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John Barber, 29 October 1987

Socialism, Peace and Democracy: Writings, Speeches and Reports 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Zwan, 210 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 1 85305 011 3
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by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 314 pp., £5.95, May 1987, 0 631 15880 4
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The Sixth Continent: Russia and Mikhail Gorbachov 
by Mark Frankland.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £12.95, June 1987, 0 241 12122 1
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Shadows and Whispers: Power Politics inside the Kremlin from Brezhnev to Gorbachev 
by Dusko Doder.
Harrap, 349 pp., £12.95, July 1987, 0 245 54577 8
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Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine 
by Angus Roxburgh.
Gollancz, 285 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 575 03734 2
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Utopia in Power: A History of the USSR from 1917 to the Present 
by Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich.
Hutchinson, 877 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 09 155620 1
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... Cultural glasnost has yet to allow the public to read the work of living émigré writers such as Joseph Brodsky or Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Moreover, widening the boundaries of discussion in order to overcome resistance to change is a high-risk strategy. It is bound to increase fears that glasnost may go too far and threaten the system’s ...

Two Jackals on a Leash

Jamie McKendrick: Eugenio Montale, 1 July 1999

Eugenio Montale: Collected Poems 1920-54 
translated by Jonathan Galassi.
Carcanet, 626 pp., £29, November 1998, 1 85754 425 0
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... than to the stone-grinders in Ecclesiastes which is Arrowsmith’s guess, documented again here. Joseph Brodsky once remarked of Andrei Platonov: ‘To talk about his pedigree, trying to fit him into this or that tradition of literature is, essentially, to move in a direction exactly opposite to the one in which he himself was moving’. The same is ...

Every Slightest Pebble

Clarence Brown, 25 May 1995

The Akhmatova Journals. Vol. I: 1938-1941 
by Lydia Chukovskaya, translated by Milena Michalski and Sylva Rubashova.
Harvill, 310 pp., £20, June 1994, 0 00 216391 8
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Remembering Anna Akhmatova 
by Anatoly Nayman, translated by Wendy Rosslyn.
Halban, 240 pp., £18, June 1991, 9781870015417
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Anna Akhmatova and Her Circle 
edited by Konstantin Polivanov, translated by Patricia Beriozkina.
Arkansas, 281 pp., $32, January 1994, 1 55728 308 7
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Anna Akhmatova: Poet and Prophet 
by Roberta Reeder.
Allison and Busby, 592 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 85031 998 6
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Women’s Works in Stalin’s Time: On Lidia Chukovskaia and Nadezhda Mandelstam 
by Beth Holmgren.
Indiana, 225 pp., £25, September 1993, 0 253 33860 3
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... endangered both her and me, sent quickly out of the country. This was the early and mid-Sixties. Brodsky was being sent, for ‘parasitism’, to vegetate in a village near Arkhangelsk; her dangerously disloyal Requiem was being published in Munich; Sinyavsky was being exposed as Abram Tertz and sent to a camp; and her half-hearted rehabilitation, after the ...


John Lanchester, 16 November 1995

Sons of Ezra: British Poets and Ezra Pound 
edited by Michael Alexander and James McGonigal.
Rodopi, 183 pp., $23.50, July 1995, 90 5183 840 9
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‘In Solitude, for Company’: W.H. Auden after 1940 
edited by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins.
Oxford, 338 pp., £40, November 1995, 0 19 818294 5
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by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 406 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 434 17507 2
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Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman 
by Thekla Clark.
Faber, 130 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 0 571 17591 0
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... also the subject of one of the best critical essays of the last quarter-century, an explication by Joseph Brodsky). Auden, however, quickly came to dislike the poem – he had dropped the offending stanza by 1944 – principally on the grounds that it’s untrue to say that we must love one another or die, since even if we do love one another we’re all ...

Gurney’s Flood

Donald Davie, 3 February 1983

Geoffrey Grigson: Collected Poems 1963-1980 
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 419 4Show More
The Cornish Dancer 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 64 pp., £4.95, June 1982, 0 436 18805 8
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 420 8
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses: A Critical Collection 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 437 2
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Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney 
edited by P.J. Kavanagh.
Oxford, 284 pp., £12, September 1982, 0 19 211940 0
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War Letters 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 271 pp., £12, February 1983, 0 85635 408 2
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... poet who had died in an asylum in 1937. Certainly I blush to recall that it was the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, a year ago in Nashville, Tennessee, who asked me if Gurney didn’t excite me, and I wasn’t able to answer. It is hard to find excuses. Both Blunden and Clark printed, for instance, ‘Townshend’ – a poem that honours a man who was ...

