Zemlia obietovannaia [The promised land].
St. Petersburg: Izdanie Petrogradskogo Sovieta Rabochikh i Krasnoarmeiskikh Deputatov, 1919. Octavo (21.5 × 14.75 cm). Original pictorial wrappers; 32 pp. Extensive publisher’s catalog to front and rear wrapper. Small oval stamp of Marcel Bekus (“Ex-libris Marcel Bekus”). Some browning to wrapper, else very good.
Early edition of Bednyi's satirical anti-religious cycle of poems, based on the Old Testament story, which casts Moses as a Bolshevik, leading his people to the promised land of communism. The author, Demian Bednyi (pseudonym of Efim Alekseevich Pridvorov, 1883-1945), was a popular satirist writing for the two major Soviet newspapers “Pravda” and “Izvestiia” and was widely known as the master of agitational literature. According to Maxim Gorky’s memoirs, Lenin “strenuously and repeatedly stressed the agitational significance of the work of Demyan Bednyi, but said: “It’s a little rough. Follows the reader, but you have to be a little bit ahead.” Bednyi was born in a small village in modern day Ukraine. His unadorned language and village humor as well as knowledge of the Biblical texts, which he could successfully reference and satirize, made his songs and propaganda poems very popular among the people, and especially with the soldiers in the Red Army. In this text, an epigraph quoting from the Old Testament precedes every chapter with the simple rhymes of Bednyi standing in stark contrast to the antiquated and affected-seeming language of the biblical texts. Bednyi’s satirical poems anticipate the Soviet anti-religious campaign (1921–1928), an all-out violent attack on the Orthodox Church. He is perhaps best remembered for his 1924 satirical poem “The New Testament Without Distortion According to Demian” which got Bednyi into a literary fight with another Soviet poet, Sergei Esenin, who wrote and distributed his own poetic response. The whole literary fight seems to have inspired Mikhail Bulgakov’s famous novel “The Master and Margarita” with the character Ivan Bezdomnyi (Homeless) being a satirical representation of Demian Bednyi (Poor). Provenance: from the collection of collector-dealer Victor Kholodkov. KVK and OCLC show copies at Berkeley, Colorado, Ohio, UC Berkeley, School of Slavonic Studies (London), UCL, and Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
Book ID: P5959