Friday, February 01, 2008

This is truly hell

Surfing Wikipedia I came upon the bio of Vladimir Mayakovsky. You've heard of him, right?

On the evening of April 14, 1930, Mayakovsky shot himself. The unfinished poem in his suicide note read, in part:

The love boat has crashed against the daily routine. You and I, we are quits, and there is no point in listing mutual pains, sorrows, and hurts.

Mayakovsky was interred at the Moscow Novodevichy Cemetery.

n 1930, his birthplace of Bagdadi in Georgia was renamed Mayakovsky in his honour. Following Stalin's death, rumours arose that Mayakovsky did not commit suicide but was in fact murdered at the behest of Stalin, however, there is no evidence that he was murdered. During the 1990s, while KGB files were being declassified, there was hope that new evidence would come to light on this question, but none has been found and the hypothesis remains unproven.

After his death, Mayakovsky was attacked in the Soviet press as a "formalist" and a "fellow-traveller" (попутчик) (as opposed to officially recognised "proletarian poets", such as Demyan Bedny). When, in 1935, Lilya Brik wrote to Stalin about this, Stalin wrote a comment on Brik's letter:

"Comrade Yezhov[head of the NKVD at the time], please take charge of Brik's letter. Mayakovsky is still the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch. Indifference to his cultural heritage is a crime. Brik's complaints are, in my opinion, justified..." (Source: Memoirs by Vasily Katanyan (L.Yu.Brik's stepson) p.112)

These words became a cliché and officially canonized Mayakovsky but, as Boris Pasternak noted [1], it "dealt him the second death" in some circles.

Poetically, Mayakovsky had no followers among Russian poets, his style was never properly analysed or further developed. Mayakovsky, however, was the most influential futurist in Lithuania and his poetry helped to form The Four Winds movement [2]. He was also an influence on the writer Valentin Kataev.

Can you imagine? Having a boatload of talent, but because a detested jerk recognizes your talent, you are persona non grata with your peers, who think you're a jerk because a jerk respects your talent.

That is truly hell. Luckily Mayakovsky had already killed himself.

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