Out of the Past: The Russian Futurists, a Russian Dinosaur, and the BBC Looks Back

Shemshurin, Burlyuk, and Mayakovsky - Moscow, 1914.jpg

Andrey Shemshurin, David Burlyuk, and Vladimir Mayakovsky
Moscow, 1914

This past week has brought in a couple of eloquent, deeply engaged reviews that demonstrate, among other things, that books can find their ideal readers years, even decades, after publication. At Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, Karen Langley — a great advocate of Russian lit in translation — posted a gloriously enthusiastic response to my chapbook of four Russian futurist manifestos, titled A Slap in the Face and rereleased by Insert Blanc Press, a scappy LA-based publisher of avant-garde conceptual writing, in summer 2017 (the original pamphlet appeared in 2013). She rightly notes that the book’s layout, with ample illustrations, enriches the reader’s experience. The futurists, who were trailblazers in the field of book art, would have approved.

Elsewhere, Russian Dinosaur turned its fierce attention to the latest issue of Cardinal Points, and presented its findings as a series of revelations:

First revelation: exciting translations of forgotten works by two outstanding Russian emigre authors, Yuri Felsen (pen name of Nikolai Berngardovich Freydenshtein) and Vasily Yanovsky (two short stories translated by Yanovsky’s wife, Isabella Levitin).

[S]econd revelation[:] Maria Tsvetaeva’s drama Fortune (Fortuna), translated by Maya Chhabra. I did not know that Tsetaeva had written a play (in fact, she wrote at least three verse plays); this one retells, in five colourful episodes, the life of Armand-Louis de Gontaut, Duc de Lauzun (later Duc de Biron and generally known as Biron, 1747-1793).

[F]inal revelation[:] Stephen Pearl’s humorous and interrogative article about his translation of Ivan Goncharov’s 1869 novel Obryv, always known in English as The Precipice.

Dinosaur also commends another extremely worthy publication, the East-West Review, the official journal of the Great Britain-Russia Society, which is available only in print, by subscription.

Speaking of great British venues, I was honored to appear in the latest — and last — series of the BBC Radio 4 program World War One: The Cultural Front, discussing Marc Chagall, Kazimir Malevich, and Isaac Babel with Francine Stock.

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