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Russian Futurist "Criminal Novel" With "Gangster Slang"

Razboinik Van’ka-Kain i Son’ka Manikiurshchitsa: ugolovnyi roman [The robber Vanka-Kain and Son’ka the manicurist. A crime novel].

Moscow: [Izdanie vserossiskogo soiuza poetov], 1925 (front cover states 1926). Large octavo (26 × 17.5 cm). Original pictorial wrappers; 30 pp. Wrapper illustration and 6 (5 full page) lithographic illustrations by Maria Siniakova. Wrappers somewhat worn and soiled; corners a bit bent; still about very good.

First freestanding edition of this folk-Futurist “criminal novel” in verse by the Futurist poet Aleksei Kruchenykh (1886–1968), with original lithographed illustrations by the Futurist artist Maria Siniakova (1890–1984). A shortened version of this novel, which is based on an eighteenth-century legend about a robber and spy, first appeared in Mayakovsky’s LEF in 1924, with this edition marked as “significantly expanded and corrected.” One of the key figures of Russian Futurism, Kruchenykh co-authored (with Velimir Khlebnikov) the libretto to the famous Futurist opera “Victory Over the Sun” (1913) and is known as the main theorist and practitioner of “zaum” (trans-sense) language in poetry, most famously in his poetic collection “Pomada” (Lipstick, 1913). Discussing the language of this novel-in-verse, the scholar Marina Dmitrieva writes:“for Kruchenykh, the work was a linguistic research project concerned with gangster language. As before when collaborating with Khlebnikov, Kruchenykh masterfully adapted the language of urban folklore to the context of a modern narrative with subversive irony.” The novel is appended with a dictionary of “blatnye slova” (gangster language) supplied by the author.

The Futurist artist Maria Siniakova (1886–1968) designed the cover and provided illustrations in a manner of lubok, a popular nineteenth-century broadside. A frequently overlooked female contributor to Russian Futurism, the writer Lilya Brik commented that the movement “was born at the Siniakov family dacha,” which served as a refuge to left-wing artists and poets during WWI, including Velimir Khlebnikov, Boris Pasternak, and Nikolai Aseev. Starting in 1913 Siniakova studied art at the School for Painting and Drawing in Moscow and later at the Art School of Fedor Rerberg. In the same period, she showed her paintings at the Soiuz Molodezhi (Union of Youth) exhibit alongside well-established artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Alexandra Exter, and Vladimir Burliuk. Drawn to Futurist book design, in the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s Siniakova created covers and illustrations to works by Nikolai Aseev, Vladimir Mayakovskii, Boris Kushner and Aleksei Kruchenykh among others. For this edition “to fit with the text, Siniakova’s illustrations were ‘primitive’, expressive and grotesque.” This novel was the first in a cycle of four novels collectively published as “Chetyre foneticheskikh romana” (The four phonetic novels) in 1927. The collected volume also contained Siniakova’s illustrations. (See “Maria Siniakova’s Sensual Futurism” in International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, pp. 122–151.) MoMA 620, Getty 378. One of 1000 copies. As of June 2020, KVK and OCLC show only one paper copy in North America.

Book ID: 50813

Price: $2,750.00