Jangfeldt, Bengt
Swedish title
Med livet som insats
Non Fiction \ Biography & Memoirs
Pub Date
Apr 12, 2007
590 pages
  • " "Let it be said immediately: this biography is a masterpiece. It is the kind of monumental, deeply penetrating life survey that is written once in ten years, at most." (Dagens Nyheter)

    "This will of course become a standard work, not only as the first non-Soviet biography of Mayakovsky but because Jangfeldt's exclusive access to sources. For more than three decades he has had intimate contacts with people from the poet's circle." (Aftonbladet)

    "A Life at Stake is a magnificent piece of work, both as a biography of Mayakovsky and as a survey of the epoch. There can hardly be anything of value to be said about Mayakovsky that has not been said here." (VLT)


A Life at Stake is a riveting and fascinating portrait of the legendary Mayakovsky, a poet surrounded by many myths. With considerable insight and a light touch, Bengt Jangfeldt describes not only a great but tragic human life, but also an entire era in the dark history of the Soviet Union. It is the story of a poet who, after the 1917 revolution, became the foremost herald of Communism, who loved the revolution, but at the age of 36 took his own life, disappointed in the development of Soviet society and ravaged by private conflicts.

Mayakovsky most certainly lived with his life at stake; he was full of burning enthusiasm for the time in which he lived, but was met with coldness or antagonism from the side of the authorities. He praised his muse, Lili Brik, in some of the most beautiful love poems in Russian literature. The relationship between Mayakovsky, Lili and her husband is one of the most legendary in the history of Russian literature. A Life at Stake is based to a great extent on previously unknown source material, and is the first comprehensive biography of Mayakovsky in any western language.