Modernist Archaist: Selected Poems By Osip Mandelstam

2008. Selected Poems by Osip Mandelstam with essay and translations by Kevin M. F. Platt. 160 pages. Softcover.

OSIP MANDELSTAM (1891-1938), one of the most significant poets of twentieth-century Russian literature, also embodied more fully than any other its profound paradoxes. He was a Jew born in Poland who became a leading Russian poet; a committed modernist who was faithful to the great examples and strict forms of the past literary tradition; a rebel with decidedly revolutionary aspirations who, yearning for a new and different future, rejected the faith and social values of his well-to-do merchant parents, but who died in the same year as his own father. Most strikingly, Mandelstam, who preserved socialist and left-leaning political sympathies into his maturity, was driven from public life in postrevolutionary society, arrested as an enemy of the people, and hounded to death in the Soviet prison camps. Yet while Mandelstam’s poetry bore witness to the impossible convulsions of twentieth-century Russian culture and politics, it was by no means limited or defined by these historical contexts.

In an early statement of his creative credo, Mandelstam wrote: “For an artist, a worldview is a tool or a means, like a hammer in the hands of a mason, and the only reality is the work of art itself.”

JAMES FALEN is Professor Emeritus of Russian at the University of Tennessee. He is the author of Isaac Babel: Russian Master of the Short Story and has translated for Oxford University Press Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse Eugene Onegin as well as Boris Godunov and Other Dramatic Works. His translation of selected lyric poetry by Pushkin is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in the fall of 2009.



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