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20th century Avant Garde Russian Literature in Translation

A collection of unusual, bizarre, satirical and absurdist Russian literature of the twentieth century in English translations.

Words in Revolution includes Futurist manifestoes inspired by the Gileya group, the Ego-Futurists, and Tsentrifuga. This collection contains translations of the manifestoes by Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov, Kruchenykh, Burliuk, Shershenevich, and Pasternak from 1912-1928. The Russian Futurist movement expanded on the tenets of Filippo Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto

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Filippo Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto published in Le Figaro (February 20, 1909)
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Kazimir Malevich – 

set design for Victory over the Sun

One of the more distinctive excursions of the Russian Futurist movement was Zaum or transrational language, similar to Dadaism. The linguistic experimentation by poets Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh is well-represented by the Futurist Opera Victory over the Sun, a collaboration with artist Kazimir Malevich and composer Mikhail Matyushin. 

OBERIU (Объединение реального искусства / the Union of Real Art) was a later group of Russian Futurist writers active in the 1920s and 1930s founded by Kharms and Vvedensky. OBERIU were well known for "literary hooliganism", circus-like stunts and theatrical presentations in unusual locations. Some of their literature is available in the OBERIU anthology and Russia's Lost Literature Of The Absurd: Selected Works Of Daniil Kharms And Alexander Vvedensky

Moscow to the End of the Line is a semi-autobiographical postmodernist prose poem by Venedikt Erofeev detailing an alcoholic intellectual's suburban train trip which originally circulated in samizdat. It is best taken in with copious amounts of alcohol and alcohol.

Yuri Olesha's Envy is a sublimely weird novel which explores the relationship between two unlikely frenemies: Babichev, exemplifying pure Soviet values, and Kavalerov, a self-destructive disaster of a man.


It was a movement so artfully anarchic, and so quickly suppressed, that readers only began to discover its strange and singular brilliance three decades after it was extinguished-and then only in somizdat and emigre publications. Some called it the last of the Russian avant-garde, and others called it the first (and last) instance of Absurdism in Russia: however difficult to classify, it was OBERIU (from an acronym standing for The Union of Real Art), and the pleasures of its poetry and prose are, with this volume, at long last fully open to English-speaking readers. This anthology includes the work of three writers, Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, and Nikolai Zabolotsky, who, between 1927 and 1930, made up the core of OBERIU, and of three others, Nikolai Oleinikov, Leonid Lipavsky, and Yakov Druskin, who, although not members of OBERIU, worked in the same vein. Skillfully translated to preserve the weird charm of the originals, these poems and prose pieces display all the hilarity and tragedy, the illogical action and puppetlike violence and eroticism, and the hallucinatory intensity that brought down the wrath of the Soviet censors. Today they offer an uncanny reflection of the distorted reality they reject.

Moscow to the End of the Line

In this classic of Russian humor and social commentary, a fired cable fitter goes on a binge and hopes a train to Petushki (where his "most beloved of trollops" awaits). On the way he bestows upon angels, fellow passengers, and the world at large a magnificent monologue on alcohol, politics, society, alcohol, philosophy, the pains of love, and, of course, alcohol.


Andrei Babichev is a paragon of Soviet values, an innovative and practical man, Director of the Food Industry Trust, a man whose vision encompasses such future advances for mankind as the 35-kopeck sausage and the self-peeling potato. Out of kindness, he rescues from the gutter Nikolai Karalerov, violently tossed from a bar after a drunken and self-destructive tirade. But instead of gratitude, Babichev finds himself the subject of an endlessly malignant jealousy, as Kavaelrov sees in him a representative of the new breed of man who has prevented him from realizing his true greatness. A scathing social satire, Envy is a concise and incisive exploration of the paradigmatic conflicts of the early Soviet age: old versus new, imagination versus pragmatism, and the alienation of the romantic artist in the age of technology. Critics as far apart as Gleb Struve ( One of the most interesting and original works in the whole of Soviet literature ) and Pravda ( Olesha's style is masterful, his psychological analysis infinitely subtle, his portrayal of negative characters truly striking ) have praised the novel, and one of the signs of its universality is the fact that it has been claimed by nearly every school of critics and interpreted as everything from a submerged homosexual story to a 20th-century Notes from the Underground."

Joanna has twice won certificates of honour (and a free beer) for demonstrating “extraordinary courage against the unsurmountable Phaal”, a ludicrously spicy curry.