[LUNACHARSKY MYSTIC] Magi: Dram. Fantaziya [i.e. Magicians: Dramatic Fantasy]
Moscow; Petrograd: Gos. izd. 1919. Item #1668
, IV, 66 pp. 11.8x17.9 cm. In owner’s contemporary quarter cloth binding. Rubbed spine, otherwise in a very good condition.
Scarce. First edition.
A MYSTICAL PLAY WRITTEN BY ANATOLY LUNACHARSKY (1875-1933), THE FIRST BOLSHEVIK SOVIET PEOPLE’S COMMISSAR RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION.
In the early-1900s, Anatoly Lunacharsky was one of the few Soviet officials openly interested in mysticism, palmistry, and esotericism. The future NARKOM tried to formulate an ideology that combined classical Marxism and religion and promoted the belief that socialism would transform people into gods. After furious attacks from Lenin and his counterparties, Lunacharsky preferred to lay low and didn’t touch upon the subject until 1919, when he published his dramatic fantasy Magi [i.e. Magicians]. To avoid criticism from fellow party members, Lunacharsky noted in the preface to the edition: «My fantasy is written in terms of occultism and mysticism, and perhaps some of the readers will think that this text to some extent reflects my own beliefs. This, of course, is not the case.» The comrades, however, remained skeptical and called to mind Lunacharsky’s mystical-occult composition even after his death: «The very idea of the dramatic fantasy ‘Magi’ is extremely controversial.» (Literary Encyclopedia; 1930s).
The play tells the story of magician Andromen, his student Semprony, and the beautiful prophetess Manessa, who convinces Semprony to kill his teacher to acquire her love.
The play is preceded by Lunacharsky’s introduction, «The entire play was written at night upon completion of my duties and the labors of the day…it took only eleven such nights to complete the work, which required no further reductions… although during this time I slept only 3 to 5 hours a night, after this work I would feel unusually rested as if I had spent time at some sort of health resort.»
Overall, a fascinating example of Lunacharsky’s interest in mysticism.
Worldcat shows 1 copy of the edition at Ohio State University Libraries.