In July 1915 Lili Brik’s younger sister, Elsa – who later married Andre Triolet and emigrated to France, where she became a writer and Aragon’s constant companion brought the twenty-two-year-old futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, huge and ungainly, famous for his orange and black striped blouse and extravagant behaviour, to the Petrograd flat occupied by Lili and her husband Osip. Here, lounging against a doorframe, Mayakovsky read his latest poem, ‘A Cloud in Trousers’. ‘ It was what we had dreamed about for so long. What we were waiting for,’ Lili wrote later. ‘Suddenly the right person was writing in the right way about the right subject.’ Brik immediately decided to publish the poem at his own expense, thus beginning his own literary career: he was to become a critic and theoretician, an editor of Mayakovsky’s work, and a close collaborator with the poet on the journal Lef Mayakovsky, for his part, fell so violently in love with Lili that he abandoned ‘his lady friend and his linen at the laundry and in general all his possessions’ and took a room in Petrograd near Lili and Osip. When ‘A C loud in Trousers’ appeared in September it was dedicated to Lili, as were all Mayakovsky’s later long poems.
In the summer of 1918 Mayakovsky moved into the Briks’ flat, and he and Lili began to live together. Of the three-cornered relationship Lili commented: ‘We decided never to part, and we lived our lives as close friends’, and wrote elsewhere:
Osya and I were never again physically intimate, so all