Osip Mandelshtam

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Mandel’shtam, Osip Emil’evich

 

(also Osip Emilevich Mandelstam). Born Jan. 3 (15), 1891, in Warsaw; died Dec. 27, 1938. Soviet Russian poet.

Mandel’shtam was the son of a merchant. He studied in the department of Romance and Germanic languages at St. Petersburg University. He began to publish in 1910. Mandel’shtam’s first book of poems was Stone (1913; 2nd enlarged edition, 1916); his second book was Tristia (1922). His early poems were influenced by symbolist poetry.

In 1912, Mandel’shtam became one of the founders of acmeism. Mandel’shtam opposed to the surrounding chaos the world of cultural and historical phenomena and of images from literature and art (particularly architecture) that express the shaping activity of the intellect and defy the elemental forces of nature. For the poet the word is the sum of meanings accumulated and sanctified by cultural tradition (see Mandel’shtam’s articles “The Word and Culture” and “On the Nature of the Word” in his collection On Poetry, 1928). Mandel’shtam’s personal, lyric themes are not expressed directly (the realistic, concrete connections among words are frequently broken) but rather through the prism of complex word associations. Mandel’shtam’s poems prophesy catastrophe, the death of the old “Hellene-Christian” (in his definition) culture and its “last” bearers.

Mandel’shtam’s postrevolutionary verse contains, alongside his acceptance of the Revolution in a general democratic spirit (“January 1, 1924”), the ever-louder personal theme of “withdrawal,” the “ailing son of the age,” and so on, which brought about the gradual social and literary isolation of the poet. At-tempts to draw closer to the “age” in his poems of the 1930’s gave rise to themes that were new for Mandel’shtam (“Chernozem” and “Verses on the Unknown Soldier”), but Mandel’-shtam’s poetic language became increasingly irrational, and there were signs that his precise verse structure was disintegrating.

Mandel’shtam’s prose works include The Noise of Time (1925), a book of autobiographical stories; The Egyptian Stamp (1928), a novella about the spiritual crisis of an intellectual who had lived on “cultural income” before the Revolution; and Conversation About Dante (1933), an essay of literary criticism.

WORKS

Stikhotvoreniia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
“Puteshestvie v Armeniiu.” Zvezda, 1933, no. 5.
[Unpublished poems]. Moskva, 1964, no. 8; Prostor, 1965, no. 4; Pod”em, 1966, no. 1.
Razgovor o Dante. Moscow, 1967.
“Zapisnye knizhki.” Voprosy literatury, 1968, no. 4.
Stikhotvoreniia. Introductory article by A. L. Dymshits; text compiled and prepared by N. I. Khardzhiev. Leningrad, 1973.

REFERENCES

Blok, A. Sobr. soch., vol. 7. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963. Page 371.
Tynianov, Iu. “Promezhutok.” In Arkhaisty i novatory. Leningrad, 1929. Pages 568-73.
Berkovskii, N. “O proze Mandel’shtama.” In Tekushchaia literatura. Moscow, 1930.
Dymshits, A. “‘Ia v mir vkhozhu … ’: Zametki o tvorchestve O. Mandel’shtama.” Voprosy literatury, 1972, no. 3.
Ginzburg, L. Ia. “Poetika Osipa Mandel’shtama.” Izv. AN SSSR: Ser. literatury i iazyka, 1972, vol. 31, no. 4.

AL. MOROZOV