JOSEPH BRODSKY: A Personal Memoir

Ludmila Shtern, Author, Liudmila Shtern, Author . Baskerville $29.95 (442p) ISBN 978-1-880909-70-6

In this charming memoir, Shtern not only brings the famous poet Joseph Brodsky to life, but illuminates for an American audience the experiences of an entire generation of Russian intelligentsia. Beginning in late 1950s Leningrad and moving through immigration to America and the post-Soviet '90s of New York and Boston, Shtern uses Brodsky as the hub around which she and other Russian writers and thinkers revolve, bringing various luminaries, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, to light through small details. She invites the reader into the struggles, from Soviet persecution to lovers' spats, that defined the lives of this extraordinary group. Shtern's book is notable for its brutal honesty: it shows people in unflattering lights. Brodsky himself comes off as often unkind and imperious, but also as loyal and generous; old friends become grasping and jealous as others' situations improve, and alliances form and re-form. Although the book has no structure to speak of and repeats certain details, Shtern has the memoirist's gift of intimacy, keeping the tone conversational throughout. Interspersed with poems and stories, the book conveys how poetry and the work of the mind stood as the central experience for Shtern and her circle, both within Soviet entrapment and amid the pressures of acclimation to a wide and frightening new life in the West. B&w photos. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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