: Polyarnaya zvezda, 1922. Item #1140
84 pp. 19.5×13 cm. In original publisher’s wrappers. Small tears, losses and light foxing of the wrappers, otherwise very good.
The highest point of the polemics between Korney Chukovsky and Russian Futurists.
Ever since futurism in Russia took on a large scale in 1913, one of the most popular children’s poets and literary critic Korney Chukovsky (1882-1969) embarked upon a task of combatting the ‘vicious’ movement. The author organized numerous lectures and public gatherings criticizing principles of the ideology and its representatives, with many of whom Korney was in friendly relationship. ‘At the time, my attitude towards Futurists was difficult, I hated their sermon, but loved them and their talents’, - later recalled Chukovsky. The connection between the Russian Futurists and Korney had a polemical character. The members of the movement gave as much space to Chukovsky in their oral speeches as the author himself: ‘Chukovsky believed that he was advertising us with his lectures and articles, but we argued that without us he would have stretched out his legs from hunger, since criticizing futurism had become his main profession’ (Benedikt Livshits, a member of the Futurist group Hylaea).
In 1914, a year after Korney printed an article Russkiye futuristy [i.e. Russian Futurists] in the Russkoe Slovo [i.e. Russian Word] newspaper, Chukovsky’s polemical activity reached its peak. The author published a long article Futuristi [i.e. Futurists], which summarized many of his lectures and critical notes. The article first appeared in the almanac Shipovnik [i.e. Rosehip] and was included in Korney’s book Litsa i Maski [i.e. Faces and Masks] the same year. In 1922, when Futurism was already in decline in the Soviet Union, Chukovsky issued a separate edition of the expanded article.
In the book, Korney wittily reviews literary oeuvre of some of the most prominent Russian futurists: Igor Severyanin (He is from the same breed of poets-singers as Fofanov, Mirra Lokhvitskaya, Balmont, Viktor Hoffman, for whom to create meant to pour out in tune - good or bad, it doesn’t matter), Alexei Kruchenykh (For me he contains a prophecy, an apocalypse, for me he is so grand and formidable that I am ready to name our entire pre-revolutionary era Kruchenykh! It’s okay that he is a trifle, a small and dark figure, but as a symptom, he is huge), Vasiliy Kamensky (He is the funniest of modern poets, everywhere he has carousels, bells, carnivals. And although he is already in his fifties, he continues to repeat: ‘The bell is in his youth’, ‘Leisya, my redhead youth’), Vladimir Mayakovsky (Mayakovsky can’t even understand what ‘our land’ is. He has no perception of homeland), and Velimir Khlebnikov. The author speaks most favorably of the latter, blaming him only for his zaum language. Skillfully playing on provincial origins and the lack of formal education in most of his opponents, Chukovsky declares their futuristic inclinations ridiculously untenable and destructive.
Overall, an interesting document of the polemics (which allegedly did not get a written response) between the Futurists and Korney Chukovsky.
Worldcat shows copies of the edition at Wesleyan University, New York Public Library System, Princeton University Library, University of Iowa Libraries, Stanford University Libraries, Getty Research Institute, University of California, Monash University, and Harvard University.