Moscow: Kinopechat’, 1926. 80 pp.: ill. 22x17,5 cm. In original constructivist wrappers. Significantly restored, otherwise very good and clean copy.
First and only edition. One of 10 000 copies. Scarce.
A screenplay adaptation of a novel ‘Wandering Stars’ by Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem that was produced at the VUFKU studio in 1926.
Solomon Rabinovich (pen name Sholem Aleichem; 1859-1916) was one of the leading Yiddish writers in the period of the Jewish Renaissance. Since the 1890s, he had been engaged in literature although often couldn’t afford to print his editions. Initially, he lived in the Russian Empire but emigrated due to tsarist pogroms in 1905. His works gained popularity in the Soviet Union and were filmed.
In 1925, the Jewish Chamber Theater suggested the 1st State Film Studio produce a film adaptation of Sholem Aleichem’s novel. The order was commissioned to Soviet Jewish writer Isaak Babel (1894-1940). He was engaged in translation from Yiddish to Russian, including works by Sholem Aleichem and David Bergelson. In 1926, he also edited a two-volume collection of works by Sholem Aleichem in Russian adaptation.
According to Babel’s foreword to this film script, he faced numerous difficulties, from petty bourgeois motifs of the novel to changes of directors and their requirements. He varied a scheme and its development many times. Fragments were previously published in the newspaper ‘Kino’ (March 16, 1926) and the magazine ‘Sovetskii ekran’ (#7 for 1926). Banned by the Glavrepertkom (Main Repertoire Committee) in Moscow, the script was transferred to the VUFKU (All-Ukrainian Photo and Film Administration) and produced in the homeland of the characters, in Odessa. When Babel was writing about it in a letter, he added “I will have to be present on the set... if I am not there, the director will ruin everything radically”.
The film was shot by Grigorii Gricher-Cherikover (1883-1945), Ukrainian director and scriptwriter worked in Goskino, VUFKU, Lenfilm, also film studios in Kiev and Ashgabat. Most of his films were about the life of Jewish people in shtetls of the former Russian Empire. The worst fear of Babel has come true because the director significantly changed the script. On August 14, 1926, Babel wrote: “I will go to Odessa by the end of ‘Wandering Stars’. It is more profitable for me not to participate in this shameful production”. Despite the author’s opinion, spectators met the film enthusiastically.
The edition of the script was published with cover design and three full-page illustrations created by Alexander Bykhovskii (1888-1978). Studied under Gorbunov and N. Roerich, he became known as a painter, graphic artist and theatrical designer. In the 1920s, Bykhovskii produced a series of political posters. Apart from this edition, he designed a collection ‘Revolutionary theater’ for the 10th anniversary of the GOSET.
Since the late 1920s, Babel’s works were more and more criticized and he appeared in periodicals less often. In 1939, the writer was arrested and shot. All his works were banned and withdrawn out of circulation.
Worldcat shows copies located in Princeton, Harvard and Kansas Universities, Amherst College, NYPL.