Mayakovsky’s Bedbug: Revolution, Time, and Utopia

Giovanni Maniscalco Basile


In Russia, the very idea of a Communist revolution – from 1905 onwards – meant both hope and dread. This attitude is quite clearly shown in a very significant part of the Russian literary process, from 1908 to the beginning of the Stalin era. An obvious thread, in fact, connects Aleksandr Bogdanov (Red Star, 1908), Evgeny Zamyatin (We, 1921) and Vladimir Mayakovsky (The Bedbug, 1929): the growing awareness that the Communist revolution, as Lenin had conceived it, was little more than a model and that a model could not describe – much less forecast – a complex reality (a complex system) like a social and political one. As a result of this awareness, hope and a dark prophecy (Bogdanov) slowly turn into despair (Mayakovsky). The model is subsumed by Vladimir Mayakovsky’s dystopian satire of The Bedbug and The Bathhouse which propose a new paradigm of dystopia: a bottleneck in the flow of the information produced by blind adherence to a preconceived project that prevents the discovery and the implementation of la volonté générale in so complex a system as human society.


Mayakovsky; The Bedbug; The Bathhouse; communism; revolution; utopia; dystopia


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