The Fire Horse - Children's Poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mandelstam and Daniil Kharms
"What's definitely good in Russia are the children's books...Russian books for young children are today the best in the world." So the poet Marina Tsvetaeva described the astonishing flowering of picture books for children in Soviet Russia in the 1920s. The three picture books that are gathered here in wonderful translations by the poet Eugene Ostashevsky are the fruits of collaboration between some of the greatest Russian poets of the twentieth century and the Russian avant-garde artists who joyfully practiced children's illustration. Vladimir Mayakovsky meant the "The Fire Horse," with its stunning illustrations by Lidia Popova, to "introduce the child to the social nature of labor." Father and son have a rocking horse collectively built by workers of all sorts. Osip Mandelstam's "Two Trams" is the story of a day in the life of two Leningrad tramcars. When a young tram tires and stalls on a city square, his feisty cousin sets out to find him. The pictures are by Boris Ender. "Play" by Daniil Kharms and illustrated by Vladimir Konashevich follows three boys who run around pretending to be an automobile, an airplane, and a ship. Kharms perfectly captures the energy and excitement of children's games.
Eugene Ostashevsky is the author of two poetry collections and The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi and the editor and translator of Alexander Vvedensky: An Invitation for Me to Think (both NYRB Poets). Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), was an established poet who was unpopular with Soviety authorities. The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam and Voronezh Notebooks are available as NYRB Classics. Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) is best known for his longer poems Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1924) and All Right! (1927). Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) was an absurdist poet and writer, and founder of OBEIRU in 1928.