- Historical Fiction
Bestselling author Robert Littell brilliantly portrays the life and times of the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky in a gripping new novel.
Moscow, March 1953: As Stalin breathes his last, four women meet in Room 408 of the luxurious hotel Metropol. They have gathered to reminisce about the great poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, whose work they once inspired. Following his mysterious suicide twenty-five years earlier, he was canonised by Stalin as the “most talented poet of our Soviet era” – but in life he was a far more complicated man, violently torn between art and politics.
As the four muses – who both loved and loathed him – piece together their conflicting memories of the poet, a portrait of the artist as a tormented young idealist emerges. Recalling Mayakovsky’s early years as a leader of the Futurists, his later work as a propagandist for the Soviet state, and the censorship battles that pitted him against the government, their unabashedly frank conversation reveals him as as an intense and tormented sexual obsessive caught in the eye of history’s storm, struggling to hold on to his ideals in the face of a revolution betrayed.
Vladimir M. tells a subversive, passionate story of free love, avant-garde art and political ideals, in an explosive, provocative cocktail of fiction and reality which brings to life the tumultuous Stalinist era – and the disaster it spelt for the artists it ensnared.
'A vivid portrait... rich in dark imagery and razor-sharp dialogue' Kirkus
'A ribald, gossipy novel' Wall Street Journal
'Complex but rewarding' Publishers Weekly
'[A] vivid picture of a gifted poet, a tireless womanizer, and a man beset by wild mood swings. The ladies’ narration is both raunchy and often hilarious. It also illuminates a tumultuous period of Russian history' Booklist
‘Ambitious and tumultuous... 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)
‘An eminence grise of the world of espionage, Robert Littell hides a romanesque soul. It surfaces in The Mayakovsky Tapes [Vladimir M.], a fictionalized biography of the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. 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)
‘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. They confront their memories, detail their most intimate secrets with the young Bolshevik who committed suicide at age 36, tormented, torn between morality and commitment. 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. A great way to explore Futurism, Vladimir Mayakovsky, his muses, the Russian Revolution, Pasternak also’ 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)
'Revealing anecdotes… retold with evident affection' TLS