The Adventures of Bob

Posted on 10th September 2015 by simonbeattie

Sometimes, as a bookseller, you come across a book you just can’t find anywhere.  You check the title, make sure you’re spelling it right, and still the online databases are silent.  But to find two copies of that otherwise apparently unknown book?  Well…

Hildebrandt

It took a bit of sleuthing to work out exactly what the book was, but it turned out that I had two copies (in variant bindings and with different numbers of illustrations) of the first edition in Russian of a children’s book called Klein-Rainers Weltreise (Munich, 1918), translated (as ‘The Adventures of Bob’) by the political satirist–poet Sasha Cherny (‘Alex the Black’, a pseudonym of Aleksandr Glikberg, 1880–1932) and published in Berlin in 1924.  Cherny had become a banned writer following the 1905 revolution, but his books for children remained popular.  ‘Even as an émigré in [Germany and] France, Cherny remained interested in children’s literature.  In his eyes it now had the function of a vital bond with a lost Russia; the émigré child’s feelings for Russia and the Russian language should be strengthened through good literature’ (Hellman, Fairy Tales and True Stories: the History of Russian Literature for Children, 2013, p. 243).

Hilde 2

The original German verse text and striking collage illustrations were by Lily Hildebrandt (1887–1974), a Stuttgart-based artist specialising in reverse glass painting, who wrote the book for her son, Rainer (1914–2004; later a resistance fighter in Berlin, and founder of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum).  It was her only children’s book.

The book's rather wonderful endpapers.

The book’s rather wonderful endpapers.

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One response to “The Adventures of Bob”

  1. Jonathan McNamara says:

    Absolutely gorgeous pair. I’ve found variant bindings and illustrations in children’s books as late as the 70’s but they’re really not easy to notice since one is invariably missing a second copy to compare it to! It’s a charming addition to having a book by Cherny. Really great find.

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