[CHAGALL’S LAST SOVIET PERFORMANCE] Troyer [i.e. Mourning]
Kyiv: Kooperativn farlag “Kultur-lige”, 1922. XXIII pp.: ill., 5 ills. 34,5x25,5 cm. In original illustrated wrappers. Wrapper is restored from the edges without loss of the image or the text. p. I-XIV have a trace of rust going through them, at the outer margins - also restored. Few stains are also on the last page of the book. Otherwise good. Overall a well-restored and preserved copy of this extremely fragile large-format edition.
First and only edition. One of 4500 copies. Extremely rare as a complete copy with 5 illustrations on separate leaves. It is 2 more than illustrations in a copy of the Yale University.
Elegies for Jewish communities devastated during pogroms that were caused by the Russian Civil War. They were written by Yiddish poet David Hofstein and were published at Kultur Lige which gained the leading position in Jewish social and cultural life. The association enlisted practically all the Yiddish cultural, political, scholarly figures of any fame that lived in Ukraine and Belarus.
Cover design and seven illustrations were produced by Marc Chagall. In the 1910s, he had exhibited his works at shows of avant-garde artists and gained recognition. Then, he began illustrating Yiddish books with ink drawings. In 1921, Chagall worked as an art teacher in a Jewish labor school-colony «III International” in Malakhovka (suburban of Moscow), which housed young refugees orphaned by pogroms. While there, he created a series of illustrations for the poetry cycle ‘Grief’ written by David Hofstein, who was another teacher at the Malakhovka shelter. In 1922, Chagal left the USSR, together with his family.
Conceived as a topical and expressive publication, the book combines poetry, graphics and typography into one aesthetic whole. In the front cover design, a two-head human was crossed out by red lettering, meanwhile one of the faces was wiped out. Poems were printed like a column, stairs, a circle, a wobbling river flow. Between them, grotesque illustrations mourn consequences of the pogroms, mixing drawings and letterings.
David Hofstein (1889-1952) was one of the Kiev triumvirate of Yiddish poets, along with Leib Kvitko and Peretz Markish. In 1922, he also emigrated and lived in Berlin, where he contributed to the Jewish press. In 1925, Gofshtein left for Palestine, worked in the Tel Aviv mayor’s office, and wrote in Hebrew and Yiddish. There he participated in the opening of the Jewish University, but a year later he returned to Soviet Ukraine. He taught at the directing department of the Jewish faculty at the Theater Institute in Kyiv. During the Great Patriotic War, he was a member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee – and was murdered on the same night with them.
The back cover states that the book was published with funds from the Jewish Public Committee and that all profits from the sale would go to help starving Jewish orphans. Thus, the book also was a symbol of Jewish charity.
Worldcat shows paper copies located in LoC, Yale and Indiana Universities, Yivo Institute, NYPL, MoMA.