Here we see a rare French translation by Paul Celan, but not of Rilke or Mandelshtam
, his guiding spirits.
Mandelshtam was arrested in May 1934 and, luckily enough, sent to the northern Russian city of Voronezh.
Precisely because Mandelshtam was a modernist whose art was acutely attuned to his time, the question of his Jewishness occupies a central role in analyzing his work.
In his study, Osip Mandelshtam,(6) Struve states that Mandelshtam fully abandoned Judaism and the Jewry of the Pale of Settlement.
What strikes me across all this variety, though, is that while no poets were ever more "associative," indirect, "difficult," and psychically fast-paced, yet non-surrealist and intensely invested in meaning, than Osip Mandelshtam, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Boris Pasternak (whose work Ilya Kutik and I have been translating), nevertheless they are the farthest thing, poetically, from some current American poetic fashions that might seem superficially to resemble them.
From this, I'm not sure he would have liked the poetry of Mandelshtam, Tsvetaeva or Pasternak, if he knew it; but I think he would have sensed that it does seek out, in serious play, genuine mystery both in reality and in language, and does not manufacture mystery for its own sake.
But in Russia, "mainstream" poetry, as Ilya uses the term, means the great tradition, including the work of the "Great Four" (Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam, Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva), whose work (especially that of the latter three) was seen as very difficult in its time, but nevertheless taught readers how to look for much more in the language of poetry than they had seen before.
, living in Stalin's time, once said that, living with fear, one is not afraid of anything.
WRITING ABOUT OSIP MANDELSHTAM, Joseph Brodsky says, "A song is a form of linguistic disobedience.
Mandelshtam says, "No language resists more strongly than Russian the tendency toward naming and utilitarian application" (Proffer, 38).
It is preceded by the prose of Akhmatova, Belyi, Blok, Gippius, Esenin, Mandelshtam
, Mariengof, Maiakovskii, Pasternak, Voznesenskii, Vysotskii, and Zhukovskii.
This squares with Brodsky's whole life and oeuvre, dominated as they are by a search for selfhood, while Pasternak pursues a very Russian sobornost' ("togetherness" is the closest English word for it, though it lacks the paronomasia with sober, "cathedral"), which is important in Mandelshtam