Book of the Week


Russian Children’s literature 1920-35: beautiful books, terrible times

This is a horrible piece of work. A slovenly mess. No table of contents. Some idiot or sloven, evidently an illiterate, has lumped together, as though he were drunk, all the ” material”, little articles, speeches, and printed them out of sequence.”

Lenin, Collected works, vol. 35, p. 427

Thank goodness that Lenin’s ideas did not prevail or we would not have this exceptional graphic book.  Printed for the first time in English, Inside the Rainbow is a unique compendium of Soviet picture books from the 1920’s and 1930s.  A highpoint in the history of children’s visual literature where everyday life from the streets become the raw material for the striking, vivid avant-garde art of Supremacists and Futurists that would eventually be suppressed. From “The Four Arithmetic Operations” illustrated by El Lissitzky in 1928, to Lebedev’s work on “The Elephant’s Child” by Rudyard Kipling from 1926, or the “ABC of Communism” in 1920, children’s publications largely escaped the scourge of state censorship, and became the last haven for learning, poetic irony, burlesque and laughter. “Inside the Rainbow” juxtaposes innocence with ideology and a nostalgia for a past that was lost forever with longing for a future that never arrived; nonsense with commonsense; homilies of educators with diktats from the Kremlin.  This book pays tribute to the human genius still strikingly evident after so many years in these perfect illustrations. Will children still love these images? Possibly yes – truly conceived for children, even ideologies do not obliterate the wonder and joy seen in these pages.


Russian Children’s literature 1920-35: beautiful books, terrible times

Foreword by Philip Pullman, edited by Julian Rothenstein and Olga Budashevskaya

Redstone Press, 2013, cm 21 x 30, pp. 311 € 45.00

On view and on sale at 10 Corso Como

Posted on: Sunday, November 24th, 2013

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