Posthumous first edition of Zamiatin’s last novel, which compares the Soviet threat to Europe to Attila’s threat to Rome.
‘Attila’s Huns are young and healthy, and they bring the promise of new life through the destruction of a sick and dying civilization. The tenor of the story recalls the message of Blok in 1918, that the West is doomed and that some new order, or at least epoch, is advancing from the East. This was no doubt partly due to Zamiatin’s disillusionment with the West, where he had emigrated in 1931.’ (Boris Thomson, 101)
Zamiatin (1884 – 1937) is best known as the author of Мы [We], a terrifying first person account of an imagined (Soviet) future in which human beings have, at least in theory, become entirely rational and devoid of emotions other than joy. The novel is often likened to 1984, though of course Zamiatin did not have to use his imagination to the extent that Orwell did in order to picture life under a violent dictator intent on squashing dissent. The novel was met with a wave of criticism and Zamiatin’s expulsion from the Union of Writers; a fate that meant the end of Zamiatin’s literary career in his native country. Zamiatin consequently wrote to Stalin in 1931 asking for permission to emigrate, and was allowed to leave for Paris. He was allowed to re-join the Soviet Union of Writers in 1934 as a remote member, an unprecedented decision by the Soviet authorities.
Zamiatin worked on the present novel from 1928 to 1935, but it remained unfinished at the time of his death. Savine claims that this edition was issued in a very small print run; Georgii Ivanov’s novel Распад атома was issued by the same publisher in 1938 in only 200 copies. Savine also explains that much of the print run of Бич Божий was destroyed after the German occupation of Paris in 1940, when the owner of the publishing house, M. S. Kagan, was arrested.
First edition. 8vo (20 × 15 cm). pp. , 122, , frontispiece portrait of the author, unsigned preface. Original pictorial wrappers (most likely by Elizaveta Kruglikova); lower spine strip with small tears, a few minor spots to front wrapper.
Savine 143; Boris Thomson, “Lot’s Wife and the Venus of Milo: Conflicting Attitudes to the Cultural Heritage in Modern Russia” (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Stock ID: 93282