Moscow; Leningrad: Izdatel’stvo Kinopechat’, 1927. Item #1206
32 pp.: ill. 17.9x13.3 cm. In original illustrated publisher’s wrappers. The spine is slightly rubbed. Soviet bookshop stamp on the recto of the rear wrapper. Otherwise near fine.
Scarce. First edition. One of 5,000 copies. Art-nouveau style wrapper design with Mikhoel’s portrait by the celebrated Soviet graphic artist and book designer Mikhail Getmanskiy (1900–1955?). Mikhail worked in various publishing houses (Krug, Gosizdat, OGIZ, Detgiz) and was a staff artist of the magazine Tsirk i estrada [i.e. Circus and Entertainment]. The author and designer of the brochure Matematicheskiye attraktsiony [i.e. Mathematical Attractions] (1928) that reveals some secrets of fast counting.
An interesting edition dedicated to one of the most prominent Soviet jewish actors Solomon Mikhoels.
Written by the Soviet art critic and playwright Mikhail Zagorskiy (1885-1951), this book traces the life and creative path of the Jewish theatre and cinema actor, director of the Moscow State Jewish Theatre Solomon Mikhoels. The leader of the Jewish community was allegedly assassinated by the order of Stalin during the Soviet anti-Semitic campaign of the 1940s.
After dropping out from the law faculty of Petrograd University in 1918, Mikhoels joined Alexander Granovsky’s Jewish Theater Workshop, which was transformed into the Moscow State Jewish Theatre in 1925. In the mid-1920s, the Soviet Union was implementing the policy on nationalities that encouraged Jews, among others, to pursue their own culture under the aegis of the Soviet State. Against this background, Mikhoels, who played numerous roles in the theater (Puteshestviye Veniamina III [i.e. The Travel of Benjamin III] directed by Alexander Granovsky and designed by Robert Falk in 1927; Noch’ na starom rynke [i.e. Night at Old Market] directed by Alexander Granovsky and designed by Robert Falk in 1925; Agenty [i.e. Agents] directed by Alexander Granovsky and designed by Marc Chagall in 1921; Koldun’ya [i.e. Whitch] directed by Alexander Granovsky and designed by Isaak Rabinovich in 1922, etc.), quickly became one of the most beloved Soviet actors, although not for long.
In 1928, a year after this book came out, Solomon was appointed the role of the artistic director of the theatre, which he held up until his death. During World War II, Mikhoels was actively involved in the fight against fascism, becoming the first chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. Mikhoels’ political and theatrical activity was cut short in 1948, when the director, together with the theatre critic Golubov-Potapov, died in a car accident in Minsk. Nevertheless, some authors claim that his death was staged on Stalin’s personal orders, and ‘disguised as a hit-and-run car accident’. Mikhoels was posthumously accused of a conspiracy to assassinate Soviet leaders (The Doctors’ Plot) and christened as a ‘well-known Jewish bourgeois nationalist’.
The present edition serves as a rare survival of the time as books about Mikhoels were withdrawn from libraries and destroyed during the Soviet anti-Semitic campaign.
The publication consists of 6 chapters: Childhood and Adolescence, In Granovsky’s Studio, First Plays in Moscow, On the Big Stage, Movie Jewish Happiness, and Summary. The author traces Mikhoels’ life from the early years through 1925, analyzing some of his most famous roles both in theatre and cinema. The edition includes 9 rare black-and-white illustrations showing Mikhoels as Badkhen in Noch’ na starom rynke [i.e. Night at the Old Market], Menakhem-Mendel’ in Agenty [i.e. Agents], Otsmakh in Koldun’ya [i.e. Witch], etc.
Overall, an important document of the time when the Soviet state pursued a Jewish-friendly political course.
Worldcat shows copies of the edition in Harvard Library, Library of Congress, the University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Kansas, and University of Texas Libraries.