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Khlebnikov, who died in 1922 at the age of thirty-six, is one of the great, untranslated Russian poets of this century. Hailed by his contemporaries and by later writers and scholars as the creative genius behind the Russian Futurist movement, Khlebnikov is famous more for his inaccessibility than for the excellence of what he actually produced. Even Russians are generally baffled by him.
Now, in a powerful American rendition, we are given access to the strange and beautiful world of Khlebnikos "the word's wild highwayman." Trained in the natural sciences and mathematics and by temperament an artist, Khlebnikov thought he had discovered the Laws of Time and Tables of Destiny, by which enlightened humans could live in harmony with themselves and with nature. He coined the terms "Futurian" and "Presidents of Planet Earth" for himself and his friends, and he devoted all of his short, restless life to finding a language appropriate to his vision. Experiments with words became magical paths to a reinvigorated future, and produced some of the most extraordinary poems in the Russian language.
These goals and researches were variously embodied as well in stories, plays, and visionary essays in which Khlebnikov advances architectural plans for mobile cities, a new alphabet based on universal meanings of sounds, and communication by way of vast television networks. The result is poetry of startling originality, modernity, and linguistic virtuosity--a true challenge to translators and one that has been met brilliantly here by Schmidt and Douglas.
The King of Time is a representative sampling of Khlebnikov's writings, taken from the translation of his complete works now in preparation under the auspices of the Dia Art Foundation. It includes many pieces, among them the full text of the astounding poem-play Zangezi, never before translated. General readers will be introduced to the legendary Khlebnikov, and cognoscenti will applaud the inventiveness of the rendering.
Paul Schmidt, translator of Rimbaud and Mayakovsky among others, and Charlotte Douglas, an art historian who specializes in the Russian avant-garde, are Director and Senior Research Scholar, Khlehnikov Translation Project, Dia Art Foundation.
At times [Khlebnikov's] verse sounds like what birds presumably heard from St. Francis. Under his pen, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions undergo mutations as mind-boggling as those of a cell hit by immense radiation. Beautiful or grotesque, the results are often memorable...diamonds of an unparalleled splendor.
— Joseph Brodsky
The King of Time...represents a deft feat of translation...It offers readers the chance to imagine, experience and restore the full analogy between pictorial and verbal creation.
— Elliott Mossman
He was surely one of the most remarkable practitioners in language who has ever written. He seems to inhabit the very heart of his language, exploring its roots, making it send up new and wonderful growths...The foreigner who knows Russian can glimpse this and admire the marvels of Khlebnikov's language, though never with the inwardness of the native speaker. But what of those who approach him through translation? Can they come to see the importance and beauty of his work? This is the challenge taken up by Paul Schmidt, the translator of the proposed complete works, and he rises to it nobly.
— Peter France
PART 1: Fictions
1. Mrs. Laneen
2. The World in Reverse
6. October on the Neva
PART 2: Projects for the Future
7. "Let them read on my gravestone"
8. The Word as Such
9. The Letter as Such
11. The Trumpet of the Martians
12. An Appeal by the Presidents of Planet Earth
13. Ourselves and Our Buildings. Creators of Streetsteads
14. The Head of the Universe. Time in Space
15. To the Artists of the World
16. On Poetry
17. The Radio of the Future
18. A Cliff Out of the Future
Excerpt From The Table of Destiny
Zangezi: A Supersaga In Twenty Planes
Posted September 29, 2004
'The end of times has come and you are its messenger angel' - said Andrei Belii to velimir Khlebnikov. And those who will read the books of Khlebnikov will agree. There is a strange feeling of 'ilo tempore' in Khlebnikov's works that makes us tremble. In my humble opinion, Khlebnikov is the 22st century's writer. The writer of the NEXT century. French critique had discovered him with enthusiasm. Even his works may seem uncomprehensible, the hard working reader will share an unique vision of Time and Being.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.