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EIMI

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Originally published  January 1933
3.8/5 Goodreads

Author  E. E. Cummings
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Similar  E E Cummings books, Other books

EIMI /ˈm/ is a 1933 travelogue by poet E. E. Cummings, dealing with a visit to the Soviet Union in the spring of 1931. The book is written in the form of abstract prose verse.

Contents

Background information

EIMI (Greek εἰμί - "I Am") is a 432-page volume recounting the visit of American poet Edward Estlin Cummings to Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa from May 14 to June 14, 1931. Packing a portable typewriter with him, Cummings kept copious notes of his Soviet journey and wrote the book after his return to the United States.

Although actually a stylized work of non-fiction, Cummings's book was originally touted as a novel by Covici-Friede, a small publisher located in New York City.

In the book Cummings employs an abstract form of verse comparable to that of Ulysses by James Joyce and uses non-standard sentence structure, punctuation, spacing, and text breaks to evoke a sort of confusion and tension in the reader akin to his own feelings as a non-Russian speaker in the Soviet metropolis.

In Moscow, Cummings meets up with an acquaintance from his days at Harvard University, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, a committed Communist then living at the Metropole Hotel. Dana showed Cummings around the city and acted as a mentor, attempting — unsuccessfully — to win the apolitical Cummings' sympathies to the Soviet cause before the pair split over political differences. While in Moscow Cummings also met Joan London, daughter of novelist Jack London, and her husband, the newspaper correspondent Charles Malamuth.

The theme of the work deals with Cummings' growing disappointment with the squalor and inefficiency he saw in the USSR, as well as the lack of intellectual and artistic freedom he observed. After recounting his experiences in the Soviet Union, Cummings refers to the country as "Hell".

Reviews

EIMI was reckoned to be "a large poem" by a "penguin-Dante" in Marianne Moore's review of the work in Poetry magazine, 1933. Moore judges the book to be an "'enormous dream' about the proletarian fable" in which Cummings shifts grammatical and lyrical styles "as a seal that has been swimming right-side-up turns over and swims on its back for a time."

After being out of print for nearly half a century, EIMI was reissued in 2007 by the New York publisher Liveright. This brought the work to the attention of a new generation of reviewers, including Frank Bures of World Hum, who wrote:

"To call EIMI an easy read would be a lie. It’s a long, slow slog (like taking a train through the Soviet Union!) that requires tiresome mental gymnastics to understand each sentence. Much of it is impenetrable. Other parts are incomprehensible. Some parts, I have to admit, I read really, really fast.

Bures calles the book a "very political travelogue" which "sees the political landscape as integral to the place," thereby getting at "bigger questions about the kind of worlds we create and that create us."

Editions

  • First edition: EIMI. New York: Covici-Friede, 1933. —First printing was 1381 copies signed and numbered.
  • Second edition: EIMI: The Journal of a Trip to Russia. New York: William Sloan Associates, n.d. [1949] —Facsimile typography of first edition; cover title.
  • Third edition: EIMI. New York: Grove Press, n.d. [1958].
  • Fourth edition: EIMI: A Journey Through Soviet Russia. New York: Liveright, 2007.
  • References

    EIMI Wikipedia


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