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First Soviet Edition of Kafka's Works

Roman, novelly, pritchi [Novel, novellas, parables].

Moscow: Izdatel’stvo “Progress”, 1965. Octavo (17 × 13 cm). Original embossed cloth in black and silver, decorative dust jacket; 613, [2] pp. Light foxing and small tears to dust jacket edges. Two separate gift inscriptions in blue ink, one of them on a tipped in leaf, and few markings in blue ink to the introduction; dust jacket with a few small tears and nicks; else about very good.

The first Soviet edition of Kafka’s works, this famous “black volume” introduced the author to a wider Soviet audience. Viewed by the Soviet establishment as a nihilist and a decadent for his excessive subjectivity, Kafka was first published in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death, during the Thaw. An article about his life and work first appeared in “Inostrannaia literatura” (Foreign Literature) in 1959, followed by translations of several stories in the same publication in 1964. A 1963 conference on Kafka held just outside of Prague was the first acknowledgement of the author in the Eastern Bloc, and grappled with the problem of presenting Kafka to the communist reader. In the introduction to this volume, literary scholar Boris Suchkov summarized the resulting consensus: “Franz Kafka, whose intensely painful art has incorporated many moods and ideas characteristic for the bourgeois consciousness, rightfully holds one of the primary positions among the artists who broke with the realist tradition in our century.”

The translators of this volume included members of the pre-revolutionary cultural elite such as Rita Rait-Kovaleva, a friend of Akhmatova, Maiakovsky, Khlebnikov, and Pasternak, and Vera Toper, the sister of Osip Brik. This first freestanding volume also contained the first translation of Kafka’s “The Trial” which had an altogether different meaning for Soviet readers, in Akhmatova’s words “taking you by the hand and leading you into your bad dreams.” Unusual for a Soviet publication, the print run was not indicated on the volume, but was rumored to be at about sixty thousand copies. Most of these were slated for libraries with the rest being available mostly to writers and well-connected intellectuals.

This volume bears an inscription to the Soviet writer and journalist Alexander Mikhalevich (1907–1973).

As of August 2021, KVK, OCLC show three copies in North America.

Book ID: 51391

Price: $350.00