Chita: Dal’pechat’: Tip. Ob’edin. Soiuza Zabaik. Kooperativa, 1921. 120 pp. 26,5x19 cm. Original front cover. The back cover and spine renewed, edges of pages and front cover restored, few stains on the front cover, otherwise very good and clean internally.
First and only edition. Scarce.
A collection of essays written by the leader of Far Eastern Futurists, Nikolay Chuzhak (real name Nasimovich; 1876-1937).
For many years, Chuzhak was a journalist and editor of the underground press. He threw himself into the revolutionary movement in the late 19th century. In 1904, he joined the Communist Party, edited the party periodicals, and was arrested several times. In 1908, Chuzhak was exiled to the Irkutsk province. At different times, he headed the editorial boards of the newspapers Rabochaia Sibir’ [i.e. Working Siberia] (1917), Krasnoye znamya [i.e. A Red Flag] (Vladivostok, 1918-1922), Dal’nevostochnyi put’ [i.e. The Far Eastern Way] (Chita), Vlast’ truda [i.e. The Power of Labor] (Irkutsk), etc. Chuzhak maintained his Bolshevik position during the period of Kolchak’s power in Siberia as well.
In addition to political activities, Chuzhak headed the group of Far Eastern futurists Tvorchestvo [i.e. Creativity], which published the magazine Tvorchestvo [i.e. Creativity] in Vladivostok in 1920-1921. The group was close to the principles promoted by the LEF later. Tvorchestvo held lectures, literary disputes, and evenings dedicated to the new art: Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov, and futurism in general. After the collapse of the Far Eastern Republic in 1922, almost all of the Creativity members moved to Moscow and joined the LEF. There, they represented the so-called production wing. In particular, they advocated Chuzhak’s theory of art as life-building, which reduced the function of an artist to the production of things. Thus, he wrote in the article “Under the Sign of Life-Building” (1923): Art – since we still perceived it as a temporary (until it completely dissolved in life) kind of activity built on the use of emotions – is the production of values needed by the class and humanity (things).
Chuzhak had a similar approach to understanding proletarian literature: Fiction is the opium of the people. The antidote is in the literature of fact. Instead of a novel, the LEF members proposed new forms (newspaper) and genres of literature of fact (a biography of a particular person, a report from the courtroom and meeting, a notebook), breaking with the traditions of fiction. Nevertheless, Chuzhak noted in 1927 that most writers would go not to the LEFs, but to Voronsky, where one can praise pancakes and glorify Christ. It was an open hint that even a party’s speech (like N. Bukharin’s Evil Notes) couldn’t violate literary manners.
This edition is related to Chuzhak’s activity in the Far Eastern Republic. According to the chronicle of the Russian Civil War, at the time, it was the latest piece of nominally independent territory. In the book, Chuzhak distinguishes Soviet Russia as great and indisputable authority to which their small state should look up in politics and culture. These essays were written in various settlements from 1909 to 1921 and published in the local press. In the foreword, the author emphasizes that he chose the articles that could be used in the polemics about Marxism in art.
In 1919, Chuzhak penned the article “Which Art Is Closer to the Proletariat.” The writing starts with an analysis of texts criticizing futurism and gradually moves on to reasoning about why futurism is the art for the proletariat. The proletariat will be a cresset inflaming the gunpowder of futurism, the author proclaims. The essay “Danger of Arakcheevism” (1920) is imbued with the same spirit. The collection comprises two reviews of Mayakovsky’s works. The text “The Thirteenth Apostle” is dedicated to Mayakovsky’s poem Oblako v shtanakh [i.e. A Cloud in Trousers] (1914). Chuzhak meticulously analyzes this work from the perspective of a literary critic. An adherent of Mayakovsky’s principles, style, and language, Chuzhak praises his oeuvre: Mayakovsky is the wildest and the most gentle but the most audible cry… Therefore, the revolution adopted him – “dirty after spending the night in ditches,“ “the thirteenth,“ but not pure [Alexander] Block’s Christ, marching in a crown of white roses – as its true leader. Chuzhak had written a review “Earth’s Mystery” about Mayakovsky’s Mystery-Buff before the author revised the play and staged it again in May 1921. Surprisingly, Chuzhak thought that the play was never staged, but believed in its enormous success.
In 1921, Chuzhak issued To the Dialectics of Art as an attempt to build the bridge between Soviet Russia and the Far Eastern Republic. This book is more than a collection of one’s theoretical works, but rather a medium of promoting a completely new art.
Worldcat tracks paper copies located in LoC, Princeton University, Amherst College, and NYPL.