Joseph Brodsky

THE LAUREATE: Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad in 1940. As a Jew, he was marginalized and kept out of desirable positions (he wanted to be a submariner; he was sent to work a milling machine instead). His education was largely autodidactic and his claim to poetic value was, in the eyes of the Soviet judge who got him exiled, tenuous at best. The sorry excuse for a show trial that sent Brodsky north to Archangelsk and eventually to America showed the innate corruption of the Soviet system. When he finally reached America, Brodsky served as professor at a number of prestigious schools. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1987 and became the poet laureate of the United States in 1991. He died of a heart attack in 1996

I AM READING: A Selected Poems that came out in the early 70s and has an introduction by W.H. Auden (!).

REVIEW: I only read what Brodsky had written before 1972, but even that is enough to convince me that he was a genius. Brodsky doesn’t use much in the way of imagery, and sometimes the translator got in the way, but there were enough moments shining through. His way of thinking is enough. I’ll pick out some specifics later.

RECOMMENDATION: Worth picking up his collected works. I definitely will when I have book money.

WHAT’S NEXT: Hopefully my girlfriend translating Sully Prudhomme for me, but definitely Heinrich Boll making you sympathize with Nazi soldiers.


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