London: Chatto & Windus, 1920. Large octavo (26 × 21 cm). Original orange paper-covered boards, incorporating an illustration by Mikhail Larionov; 26 pp. With six illustrations by Larionov throughout. Recent professional repair to spine; moisture damage to boards; very light traces of moisture to plates; still good or better.
First English translation of Alexander Blok’s controversial 1918 long poem “The Twelve,” a poetic response to the October Revolution, illustrated by the avant-garde artist Mikhail Larionov. Blok (1880-1921) chose to remain in Russia following the Revolution, while Larionov (1881-1964) settled in Paris, with their trajectories representing the political split within the literary and artistic Russian avant-garde. Blok never saw Larionov’s illustrations which were completed in Paris. This was a significant creative departure for Larionov whose graphic work was typically done in close collaboration with the author of the text, in keeping with the principles of Futurist bookmaking. Instead, Larionov who unlike Blok did not witness the Revolution in Russia, was likely drawing on his experience of violence during his service in WWI for his illustrations of the poem.
“The Twelve” was first published in France in 1920 by the Russian publisher Mishen` (along with Blok’s other poem, The Scythians) with illustrations by the avant-gardist couple Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov. The French translation which appeared in the same year used only Larionov’s illustrations. For this English translation, published simultaneously in London, Larionov reinforced the drawings with ink, to make them bolder and more legible than in the French edition. Translated from the Russian with an introduction and notes Carl Eric Bechhofer (1894-1949), author and translator who wrote a number of works on Russia such as “Russia at a Crossroads” (1916) and “Through Starving Russia” (1921). Another English translation, but without Larionov's illustration, appeared the same year in New York, by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky.
Book ID: P6486