Mayakovsky: A Biography

Bengt Jangfeldt (Author) Harry D. Watson (Translator)
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Product Details

University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
December 23, 2014
6.1 X 1.6 X 9.0 inches | 2.07 pounds
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About the Author

Bengt Jangfeldt is a Swedish author and researcher. He is the author of several books, including The Hero of Budapest: The Triumph and Tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg. Harry D. Watson is an author and translator who lives in Scotland.


"A gripping account of the poet's tumultuous life and tragic death."-- "New York Review of Books"
"Jangfeldt carefully shows the way in which all aspects of Mayakovsky's life--his womanizing, his astonishing productivity, his chain-smoking, his gambling, his poetry--came from the same source. In Jangfeldt's concentration on how Mayakovsky's art and life were absolutely and inextricably intertwined, the granite Soviet figure is made into something more akin to a butch Russian Oscar Wilde, and is all the more interesting for the metamorphosis. . . . Mayakovsky is also a beautifully coordinated group portrait of the individuals surrounding Mayakovsky. . . . This is a wonderful book that presents us with a captivating, contradictory, frustrating human being."-- "Literary Review"
Vladimir Mayakovsky, a forester's son from the Caucasus, became the leading Russian avant-garde poet of the pre-World War I years, a prophet of the 1917 Revolution, the author of a long poem on Lenin, and then an increasingly disillusioned--though still firmly 'Communist'--poet, agitator, dramatist, and film maker in the Soviet Union of the 1920s. A dazzling lyric poet who never quite grew up, he tragically committed suicide in 1930 at the age of 36. Bengt Jangfeldt prize-winning Mayakovsky, first published in Sweden, gives a beautifully detailed portrait of the period as well as the individual life, especially of Mayakovsky's passionate and tormented relationship with Lili Brik, herself a leading figure of the period. Jangfeldt's absorbing story is full of surprises: it lays to rest many common assumptions about everyday life under Soviet rule even as it underscores others. A real page turner, copiously illustrated and well translated, this biography is essential reading not only for students of modernist poetry but for anyone interested in the relationship of literature to life in the former Soviet Union.--Marjorie Perloff "Literary Review"
"Jangfeldt paints a fine picture of, especially, the fascinating Lili, as well as Mayakovsky. Parts are underplayed: there is frequent mention of Mayakovsky's suicidal disposition, but fairly little exploration of it in any detail, from what lay behind it to what exacerbated it. But the man, and the most significant works, are well introduced. . . . A very impressive study of a remarkable poet, and a rather remarkable group of people--a who's who of Russian literature of the times. Mayakovsky is also an exceptionally well (and helpfully) illustrated biography."--Marjorie Perloff "The Complete Review"
This will of course become a standard work, not only as the first non-Soviet biography of Mayakovsky but because of Jangfeldt's exclusive access to sources. For more than three decades he has had intimate contacts with people from the poet's circle. The richness of detail in the captivating tale we now have access to is a result of his important private archive.--Marjorie Perloff "Aftenbladet"
Let it be said immediately: this biography is a masterpiece. It is the kind of monumental, deeply penetrating life survey that is written once in ten years, at most.--Marjorie Perloff "Dagens Nyheter"
"This is a groundbreaking, resplendent biography."--Marjorie Perloff "Arete"