[EHRENBURG’S TAKE ON THE 1920s POETRY] Portrety sovremennikh poetov [i.e. The Portraits of the Contemporary Poets]
Moscow: Pervina, 1923. Item #1233
74,  p. 26x17,5 cm. 1 of 4000 copies printed. Original wrapper with laconic typographic design. Near fine condition. Tears to the edges of the spine.
First edition. Rare.
Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967) was a prominent Jewish and Soviet critic, journalist and writer. He was one of the most connected people in 1910s-1920s in Paris, Berlin and Moscow. He is the best known for his WWII anti-nazi propaganda writings, which made him one of the official voices of USSR on the world scene. He was one of the main official voices of Jewish community in 1930-40s.
The book includes 14 essays written by Ilya Erenburg on the leading poets of the time according to him - the full list is: Akhmatova, Baltrushaitis, Balmont, Bryusov, Blok, Bely, Voloshin, Esenin, Ivanov, Mandelstam, Mayakovsky, Pasternak, Sologub, Tsvetaeva.
In Erenburg’s case he has met all of the poets and the essays are the combination of the thoughts on their poetry and the personal experience that the author shared with each of the poets. In Mayakovsky’s case, for example, he criticizes his current behavior and look, calling him ‘the businesslike gentleman’ that explains futurism to the Soviet officials and remembers the pre-revolutionary days of bright clothing and make up.
Erenburg has compared Mandelstam to a ‘pregnant woman, that looks not on outside world, but to the inside’, and adds that he always crosses the road when sees a police station.
Boris Pasternak has received many praises from Erenburg in the short essay about him: ‘not a single one of his poems could be written before him’; ‘his magic is in his syntax’; ‘the rhythm of Pasternak is the rhythm of today’ etc.
1923 is an interesting year for such book to appear - Erenburg is already very well-connected and ‘knows everybody’, but the ideological pressure is not playing part in his writings yet. He has just moved to Berlin where he publishes ‘Vesch’ magazine with El Lissitsky and his relationships with the young Soviet state hasn’t formed yet - in 1920 he has left Russian after being arrested by VCHK but released because of Bukharin’s intercession.
All in all an interesting collection of eye-witness accounts of the 1920s poets created by one of the most talented journalists of the day.
Worldcat locates copies of this edition in USA at University of California and Stanford.