Chort znaet chto takoe [Devil knows what it is] …

[Riga, “Van’ka-Vstan’ka”,] 1927.

Five works, 16mo, bound together, each pp. 32; very good copies in contemporary cloth, rubbed, gilt endpapers, edges stained purple, preserving all the original illustrated paper wrappers, printed in blue and black with portraits of the authors by Apsit and Svarog.


US $495€400

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First editions, very rare, of five collections of sketches, short stories and poems, mostly comic, most with a brief biography of the author; these make up the first five books (published in June 1927) of a series of 31 to be published at monthly intervals alongside a humorous newspaper Van’ka-Vstan’ka.

Zoshchenko’s volume, with a short authorial preface, is a collection of ‘feuilletons’ printed in comic journals in 1923-6, written in his trademark short sentences. From the neo-Realist Shishkov, a friend of Zamyatin, comes a tale of a joiner suffering from wanderlust. Knyazev’s Na tolchke comprises nineteen poems, while the German writer Hermann Schmitz (d. 1913) is represented by Russian translations of three short ‘Grotesken’. Anatoly Frenkel was a Siberian Jewish song-writer, humorist and translator who had studied in New York in the 1910s – he translated Alice in Wonderland and stories by O. Henry and Jack London (of the pieces in prose and verse here, there is a poem ‘Jack Londons’).

None of these five titles is listed in OCLC.

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