The Mayakovsky Tapes: Book summary and reviews of The Mayakovsky Tapes by Robert Littell

The Mayakovsky Tapes

by Robert Littell

The Mayakovsky Tapes by Robert Littell X
The Mayakovsky Tapes by Robert Littell
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2016
    256 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

In March 1953, four women meet in Room 408 of Moscow's deluxe Hotel Metropol. They have gathered to reminisce about Vladimir Mayakovsky, the poet who in death had become a national idol of Soviet Russia. In life, however, he was a much more complicated figure.

The ladies, each of whom could claim to have been a muse to the poet, loved or loathed Mayakovsky in the course of his life, and as they piece together their conflicting memories of him, a portrait of the artist as a young idealist emerges. From his early years as a leader of the Futurist movement to his work as a propagandist for the Revolution and on to the censorship battles that turned him against the state (and, more ominously, the state against him), their recollections reveal Mayakovsky as a passionate, complex, sexually obsessed creature trapped in the epicenter of history, struggling to hold onto his ideals in the face of a revolution betrayed.

Written by Robert Littell, whom The Washington Post called "one of the most talented, most original voices in American fiction today, period," The Mayakovsky Tapes is an ambitious, impressive novel that brings to life the tumultuous Stalinist era and the predicament of the artists ensnared in it.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The Russian Revolution and its aftermath are viewed from varying angles, showing that truth is always contradictory and never simple." - Publishers Weekly

"Based on real-life personalities and blending in a great deal of the literary ambience of the times, Litell's historical novel dramatizes a chaotic experience in the tumultuous era from the end of the tsars to the ascendance of Stalin. Mayakovsky's life and works have been intensively studied, but surely this is the first time his sexual ardors have been reimagined by a master of the espionage genre." - Library Journal

"An inexorable momentum in the women's recollections brings Mayakovsky to the end of the decade and a melancholy, tragic demise. Littell's mordent wit is perfectly suited to his melancholy tale, rich in dark imagery and razor-sharp dialogue." - Kirkus

"In this ambitious and tumultuous novel, Robert Littell signs a homage (to the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky) that is vibrant and sensual, where creative excesses existed alongside human genius." - Lundi Library (France)

"Through the eyes of the four muses who loved and hated this tornado of love, sex, poetry and revolution, Littell... brushes an iconoclastic portrait of the poet who was crushed by Stalinism." - Le Point (France)

"Before shooting himself in the heart April 14, 1930, Vladimir Mayakovsky loved Lilia, Tatiana, Elly, Nora. In his latest book, Robert Littell reunites them twenty-three years after the poet's death... Littell's obsessions resurface in the 282 pages of a book where emotion vies with intelligence and powerful writing." - Le Parisien

"Robert Littell gives us a delightful rereading of Mayakovsky's biography - inventing, as a subtext, a war of the poet's muses. He manages above all to explain the inexplicable: how someone endowed with such poetic power could end up killing himself." - Magazine Litteraire (France)

"The form of the book is particularly successful: a transcript of a conversation between four of the very sexual poet's former muses, exchanges that paint a picture of Mayakovsky's life, and through him of a Russia in full ebullition. The conversations sparkle with malice, jealousy, trenchant phrases, earthiness, bad faith, passion and love." - Garoupe (France)

"Robert Littell is not superficial. With few words and little fuss, Littell uses the weight of history to demonstrate the hopes that the Bolshevik Revolution was able to generate and all the horrors that it caused. Despite its historical purpose, the novel reads like a thriller and each page is turned with the impatience that proves the reader wants more." - Pieuvre Litterature (France)

"With a kaleidoscope of emotions the flamboyant Lilya, the anti-Bolshevik Elly, the White Russian Tatiana, and the brazen diva Nora explore seventh heaven with their Don Quixote-like young idol." - 24 Hours (Switzerland)

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Author Information

Robert Littell Author Biography

Photo: Joaquin Sahuquillic

Robert Littell was born on January 8, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York. He has been ranked amongst John Le Carre and Graham Greene for his masterful spy fiction. A Newsweek journalist in a previous incarnation, Littell has been writing about the Soviet Union and Russians since his first novel, the espionage classic The Defection of A.J.Lewinter. Among his numerous critically acclaimed novels are The October Circle, Mother Russia, The Debriefing, The Sisters, The Revolutionist, The Once and Future Spy, An Agent in Place, The Visiting Professor, the New York Times bestselling The Company (adapted for a TNT mini-series), and Legends (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Best Thriller of 2005) and For the Future of Israel, a book of conversations with Shimon Peres. Littell is an American ...

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