Ogon’ [Fire].

[Gomel], “Veka i Dni”, 1919.

Small 8vo, pp. 39 + 1 page advertisements; paper toned, but in good condition in the original printed wrappers, wrappers lightly soiled and worn; in a folding cloth box.


US $2733€2330

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Ogon’ [Fire].

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First edition of this collection of poems. With a long signed presentation inscription in Russian on title-page to the actress Varvara Alekseeva-Meskhieva (b. 1898) in pencil, covering the title-page: ‘To dear Varvara Vladimirovna Alekseeva-Meskhieva, from the heart, Ehrenburg. On the eve of departure to M[-?]. I see you now - Mary, but Mary once again as Clotilda, and I wish to be a choirboy, and to sing “Hail Mary, oh lost heart!” It is true, I love [you] very much. Il E.’ (our translation). The allusion to Mary is in the style of a prayer, a motif also used elsewhere by Ehrenburg, who produced a similar inscription for Ariadna Efron, daughter of Marina Tsvetaeva, as recounted in her memoirs: ‘To Alya… Hail Mary, our hope, Hail Mary, oh lost heart!’

Varvara Alekseeva-Meskhieva was one of the most famous Soviet actresses, and a popular habitué of the literary salons of Moscow and St Petersburg. She appeared in a variety of roles in theatres including the Moscow Dramatic Theatre and the Theatre of the Red Army in Moscow. She later moved to Tbilisi, where she was elected the leading Soviet artist of Georgia in 1943. Ehrenburg recalls in his memoirs the young actress reading works of Mayakovsky in the House of Media (later The Central House of Journalists) in March 1921.

Although perhaps better known in the West as a prose writer and journalist, Ehrenburg began his literary career as a poet. The present collection, published in the south-eastern Belarussian town of Gomel, is one of eleven collections of his poetry published between 1911 and 1923. The title is taken from Luke 12:49: ‘I am come to send fire on the earth…’

Together with the book is a publicity poster showing Varvara Alekseeva-Meshkieva in a variety of productions including ‘Revizor’ and ‘Na Dne’: Moscow, Gastroli, c. 1930 (735 x 540 mm, short tear (repaired) to the central fold, traces of tape, now removed).

Kilgour 295; Tarasenkov p. 424.

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