Hand and Foot

John Kerrigan: Seamus Heaney, 27 May 1999

Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 478 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 571 19492 3
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The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study 
by Neil Corcoran.
Faber, 276 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 571 17747 6
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Seamus Heaney 
by Helen Vendler.
HarperCollins, 188 pp., £15.99, November 1998, 0 00 255856 4
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... both in Heaney’s contribution to Homage to Robert Frost (which he published in 1997 with Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott) and in such poems as ‘Weighing In’ and ‘The Swing’ (an Ulster version of Frost’s ‘Birches’) in The Spirit Level (1996), the most recent book of his excerpted for Opened Ground. Of course, nothing in Heaney’s ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... eyeballs. It was common knowledge among the laity that apart from a late-inning affair with Joseph Brodsky – he was perhaps the only brilliant talent she considered her equal (par for the course, Brodsky too proved to be a bully) – Sontag’s significant others were women of no mean measure, notably the ...

Aphrodite bends over Stalin

John Lloyd, 4 April 1996

... he came back to the country from which he had been expelled twenty years before. The late Joseph Brodsky, asked in July 1995 if he would return, said flatly: ‘I don’t think I can. The country in which I grew up doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t step into the same river twice.’ Though he had the same qualms, Solzhenitsyn yielded to the ...

Sounding Auden

Seamus Heaney, 4 June 1987

... with active intelligence – the greatest intelligence of the 20th century in the opinion of Joseph Brodsky. Indeed, Brodsky’s essays on Auden, collected in his recent prose volume Less than One, are thrilling evidence of what can happen when ‘the words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the ...

At the Met

Michael Hofmann: Beckmann in New York, 16 February 2017

... Somehow, I am always drawn to these short, pyknic or mesomorphic creators, whether they are Brodsky, Benn, Beckmann or my father. As the Nazis came up things grew abruptly tight for Beckmann. He lost his job in Frankfurt (‘public funds for Jew lackeys like Beckmann’), was pilloried in the press and increasingly prevented from showing. The day before ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... Roth not only edited the series but commissioned introductions from the likes of John Updike and Joseph Brodsky for an extra imprimatur. The series lasted fifteen years, a labour of literary world citizenship that seems to have been lost in the passage of time, perhaps because American culture has never been more parochial, tuned out and ...

Here comes the end of the world

Michael Hofmann, 23 July 1992

Bohin Manor 
by Tadeusz Konwicki, translated by Richard Lourie.
Faber, 240 pp., £12.99, July 1992, 0 571 14437 3
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... to the Polish-Arab Friendship Society whom he hadn’t offended. Like the speaker in Joseph Brodsky’s poem ‘Plato Elaborated’, here was someone to throw the book at: And when they would finally arrest me for espionage, for subversive activity, vagrancy, for ménage à trois ... It was Brodsky again ...

Snap among the Witherlings

Michael Hofmann: Wallace Stevens, 22 September 2016

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens 
by Paul Mariani.
Simon and Schuster, 512 pp., £23, May 2016, 978 1 4516 2437 3
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... European country). An account of Stevens must be sensual, or it is nothing. I love a quatrain from Joseph Brodsky’s poem ‘Plato Elaborated’: ‘There would be a café in that city with a quite/decent blancmange, where, if I should ask why/we need the twentieth century, when we already/have the nineteenth, my colleague would stare fixedly at his fork ...

England’s Isaiah

Perry Anderson, 20 December 1990

The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas 
by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy.
Murray, 276 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 9780719547898
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... Machiavelli, Vico, Herder, Pluralism, Romanticism, Utopianism. Even the longest piece, on Joseph de Maistre, is the enlargement of a portrait already sketched in an earlier comparison with Tolstoy. In a sense, however, this is the interest of the collection: it serves to bring the unity of Berlin’s thought sharply into focus. A philosopher by ...

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