The merits of the writer Lazar Lagin for literature are great and are not limited to “Hottabych”.
“To be frank, I have considerable merit for Russian literature: I stopped writing poetry over time and forever. Of course, I could increase my services to literature if I stopped writing prose. But modesty does not allow me to pursue merit with such cynicism. Of course, my exemplary character did not develop in me immediately. I worked as a journalist and researcher, head of a warehouse of objects of artistic value, member of the Komsomol and the party, associate professor of political economy and editor of three magazines, including a satirical one. There will be people who, with poorly concealed hypocrisy, will reproach me for never having worked as a bell ringer or a tiger tamer. To this I will respond with poorly concealed nobility: “But I was and remain a satirist, comrades.”
This is what Lazar Lagin, author of the famous children’s book “Old Hottabych”, wrote about himself. Seriously, his services to literature are excellent and are not limited to “Hottabych”: he is the author of many books. “The Blue Man”, “The Battleship “Anyuta”, AB Patent”, “The Island of Deception”, “Atavia Proxima”… However, with hand on heart, who reads them today? And “Old Hottabych” is published annually and is still no less popular than in the 50s.
“WRITE A POEM – PUT IT UNDER THE PILLOW”
The surname Lagin is a pseudonym, an abbreviation of the writer’s real name and surname – Lazar Ginzburg. He was born in Vitebsk and when he was little he moved to Minsk with his parents. Life there was not exactly easy: there was not enough money and there was always the danger of Jewish pogroms. At the age of 15, Lazar graduated from high school and, as soon as he received his matriculation certificate, he left for the Civil War. Then I tried to study music at the conservatory, but nothing good came of it.
But he started writing poetry. At some point, I read excerpts from my poem “Song of English Tobacco” and from the poem “Finishing” in front of the shining face of Vladimir Mayakovsky himself. Mayakovsky criticized the poem, but liked it and said briefly: “This one will write.” “And for almost half a century I firmly remember these three words and all the responsibility they impose on me,” Lagin recalled about this episode in his decline.
A few months later, a new meeting took place at Mayakovsky’s evening. Then a very intelligent young man named Kochkin began to attack the poet: they say that Mayakovsky’s poems are incomprehensible to the working class. Lazar jumped up from his seat and began to passionately defend the poet: “What paternal concern for the working class, which in some unknown way managed to defeat tsarism, capitalism, intervention without the leadership of Comrade Kochkin, She is well versed in the management of the world’s first proletarian state, but, poor thing, there is no way she will understand Comrade Mayakovsky’s poems. What, the working class doesn’t understand these poems? “Eat pineapples, chew grouse! Your last day is approaching, bourgeois! With this rhyme the sailors stormed the Winter Palace in October!
Mayakovsky turned out to be terribly grateful to Lagin for his passionate speech. And he invited him to come to his hotel at eleven in the morning. Lagin was still in service at that time and was released from the regiment with great difficulty: no one believed that he was going to visit Mayakovsky. The poet invited Lazar to eat tangerines and began to explain: “I wrote a poem, I put it under the pillow. After a few days, take it out from under your pillow, read it carefully and you will see that not everything is going well for you. Straighten it out and put it back under your pillow for a while. Check it seven times before taking it to the editor.” It turned out that he remembers almost by heart both Lagin’s poem and the poem: “I, young man, have a memory like that of the road to Poltava: every galosh gets caught in it.”
Lazar Lagin in 1957. Photo: Alexander Less, Valentin Cheredintsev/TASS
In the end, Mayakovsky asked Lagin to bring new poems to the editorial office of the magazine “New Lef”: “You will use them, and I will reject them little by little, and you, young man, will live in fabulous happiness.” .” But Lagin was in no hurry. A year later they met in Moscow and Mayakovsky asked him: “What are you, young man, Fet or Tyutchev? How many times do I need to invite you to bring poetry to New Lef? But Lagin replied that he was done with poetry forever. “I thought about it and realized that I could never write like you, but like some others, now I prefer to hang myself…”
THE JIENN COMES FROM GREAT BRITAIN
“Old Hottabych” was first published in 1938. It is based on a foreign book. It so happened that Tolstoy transformed Pinocchio into Pinocchio, Volkov, the Wizard of Oz, into the wise Goodwin, and Lagin was inspired by “The Copper Jug”, a book by the English writer F. Anstey (pseudonym of Thomas Anstey Guthrie ). There, a young architect rescued a genie from a copper jar, imprisoned there by King Solomon, and the genie in return began to help him in every way. Lagin knew this book very well; it had been translated into Russian even before the revolution. And even he saved King Solomon; however, in his version he became Suleiman ibn Daoud.
The role of Hottabych in the 1956 film “Old Hottabych” was played by actor Nikolai Volkov.
Already during the years of perestroika, the version appeared that Lagin was not the only author of “Old Hottabych”. He was introduced by the defected journalist Leonid Vladimirov. According to him, the writer Alexander Kron claimed that he completely rewrote Lagin’s manuscript. “It turned out that the incapable, though very politically experienced, “Crocodile” feuilletonist Lagin stumbled somewhere upon an English fairy tale: a modernized legend about the Genie in the Bottle. He rewrote it in Soviet reality, freed it as best he could from the supernatural and took it to Detgiz. The young Kron once went to the Detgiz prose editorial office and was shown Lagin’s manuscript. I liked the idea, but it was written without control. Would you mind rewriting it? I took it, I needed money. “I suffered a lot, I literally did it again.” But there is no evidence of this story.
But it is well known that “Old Hottabych” exists in two versions: 1938 and 1955. Many political realities have changed in the second version. For example, in 1938 the Italians suffered because of Mussolini and in 1955 because of the capitalists. The chapter on travel to India appeared only in the second edition. Like the child who started barking every time he wanted to speak badly about someone. It was this second version that Lazar Lagin remade into the script of a feature film, which remained engraved in everyone’s memory…