PRINT January 1973

Eisenstein on Mayakovsky

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: Evacuated to Alma-Ata with Mosfilm during World War II, Eisenstein continued his work on Ivan the Terrible. April 19, 1942 he spoke at a program in honor of Mayakovsky at the Pushkin Public Library. His notes for the speech were written in two drafts, marked in red pencil “I” and “II.” The notes were written in pencil. The other side of “II” contains notes and sketches for Ivan the Terrible.

Editorial additions are enclosed in square brackets. The text was first published by A. V. Fevralsky in Mayakovskyi sovietskaya literatura [Mayakovsky and Soviet Literature], edited by Z.S. Paperny, Xoscow: Nauka, 1964.

—Marco Carynnyk

Thought what to speak about.
About the principal thing.
Mayakovsky as a rebellious spirit.
- - - - - - - - -
About our youth,
Fervor united with acute subject matter.
The devil himself no brother.
1 ROSTA posters.
2 Not admitted to Mystery-Bouffe.
[At the bottom, upside down, in red pencil:] Productivity and diligence.
I do not know how to speak.
But I am in an advantageous position.
I am neither an offic[ial] speaker nor a literary scholar.

And I have been given
permission to speak my
Now Mayakovsky is praised
for his satisfactory work.
We valued his mischief.
Union of one and the other.

Hence I don’t have to quote the poetry
and am not obliged to quote the recently established clichés about Mayakovsky.
Stalin’s words ausgeschlossen.
And am not obliged to agree with every-
thing. For ex[ample] on cinema. They
canonize Mayakovsky’s scenarios to no purpose.
Not in the wretched scenarios. But in his
method of thinking he is cinemato-
graphic. Japanese cinema is very weak,
but the film method in the art of the
Japanese is remarkable.

Catherine [sic] Spurgeon on Shakespeare, the good family man.
What a loyal realist the ‘deceased!’ was.
This overthrow and scope of power are not groundless, but grow wholly out of a perception of the New Renaissance—prerevolutionary foreknowledge and life in it as a whole.
Epoch= Early Renaissance (cite Uccello).
Mayakov sky’s great civic sense and pathos grew out of this feeling.
Special situation.
Town of Vitebsk (Malevich)
and ROSTA posters.
Mayakovsky as a common noun, but, with a capital letter
for fervor, searches, revolutionary ardor, and candor.
The anti-fascism of these genuine traits shines with a particularly clear light today.
This is what creates the great ones not just in poetry, but in all fields of art, in all spheres of life.
And that great struggle against the gloom of fascism

Not an off[icial] speaker or literary scholar.
Not a survey of the conventional Vl[adimir] Vl[adimirovich] and how we sensed and regarded him.
From these positions it does not seem that, speaking about Mayak[ovsky], the most precious or important thing is not emphasized.
How he was important for us.
An incident with Shakespeare.
Catherine [sic] Spurgeon.
Lear, Romeo and J u[liet], Rich[ard] III.
Summary tablets.
Marlowe, Ben J[onson], Fletcher.
What for.
Mayak[ovsky] too.
For ex[ample], Mayak[ovsky] and the cinema.
In some way great for cinema too. Mediocre scenar[ios], by the way—in method.
Japanese cinema and Jap[anese] culture.
Direct successor of Pushkin.
But on the whole like Mrs. Spurgeon
That he was a great citizen and a good realist.
prosperity and mischief.
The first indisputable Judgment of him as a great poet—inseparable.
His realism different [Illegible word] Interesting spoken about infrequently.
Reflection. Intention
—to break in and rebuild
and not so much to reflect.
Period established
and period of establishing

In this he objectively
reflected the age.

Early Renaissance.
Uccello, Masaccio, Andrea de Castagno and the 20’s
The important
Youth. Complacency. Timidity.
Good things.
We are rewarded with an advance.
But searching and diligence are not enough.
Rebellion with rev[olutionary] thought.
Town of Vitebsk
ROSTA posters
Days [crossed out] Memor[able] dates
Dates when called to restlessness, searching.

Sergei Eisenstein



1. Beginning in 1919, Mayakovsky worked in the Russian Telegraph Agency, creating posters—known as "The Windows of ROSTA”—which he both drew and wrote the text for, mainly topical verses.

2. Eisenstein describes being ejected from a rehearsal of Mayakovsky’s Mystery-Bouffe as an “outsider,” and also his impressions of Vitebsk in 1920, in “Zametki o Mayakovskom” [Notes on Mayakovsky], Iskusstvo kino, 1958, No .l, pp. 73–75.