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Hope Against Hope: A Memoir Paperback – March 30, 1999
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--George Steiner, The New Yorker
" Surely the most luminous account we have--or are likely to get--of life in the Soviet Union during the purges of the 1930's."
--Olga Carlisle, The New York Times Book Review
" No work on Russia which I have recently read has given me so sensitive and searing an insight into the hellhouse which Russia became under Stalin as this dedicated and brilliant work on the poet Mandelstam by his devoted wife."
--Harrison E. Salisbury
Of the eighty-one years of her life, Nadezhda Mandelstam spent nineteen as the wife of Russia's greatest poet in this century, Osip Mandelstam, and forty-two as his widow. The rest was childhood and youth."
So writes Joseph Brodsky in his appreciation of Nadezhda Mandelstam that is reprinted here as an Introduction. Hope Against Hope was first published in English in 1970. It is Nadezhda Mandelstam's memoir of her life with Osip, who was first arrested in 1934 and died in Stalin's Great Purge of 1937-38. Hope Against Hope is a vital eyewitness account of Stalin's Soviet Union and one of the greatest testaments to the value of literature and imaginative freedom ever written. But it is also a profound inspiration--a love story that relates the daily struggle to keep both love and art alive in the most desperate circumstances.
Nadezhda Mandelstam was born in Saratov in 1899. She met Osip Mandelstam in 1919. She is also the author of Hope Abandoned (1974). She died in 1980. Nadezhda means "hope" in Russian.
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Top Customer Reviews
And that is the truth, well-put.
In this lucid tome Mandelstam's widow recounts the years of their exile, the real life people whom they met in their travels, the day-to-day hells of the Stalinist regime, the tiny mercies and kindnesses of others, the cowards and the idiots, the drive to create art out of the most dehumanizing experiences, the triumphs and pitfalls of the human spirit... I'm getting too flowery here, and this is a book that deserves to be read, not praised by some spoilt American white-boy pseudo-intellectual like myself. I just want to say that this book evokes the kind of courage and wit one seldom sees these days.
Like Ahkmatova, like Yelena Sergeyevna Bulgakova, like so many Russian women, Nadezhda survived- because of her (and their) resilience we have not only her husband's works, but also this masterpiece. The chapters are short and so finely crafted that it shocks me. How someone can be so accurate, so succinct, so resolute and so honest all at once... If this were the standard by which writers judged their own works, well, amazon would have far fewer books to sell.
If you are looking for a glimpse of what life was 'like' during Stalin's reign in Russia, if you are looking for an unflinching view of humanity and 'utopian' projects, or if you are looking for the most eloquent and disturbing memoir I have ever read- well, here, all I can do is add my empty two-cents.
If Osip's great characteristic was his commitment to truth, Nadezhda's was her endurance (if this sounds dismissive recall that the New Testament repeatedly includes endurance as one of a short list of authentic signs of the divine Spirit). Her personal survival made possible the survival of (most) of Osip's poetry, and of the story of their lives, preserved in this unique memoir.
Wordsworth defined poetry as "emotion recollected in tranquility", and this memoir has something deeper than tranquility to it, a profound serenity, a luminous sadness, a fusion of love and truth which is the pivot on which human history revolves.
It is clear from reading this book that Osip was one those described in the 11th chapter of Hebrews as those "of whom the world was not worthy".
What better way to understand the industrial scale barbarisms of the twentieth century than to read about how they were observed and interpreted through the sensibilities of great poets and writers?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is a detailed commentary on what it was like to live in the Soviet Union during the 1930s and the purges. Read morePublished 14 hours ago by Carolyn Ulrich
It is a deeply moving, personal account of life in the Gulag under Stalin. Lacking the grandeur of Solzhenitsyn 's account, it may be more moving for its very intimate telling.Published on December 6, 2013 by Stephen D. Eshelman
I am a descendant of Osip Mandelshtam and this book has given me an insight into the life of this poetPublished on December 3, 2013 by MARIA COLLINS
As a teacher of a course on the Cold War, I am sometimes appalled by the near total ignorance of young American students regarding this half century and of the nature of the Soviet... Read morePublished on December 10, 2012 by John Desmond
A rare book by an extraordinary woman. The tale is ostensibly about her husband, the poet Mandelstam, who was imprisoned and eventually died under Stalin. Read morePublished on January 20, 2011 by SG
This is an outstanding book but, unfortunately, the copy I received was defective. The first page of the last chapter (page 395) is missing. Read morePublished on April 27, 2010 by HistoricalReader
Hope against hope is one of the great works of the 20th century.
It's a reminder that for whatever reasons, American novels and non-fiction since WW 2 can't touch the... Read more
Nadezhda Mandelstam's haunting memoir describes life with her exiled poet husband during the 1920s and 1930s in the Soviet Union, as the noose of the government gradually tightened... Read morePublished on July 11, 2008 by Irina Hynes
No book does a better job of showing what life was like inside the whirlwind that was Stalinist Russia. Read morePublished on February 1, 2008 by Sam J. Miller