Saturday, January 07, 2012

Cool Covers 1

Still reading Mark Polizzotti's biography of Andre Breton, Revolution of the Mind, and am deep into the part of Breton's life where he was desperate to be considered part of the Communist revolutionary vanguard and was constantly rebuffed by the French Communist Party. As the 1930s draw to a close Breton's battle shifts to oppose Stalin's version of Communism and results in a friendship and intellectual collaboration with Trotsky. The schism between Trotskyists and Stalinists also becomes personal as Breton breaks all communication with Paul Eluard over his support of Stalin (Louis Aragon had been "excommunicated" earlier for the same reason). With all this infighting I was compelled to pull out my favourite copy of the Communist Manifesto:
I picked this up a decade ago when I was working at Contact Editions on Mount Pleasant. Published and printed in Moscow in 1954, it is quite the deluxe edition, the cover featuring embossed portraits of Marx and Engels, and their names appearing gilded (not so clear from the scan above). The interior is also surprisingly high-end for a mass-market paperback with photographic plates, some in colour. In many ways it resembles a bible, which I suppose is appropriate as Communism was to replace conventional religion. What is also surprising in the interior is the half-title page:

Here we have Stalin sticking his head into a lineage with Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Initially I thought this was hilarious, with yet another example of Stalin's immense ego, and his pretensions to intellectualism--and notice that he comes first: me Stalin me come first. But after recently reading about Trotsky's assassination and starting to look through Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands, I now just find it sobering.

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