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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Seven Pairs of the Clean and Seven Pairs of the Unclean

Seven Pairs of the Clean and Seven Pairs of the Unclean, Vladimir Mayakovsky Sketch, 1919

Famed Soviet poet, writer and artist Mayakovsky did this sketch as a scene design for his revolutionary play Mystery Bouffe.

The play was written to commemorate the anniversary of the 1917 revolution. The original version premiered in the Theatre of Musical Drama on November 7, 1918. Mayakovsky himself played the role of the “simple man” and other bit roles. After two years, Mayakovsky reworked the text, resulting in a second version that premiered in the First Theatre of the RSFSR on May 1, 1921. Later adaptations and versions followed, including a 60-minute animated film adaptation in 1969

From the Great Soviet Encyclopedia 1979:

"Joyously greeting the October Revolution of 1917, Mayakovsky defined his position thus: “This is my revolution. I went to Smol’nyi. Worked. Doing any kind of work”. The poet strove to give an aesthetic interpretation of the “staggering facts” of the new socialist reality. Until October, Mayakovsky had had no clear social outlook. Certain dogmas of the futurist group left their imprint on his idiosyncratic verse forms and on his social and aesthetic views. After October, Mayakovsky’s social and aesthetic ideas changed, determined by his struggle for the ideals of communism (on a positive and as well as a satirical level). This could already be felt in the play Mystery-Bouffe (1918; second version, 1921) -- “a heroic, epic, and satirical representation of our epoch” -- the first Soviet play on a contemporary subject. While asserting the greatness and heroism of the common people, Mayakovsky exposed the creative impotence of the bourgeoisie. Only the “unclean,” with their moral purity and class solidarity, were equal to the task of building the “ark” of the new world."

In the end the "unclean" proletariat triumphs over the "clean" bourgeoisie.


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