Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov, better known by the pen name Velimir Khlebnikov (Russian: Велими́р Хле́бников, IPA: [vʲɪlʲɪˈmʲir ˈxlʲebnʲɪkəf]; 9 November [O.S. 28 October] 1885 – 28 June 1922), was a poet and playwright, a central part of the Russian Futurist movement, but his work and influence stretch far beyond it.
Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov was born in 1885 in Malye Derbety, Astrakhan Governorate, Russian Empire ( in present-day Kalmykia). He moved to Kazan, where he attended school. He then attended school in Saint Petersburg. He eventually quit school to become a full time writer.
Khlebnikov belonged to Hylaea, the most significant Russian Futurist group, (along with Vladimir Mayakovsky, Aleksei Kruchenykh, David Burliuk, and Benedikt Livshits), but had already written many significant poems before the Futurist movement in Russia had taken shape. Among his contemporaries, he was regarded as "a poet's poet" (Mayakovsky referred to him as a "poet for producers") and a maverick genius. Khlebnikov was involved in the publication of A Slap in the Face of Public Taste in 1912, which was a critical component of the Russian futurism poetry.
Khlebnikov is known for poems such as "Incantation by Laughter", "Bobeobi Sang The Lips", “The Grasshopper” (all 1908-9), “Snake Train” (1910), the prologue to the Futurist opera Victory over the Sun (1913), dramatic works such as “Death’s Mistake” (1915), prose works such as “Ka” (1915), and the so-called ‘super-tale’ (сверхповесть) “Zangezi”, a sort of ecstatic drama written partly in invented languages of gods and birds. He published Selected Poems with Postscript, 1907–1914 circa 1914. Kazimir Malevich and Pavel Filonov co-illustrated it.
In his work, Khlebnikov experimented with the Russian language, drawing upon its roots to invent huge numbers of neologisms, and finding significance in the shapes and sounds of individual letters of Cyrillic. Along with Kruchenykh, he originated zaum.
He wrote futurological essays about such things as the possible evolution of mass communication ("The Radio of the Future") and transportation and housing ("Ourselves and Our Buildings"). He described a world in which people live and travel about in mobile glass cubicles that can attach themselves to skyscraper-like frameworks, and in which all human knowledge can be disseminated to the world by radio and displayed automatically on giant book-like displays at streetcorners.
In his last years, Khlebnikov became fascinated by Slavic mythology and Pythagorean numerology, and drew up long "Tables of Destiny" decomposing historical intervals and dates into functions of the numbers 2 and 3.
Khlebnikov died of paralysis while a guest in the house of his friend Pyotr Miturich near Kresttsy, in June, 1922.
A minor planet 3112 Velimir discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1977 is named after him.
- 1910: “Snake Train”
- 1913: Prologue to the Futurist opera Victory over the Sun
- 1912: The Little Devil
- 1912: Teacher and Student. Conversation
- 1914: Roar! Gauntlets, 1908–1914
- 1915: Death’s Mistake
- 1922: Zangezi (сверхповесть)
Khlebnikov age 23 (1908)
Wladimir Burliuk, Portrait of Velemir Khlebnikov (1913)
Khlebnikov age 27 (1913)
Khlebnikov age 31 (1916)
Khlebnikov far right (1920), two years before his death at the age of 36
Khlebnikov's book Zangezi (1922)
- Khlebnikov, Velimir, The King of Time (Schmidt, Paul, trans.; Douglas, Charlotte, ed.) Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-674-50516-6
- MacKay, John. Inscription and Modernity: From Wordsworth to Mandelstam. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-253-34749-1