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Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - San Francisco on the Soviet Stage

Next week Simon Beattie will be exhibiting at the 48th California International Antiquarian Book Fair from 6-8 February, 2015, in Oakland. This week he shows us a most extraordinary books from his main field of interest: the cultural relations between the English-speaking world and Europe, especially Germany and Russia. This item - for sale at the California fair - shows a very special relation between Russia, Europa and California.

Published on 30 Jan. 2015

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By Simon Beattie


As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a particular interest in cultural relations between the English-speaking world and Europe, especially Germany and Russia. I’ve written before about the popularity of Jack London in Russia, ‘until the 1950’s … by far the most popular American author’ there, and illustrated a few of the many translations produced to fulfil the demand of Russian readers. But here’s something slightly different:

This is the first (and only) edition of a rare Proletkult play, On the Other Side of the Slot, by Aleksandr Afinogenov (1904–1941), a young Soviet playwright, which is based on London’s story ‘South of the Slot’ (1909). The text comes from a performance staged by the Proletkult’s 1st Workers’ Theatre, in Moscow. The title of both the story and the play, which are set in early twentieth-century San Francisco, refers to the cable cars which used to run along Market Street.

Next week, I shall be heading to San Francisco myself, for the 48th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. This year, for the first time, it’s taking place in Oakland, where Jack London grew up. If you’d like to see what else I shall be exhibiting there, here is a link to my fair list.

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Posted on Simon Beattie's blog "The Books You Never Knew You Wanted", presented here by permission of the author. Picture: Simon Beattie)


Proletkult (Wikipedia)


“A portmanteau of the Russian words "proletarskaya kultura" (proletarian culture), was an experimental Soviet artistic institution which arose in conjunction with the Russian Revolution of 1917. This organization, a federation of local cultural societies and avant-garde artists, was most prominent in the visual, literary, and dramatic fields. Proletkult aspired to radically modify existing artistic forms by creating a new, revolutionary working class aesthetic which drew its inspiration from the construction of modern industrial society in backward, agrarian Russia.

Although funded by the People's Commissariat for Education of Soviet Russia, the Proletkult organization sought autonomy from state control, a demand which brought it into conflict with the Communist Party hierarchy and the Soviet state bureaucracy. Some top party leaders, such as V.I. Lenin, sought to concentrate state funding on the basic education of the working class rather than on whimsical artistic endeavors. He and others also saw in Proletkult a hotbed of bourgeois intellectuals and potential political oppositionists. At its peak in 1920, Proletkult had 84,000 members actively enrolled in about 300 local studios, clubs, and factory groups, with an additional 500,000 members participating in its activities on a more casual basis.”

48th California International Antiquarian Book Fair

6 – 8 February 2015, Oakland Marriott City Center


Opening hours

Friday 3 pm - 8 pm, Saturday 11 am - 7 pm, Sunday 11 am - 5 pm

>>> For more information please visit the official website

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