Mayakovsky’s Mystery-Bouffe

Looking forward to the October Revolution’s own first anniversary, the last exhibit in this section is a famous piece of literature written for the event by one of the most important and most famous early Soviet writers – Vladimir Mayakovsky.  The page on display comes from a book Mayakovsky published of “everything” written by him in the 1909-1919 period.  In his preface, Mayakovsky addresses “lovers of anniversaries” and explains that he himself sees the publication chiefly as a chance to draw a line under his past work and think only about the future.

The book’s only entry for 1918 is the experimental play Misteriia-Buff (Mystery-Bouffe), described here as “a heroic, epic, and satirical depiction of our epoch”.  Most of the page introduces the play’s dramatis personae, who include 7 pairs of “the clean”, 7 pairs of “the unclean”, devils, saints, and objects (including a car, bread, salt, a hammer, and a book).  The page ends with the list of settings for the play – the universe, the ark, hell, heaven, and the Promised Land.

The play’s first appearance involved the input of exceptional talents.  Its first director was Vsevolod Meyerhold, its designer was Kazimir Malevich, and Mayakovsky himself played various parts on the stage.

Vse, sochinennoe Vladimirom Maiakovskim, 1909-1919 / Vladimir Maiakovskii (1919) S756.d.91.31