String quartets all over the place

Between 1925 and 1958 it went through 36 editions (Veselá 105). Every time the party line changed, the author changed his story, and he kept changing it until death claimed him. Long before then, it had became a canonical paradigm of the Socialist-Realist novel.

 

Translated by Liv Tadge, 1981. Moscow: Raduga, 1985. Thanks to Imported Publications (floruit ca. 1970-1989), the Socialist Camp also contributed to the aesthetics of my home with some of Ivan Bilibin’s illustrations of Russian fairy tales, an English-language book from East Germany about Soviet photography, and, from North Korea, a North Korean handbook containing useable information about the opera The Fate of a Self-Defence Corps Man and the ballet The Leader’s Noble Idea Flowers Out.

And in after years the revisions underwrote rereadings, like this sample snapshot in time.

Pages 104-123

But passim, when their changeable language tried to change itself from dead to living through metaphors like “stormy blood,” it tended to mean words like “blood” as unchangingly as could be, in words that were themselves always stably dead. Liv Tadge’s translation (the 1981 edition quoted above) omits the word, but in the biology of Cement, cement is always to be mixed with blood. That’s one of the constants of this novel, no matter what the edition. When bodies are imagined as if outside the blood-red band of the spectrum, they are to be tinted a mere livor mortis.

The contrast between red and unred happens to be a little hard to see in Raduga’s Cement typography, because the only color in its presses for that run was extratextual: the green of the page numbers. Everything else about the prose was a uniform gray.

In Gladkov’s time, movies too were generally monochrome. But the cement in this 1933 movie poster is not a single shade of Gladkov gray. It is radiantly spectral.

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/218645

That’s because Mikhail Dlugach, the designer of the poster, did his work of envisioning under the lights of a different spectrum: one meant to illuminate a studio, not a library. Because they were created under that regime, the stairs that lead the eye upward from words to a smiling unspeaking face are Constructivist, and the shadow of the human that has been left behind by the ascent is Expressionist. The unspeaking face’s cosmetics too come from a silent repository: the cabinet of Dr. Caligari. But the dentistry that constructs its smile is the artifact of an aesthetic dating from long after the time of Tatlin’s tower and Wiene’s asylum. In fact, the poster suggests that the smile isn’t even attributable to dentistry. For that humble domestic science its scale is too vast. On the poster’s lavishly laid down slabs of color it erects itself like a heroic architecture, and as an architecture its relation in scale to the human is not 1920s Expressionist but 1960s Brutalist.

So think now, in the aftermath of the Brutalist era, of how the sound of your stormy pulse might have reechoed from the walls of a Brutalist bedroom where you and Comrade Dasha had shared the concrete mattress. One of the purposes of modern architecture since at least the days of Le Corbusier has been social control, explicitly stated as theory (in, for instance, Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture), and Socialist Realist fiction provided a way to translate the theory’s language of instruction from body to text. Raise your eyelids and grin, the translated schema instructs the body waiting on its postcoital cinderblock. Then look out the window, sight down the barrel of your rifle at that string quartet in the distance, and aim.

In the fine print, a high grade ha

The Freeman’s Journal (Dublin), December 24, 1890:

The_Freeman_s_Journal_Wed__Dec_24__1890_page 1 full

The print doesn’t welcome your presence. But notice that Mr. Joyce himself persisted with the aid of a magnifying glass.

 

James Joyce, 1939
Gisèle Freund, 1939

Persist, therefore. Think of yourself as Gabriel at the Christmas feast and afterward, paying attention right to the end.

The_Freeman_s_Journal_Wed__Dec_24__1890C

Clio and Apollo will rest you merry.

 

From the city of Andrei Bely

There was a small public park on the north side of the square. In one of its linden trees an ear and a finger had been found one day – remnants of a terrorist whose hand had slipped while he was arranging a lethal parcel in his room on the other side of the square. Those same trees (a pattern of silver filigree in a mother-of-pearl mist out of which the bronze dome of St. Isaac’s arose in the background) had also seen children shot down at random from the branches into which they had climbed in a vain attempt to escape the mounted gendarmes who were quelling the First Revolution (1905-06). Quite a few little stories like these were attached to squares and streets in St. Petersburg.

— Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, chapter 9

Every few seconds for the last two days, a cyberentity in Russia has been attempting to break into this blog. According to several bloggers, this represents the activity of something called a brute-force password-guessing attack on WordPress’s XMLRPC function.

It claims to originate from an address in St. Petersburg. Of course that claim may be a mere act of literature – say, something like a May Day hommage to Andrei Bely, author of the great Modernist novel of terror and masquerade, Petersburg. In any case, the cyberentity claims to be headquartered not in St. Petersburg but in Moscow, where it calls itself the Super Professional Servers Network.

But its street address in Moscow is all Bely, all Petersburg. It is:

1st Magistralny Blind Alley, 30

And naturally, as a prudent reverence before literature’s power to blind and erase (the pseudonym Bely means “white”), I configured this blog long ago to reject all attempts at communication from Russia.