Places: The Bedbug

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Klop, 1929 (English translation, 1931)

First produced: 1929, at the Meyerhold Theater, Moscow

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Satire

Time of work: 1929 and 1979

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Tambov (1929)

*Tambov Bedbug, The (1929). Russian city located about 260 miles southeast of Moscow that provides the play’s principal setting. Ivan Prisypkin, a former Communist Party member, moves among the working-class parts of this city in the year 1929 with casual familiarity. However, when he is thrust fifty years into the future, he is an alien who can have no place. Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Tambov is a generic provincial Soviet city, without any hint of the cultural riches of the actual city, which was the home of such eminent figures as Alexander Pushkin and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Scenes set in 1929 Tambov include such typical settings as a state department store, a workers’ hostel, and an enormous beauty parlor. Mayakovsky’s stage directions describe these settings only briefly, enough to evoke the images of these stock elements of the early years of Soviet society.

Tambov (1979)

Tambov (1979). By contrast, Mayakovsky provides much more extensive descriptions of sets for his imaginary Tambov of the future. An enormous amphitheater with its long-distance voting system is described in detail, a collection of radio loudspeakers with semaphore arms and colored electric lights taking the place of human voters. This set in particular is the most telling of the dehumanization of Mayakovsky’s future Soviet society. Other future sets include a revivification chamber, a plaza with strange metal trees that produce their fruits on plates, and a zoo in which Prisypkin is confined when he proves incapable of functioning in this “perfected” society.

BibliographyAlexandrova, Vera. “Vladimir Mayakovsky,” in her A History of Soviet Literature, 1963.Brown, Edward J. Mayakovsky: A Poet in the Revolution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973. A seminal study of Mayakovsky as a man and a writer by a leading American scholar of Soviet literature. Mayakovsky’s role in the revolution, as reflected in his works, is emphasized.Metchenko, Alexei, ed. Vladimir Mayakovsky: Innovator. Translated by Alex Miller. Moscow: Progress, 1976. Twenty-six articles, mostly by Russian scholars, about Mayakovsky’s innovations in his poetry and plays. Of special interest is Valentin Pluchek’s article, “The New Drama.”Moore, Harry T., and Albert Parry. “Soviet Theatre to the Second World War,” in their Twentieth Century Russian Literature, 1974.Russell, Robert. “Mayakovsky’s The Bedbug and The Bathhouse,” in his Russian Drama of the Revolutionary Period, 1988.Segel, Harold B. “The 1920s and the Early 1930s: Social Comedy, Absurd and Grotesque NEP Satire, Melodrama,” in his Twentieth Century Russian Drama, 1979.Shklovskii, Viktor B. Mayakovsky and His Circle. Edited and Translated by Lily Feiler. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972. Recollections and critical remarks about Mayakovsky, including his plays, by one of the most respected modern Russian critics and Mayakovsky’s contemporary.Terras, Victor. Vladimir Mayakovsky. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Analysis of Mayakovsky’s poetry and plays, as well as his role in literature and events of his time. The best brief English-language introduction to his works.Woroszylski, Wiktor. The Life of Mayakovsky. Translated by Bołesław Taborski. New York: Orion Press, 1970. An objective biography by a contemporary Polish poet, based on documents and opinions of Mayakovsky’s contemporaries. His contribution to theater and cinema is discussed at length.Yershov, Peter. Comedy in the Soviet Theatre, 1956.
Categories: Places