Moscow; Leningrad: Gos. izd-vo, 1929. Item #1545
192 pp. 20,1x14,2 cm. In original publisher’s cloth binding with constructivist dust-wrapper. Near fine. Stamp on the title page ‘From books of Niccolo Mitsishvili’.
Rare. One of 3,000 copies. Constructivist design by the Soviet artist Alexey Surikov.
The first edition of llya Selvinsky’s famous work “Pusthorg” [i.e. Fur Trade], based on the author’s personal experience of work as a fur specialist. Written within an astonishingly short period of time (from February to March 1927), “Pushtorg” played an essential role in shaping Selvinsky’s writing career. A celebration of constructivist ideas, this novel in verse opposed the proletarian revolution of 1917 and developed a notion that the leading role in the country should belong to the technical intelligentsia. Shortly after the book was published, the deputy head of the Central Committee’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, Platon Kerzhentsev (1881-1940), who later became a victim of Soviet repressions, invited Selvinsky to the writer’s union and suggested revising his attitude towards innovative ideas. The author slammed the door and left, paying a high price for his actions in the future. In the 1930s, Selvinsky was subjected to devastating party repressions, with the Politburo gradually issuing resolutions against each of his works. Through a combination of personal bravery and political navigation, Selvinsky managed to weather the storms of Stalinism.
Ilya Selvinsky (1899-1968) was a Soviet Jewish poet and dramatist, one of the major figures in the Russian Constructivist movement. Selvinsky published his first poem in 1915 and in the 1920s experimented with the use of Yiddishisms and thieves’ lingo in Russian verse. In 1924, Ilya founded an early Soviet modernist group the Literary Center of Constructivists (1924-1930). The grandson of a Crimean Jew (Krymchak), Selvinsky dedicated a large body of his works to Jewish themes. His early Jewish works include Bar Kokhba (1920, published 1924), a powerful monument to Jewish and Judaic survival; Anecdotes about the Karaite Philosopher Babakai-Sudduk (1931); and The Lay of Ulyalaev. In January 1942, while serving as a military journalist, Selvinsky witnessed the immediate aftermath of the massacre of thousands of Jews outside the Crimean city of Kerch, and thereafter composed and published numerous poems about it.
Niccolo Mitsishvili (1896-1937) was a Georgian poet and an active member of the group of Georgian Symbolist poets and prose-writers “Blue Horns”. The head of the art department in the state-owned printing house, he promoted the spread of literacy among Georgians by creating a workshop for editors. In 1936, attending a party held by his close friend Shanshishvili, Niccolo spoke badly of the Marshal of the Soviet Union and state security administrator, Lavrenti Beria (1899- 1953). Shortly after the party, Mitsishvili was arrested and executed in 1937.