Tartu: Odamees, 1920. Octavo (21.8 × 17.7 cm). Original pictorial wrappers by Natalie Mei; 69,  pp. Wrappers very lightly worn and discolored; very good.
First and only volume of this important publication of Estonian modernist art and literature, which marked a radical break with the “Siuru” movement around Marie Under of the late 1910s. The aesthetic and political orientation of Barbarus, Roht, and Visnapuu—each of whose work would develop along avant-gardistic lines in subsequent years—was sharply opposed to Under’s refined lyricism. In what can be considered the loose group’s manifesto, Visnapuu proclaims: “Long live the fresh heaps of manure!” and calls for a new, more authentic sensibility in a way that harkens back to Nietzsche. “The carcasses of dead gods still lie in the streets,” Visnapuu writes, and exclaims: “Long live the new pathos [...] the pathos of emergency after chaos threatens to bury everything.” Describing the state of contemporary literature, Visnapuu writes: “Anarchist art, neo-romanticism, impressionism, symbolism, futurism are all lowered into one gray, misshapen, and infinite fermenting mass. There is great chaos. Things disappear into it...” In an article on the “death of Siuru” Visnapuu calls for literally enacting the destruction with the Italian Futurists spoke of “symbolically” (p. 56). In addition to Visnapuu’s theoretical essays, the volume contains a selection of poems from Johannes Barbarus' forthcoming third volume of poems, Katastroofid, and prose by Richard Roht. With striking expressionist illustrations by Natalie Mei (or Mey, 1900–1975), a gifted, yet relatively unknown Estonian painter, set designer, and graphic artist associated with the “New Objectivity”–influenced period of Estonian art in the 1920s. Aside from a few smaller vignettes, her illustrations are in color and mounted on separate leaves, as well as the front wrapper. A very rare example of Estonian avant-garde book design, which had a brief idiosyncratic moment in the late 1910s and 1920s, when avant-garde visual art was centered in the Eesti Kunstnikkude Ryhm (Estonian Artists’ Group), among other places, which emphasized geometric abstraction but was also influenced by movements such as Cubism and Russian Constructivism. Sources in English on Baltic Modernism are scarce, and this is still a topic that awaits further discovery and popularization in the West. KVK, OCLC show only one copy in Germany.
Book ID: P6123