[St. Petersburg]: self-published, 1976. Octavo (31 × 24 cm). Original decorative wrappers with collage incorporating beer labels and other ephemera; 33 leaves of typescript to rectos, with two original watercolor drawings. Very good.
A postmodernist samizdat publication with a mélange of literary references, typical of the Leningrad underground literary scene of the 1970s. This mixed-genre “almanac” consists of two works, a short story and a play, both of which feature the same “alcoholic philosopher” Lavrentii Smorchkov as central character and narrator. The first work, a confessional short story “Ne mogu molchat': zapiski moralista” [I can not remain silent. Notes of a moralist] is a reference to a 1908 essay on capital punishment by Leo Tolstoy. The story in this volume opens with a ironic question: “Why is this man even alive”? The second work, a play titled “Khameleon pastukha” [The Shepherd’s Chameleon] is a reference to a 1955 play by French/Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco. A major figure of the Theater of the Absurd, with this play Ionesco affirmed his faith that “the avant-garde is merely the renewer of tradition.” The play was first published in Russian in the journal Voprosy Literatury in 1969, and made a splash in the Soviet literary world, apparently influencing this work. Finally, the title of the compilation “Almanac of the muses” refers to the famous 1916 Silver Age poetry almanac, which featured works by Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Valerii Briusov etc. grounding this work in the St. Petersburg literary milieu. The main character of this “Almanac of the muses” whose primary preoccupations are women, alcohol and the meaning of life, resembles Venedikt Erofeev’s alcoholic intellectual Venechka from his prose poem “Moscow-Petushki”, which also initially circulated in samizdat in the early 1970s before its publication in Israel in 1973. To the best of our knowledge, the present work was never officially published and the author, likely writing under a pseudonym, is unknown.
Book ID: 50988