Time travel lore (5): ‘Victory Over the Sun’

Victory over the SunVictory Over the Sun (1913) is a notorious specimen of Russian Futurism, a multimedia avant-garde opera that makes practically no sense. Wikipedia provides the basic information:

“The libretto written in zaum language was contributed by Aleksei Kruchonykh, the music was written by Mikhail Matyushin, the prologue was added by Velimir Khlebnikov, and the stage designer was Kasimir Malevich. The performance was organized by the artistic group Soyuz Molodyozhi.”

I believe I have seen some artifacts of this production in a museum. I also recall a documentary with narration and excerpts from a performance. The narrator was, of all people, Hugh Downs.

Here is an English translation of Victory over the sun by Larissa Shmailo.

Among the dramatis personae is “A Time Traveller”. He makes his appearance fairly early, in the First Action, scene 1: “A TIME TRAVELLER rides onstage on airplane wheels; on him there are pages with the inscriptions Stone Age, Middle Ages, and so forth”. He speaks, he sings, he speaks and sings again, and speaks as various antagonists appear. And that’s the last we see of him.

He speaks mostly gibberish. This is the most coherent thing he has to say:

I will travel all ages, I was in ’35
where there is strength without duress and the
insurgents wage war on the sun and even though
there’s no happiness there but everybody looks [6]
happy and immortal…It’s no surprise that I’m
covered with dust and transverse… Visionary
kingdom… I will travel all ages even though I
lost two baskets until I find myself a place.

I do not know the history of the concept of “time travel” in Russian literature. Presumably it made its appearance in science fiction at some point. It is a subject to investigate. The history of H.G. Wells’ reception in Russia is well documented and I can look it up. It would not be at all surprising were there a direct link to the Russian futurists. It would be surprising were there not.