KUPRIN, Alexsandr Ivanovich (1870-1938). Autograph manuscript signed of a synopsis for a dramatisation in six acts of his novel Yama [The Pit], n.p. [Paris], n.d. [circa 1935-38], including cancellations and emendations, in Russian, signed on the last page, written on recto on numbered leaves, 20 pages, 4° (280 x 218 mm), paper wrappers (light spotting on most leaves).
AUTOGRAPH SYNOPSIS OF THE DRAMATISATION OF KUPRIN'S NOVEL YAMA. Yama, like Kuprin's first famous epic novel, The Duel, is an arraignment of corruption. It was first published in three parts in Sbornik Zemliya [The Earth Anthology], in 1909, 1914 and 1915. At one level it is a picture of prostitution in Russia but the characters and sentiments in it are universal. It was widely translated and 2 million copies sold. The first English translation (Yama -- The Pit), by Bernard Guilbert Guerney was published in a Subscribers' edition in New York in 1922, and it was issued again in London in 1930 when Kuprin, freed of the constraints of censorship, provided a revised and supplemented text.
'If Chekhov was the wunderkind of Russian letters, Kuprin is its enfant terrible' (Guerney, xiii). Kuprin left Russia in 1917, and almost at once became a prominent figure in literary and artistic circles in Paris. The range, power and versatility of his work attracted immediate critical success, and his distinctive style sparkles with neologisms and foreign or outlandish words.
The novel on which the present manuscript is based is set at the beginning of the 20th-century in Yama, a fictional place of shady renown where the main streets are lined with brothels. The galaxy of characters includes the riporter Platonov (a semi-autobiographical portrait), Anna Markovna, the proprietress of a 'two rouble' establishment, the corrupt local district inspectors, 'Horizon', the 'commercial traveller' who trafficks in women from Argentina to Constantinople and Kiev, as well as housekeepers, porters, and above all, the cigarette-smoking, card-playing girls, with their often tragic stories, and their clients. It ends violently with a vengeful assault by soldiers from the nearby barracks, and by the mob, upon the 'rouble establishments' or whorehouses, and the expulsion and brutal beating of the prostitutes, and the Governor-General's order for the closure of the brothels. It is likely that the proposal for a dramatisation of Yama was prepared for one of Kuprin's many theatrical friends but the present manuscript appears to be the only survival of an ambitious project perhaps cut short by Kuprin's death.