The personal and political life of the iconic Russian poet Osip Mandelstam is graphically portrayed in this lavishly illustrated book
This is the first full-scale biography of Osip Mandelstam to combine an analysis of his poetry with a description of his personal life, from his beginnings as a young intellectual in pre-revolutionary Russia to his final fate as a victim of Stalinism.
The myth has grown up that Mandelstam was a gloomy, miserable figure; Dutli deconstructs this, stressing Mandelstam's enjoyment of life. There are several underlying themes here. One is Mandelstam's Jewish background in pre-1914 Russia, which he rejected as a young man, but reaffirmed in later life. Another is the inescapable impact of Russia's political and social transformation.
His evolution as a poet naturally occupies a large place in the biography, which quotes many of his most famous poems, including his devastating anti-Stalin epigram. He produced wonderful poetry before the October Revolution, but did not reach his full poetic stature until the 1930s when in exile in Voronezh. He was never an official Soviet poet, and it was only thanks to the intervention of Bukharin that he was brought back from utter impoverishment.
The biography gives full weight to his emotional life, beginning with his friendship with two other Russian poets, Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova, followed by love and marriage to Nadezhda Khazina.
About the Author
Ralph Dutli was born in Switzerland. He studied French and Russian Literature in Zürich and Paris. He is a poet, a translator of Russian and French poetry, a novelist, and an essayist. He has translated the whole of Mandelstam’s works into German and received many literary awards.
"Likely to become the standard reference work for the English reader ... enlightening" —Donald Rayfield, Literary Review
"Deftly examines [Mandelstam's] literary legacy and explains why, in the opinion of the Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, [he] can be considered the greatest Russian poet of the 20th century" —John Thornhill, Financial Times
"The author, Ralph Dutli, approaches the poet unobtrusively and sensitively. He deconstructs the myths that have surrounded him, such as the notion that he was a restless ascetic who never put down any roots or settled anywhere. It was sheer necessity that forced him to move from place to place. Dutli brings out the sensual and witty side of Mandelstam, who was full of the joys of life." —Marion Lülte, Die Tageszeitung
"This biography crowns Dutli’s work as editor of the poet’s oeuvre. Thanks to Ralph Dutli, the German public now have the best conceivable access to Mandelstam’s work. Dutli hasn’t just told the story of Mandelstam’s life; he has included in an appendix a range of comments by other poets, the most remarkable of them being that by Pasolini." —Christoph Bartmann, Süddeutsche Zeitung
"This is a biography written with insight and precision, which can be recommended unreservedly. The aim of the book is to explain how Mandelstam managed to retain his enjoyment of life and clarity of vision despite all his suffering. This is a successful biography written with empathy, sobriety and a wealth of information." —Renate Wiggershaus, Frankfurter Rundschau
"A model biography by Dutli, who is better qualified than anyone else to do this, because he has a precise knowledge of every facet of the poet’s life and work. He corrects the picture presented by Celan, whose translations overemphasised the tragic, elegiac aspect of Mandelstam’s poetry." —Ulrich M. Schmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
"The details of the road that led to Mandelstam’s death have never been presented to the German public so precisely and with so much tact, as here. Dutli’s language is muscular, warm and colourful." —Andreas Isenschmid, Die Zeit
"Dutli is able to illuminate the interaction between the poet’s life and his work in a masterly fashion, without reducing his poems to a mere reflection of aspects of his biography." —Michael Braun, Deutschlandfunk
"[Dutli's] understanding of his subject is profound and his assessments informed ... his sympathetic grasp of Mandlestam's artistic genius should yet be enough to encourage readers to explore some of the greatest poetry of the 20th century." —Mark Glanville, Jewish Chronicle
"Compelling ... [Dutli] provides a vibrant, deeply informed guide to the life, the writing and the tumultuous age that shaped them." —Clare Cavanagh, Times Literary Supplement