Utopias (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

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9780141180816: Utopias (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

Russian Modernism began with the triumph of the symbolist style and survived until the Stalinist terror of the late 1930s. It was an age bristling with visions of glorious or terrifying futures, with manifestos for new artistic movements, and with furious feuds between them. Utopias brings together Mikhail Bakhtin's celebrated analysis of "carnival culture"; reflections by painter and stage designer Leon Bakst and film director Sergei Einstein; and major texts by Isaac Babel and Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva, Vladimir Nabokov and Boris Pasternak; as well as many works by less well-known but equally talented figures. This richly illustrated collection offers an astonishing look at one of history's most stimulating artistic eras.

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The Idea of the Soviet Union, the ideal moment it supposedly represented--especially at its inception-- lingered long in the mind of many (still) respected writers and thinkers. This important collection is of Russian Modernist Texts from between 1905-1940. It shows that the run up to the 1917 Revolution and its long aftermath had Russian society in thrall to contemporary art ( sovremennoe iskusstvo) in a way never matched in the West--and it demonstrates how acutely Soviet art interrogated that society.

The Utopian thrust of the avant-garde penetrated deeply into everyday life, especially after 1921 and the formation of the Constructivist movement, dominating architecture, film, poetry, theatre and even furnishings. Whilst all these texts are, in some way, an anticipation or a reaction to 1917, they are all very different in their judgement or silence. They all embody a particular response to startling times that helped produce some truly memorable art.

The Utopias anthology contains the important literary and cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin's renowned analysis of "carnival culture"; the film director Sergei Eisenstein on "Milton, Mayakovsky and Montage"; and texts by Mayakovsky himself, Babel, Bulgakov, Nabokov and Pasternak. Also included are many lesser-known writers, also hugely talented, writing brilliantly of the upheaval that rapid social change caused in Russia.

The spectre of 1917 still haunts Utopian thought and this fascinating book show us why. -- Mark Thwaite

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