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Less Than One: Selected Essays Paperback – May 1, 1987

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This collection of essays thrusts Brodsky--heretofore known more for his poetry and translations--into the forefront of the "Third Wave" of Russian emigre writers. His insights into the works of Dostoyevsky, Mandelstam, Platonov, as well as non-Russian poets Auden, Cavafy and Montale are brilliant. While the Western popularity of many other Third Wavers has been stunted by their inability to write in English, Brodsky consumed the language to attain a "closer proximity" to poets such as Auden. The book, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, opens and closes with revealing autobiographical essays.

From Library Journal

Brodsky, a brilliant poet and sensitive translator, is also a stunning essayist. His first volume of essays not only evinces a supple, witty mastery of the English language, but provides deeply illuminating insights into the Russian literary tradition and political climate and modern poetry and poetics, in addition to compelling autobiographical material. The collection is a Baedeker to the world's poetry, as exemplified by essays on Cavafy, Montale, Walcott and lengthy fascinating dissections of individual poems by Tsvetaeva and Auden. Brodsky says that he learned English to find himself "in closer proximity" to Auden, and it is a hallmark of his success that this collection is reminiscent of Auden's own essays and suggests a comparable scope. Highly recommended. Natalie C. Tyler, English Dept., Ohio State Univ., Columbus
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 4.1.1987 edition (May 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374520550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374520557
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #499,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Anna Levine on January 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
When Joseph Brodsky emigrated to the United States in 1972 as an involuntary exile from the Soviet Union, he probably believed that he'd see his parents again, that political circumstances would inevitably change. Moreover, it is only natural to believe that a forced "political" separation from one's parents could not last for long. His parents spent their final years hoping against hope that they'd see their beloved son one more time-a death wish before dying. But that faithful dream never materialized. "I know," writes Brodsky, "that one shouldn't equate the state with language but it was in Russian that two old people, shuffling through numerous state chancelleries and ministries in the hope of obtaining a permit to go abroad for a visit to see their only son before they died, were told repeatedly, for twelve years in a row, that the state considers such a visit `unpurposeful'..." Letters were mostly forbidden, but Brodsky was allowed to call his parents every week. Phone calls were monitored. Brodsky tells us that they learned how to speak "euphemistically."
"In a Room and a Half" is Brodsky's last attempt to join his parents. Brodsky's father was a professional photographer and journalist. Something of the art of photography must have been passed on to his son. This beautiful narrative was as close as Brodsky could come to presenting a family album of photographic "takes" or "frames" which emerge in the poet's memory from his childhood days. There are forty-five photos that make up "In a Room and a Half."
You cannot possibly stand outside of this memoir as a "detached witness" once you begin to read it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 1997
Format: Paperback
A fascinating view of the literary world as seen by a leading Russian emigre poet. Some of the essays (like the long dissection of an elegy by Marina Tsvetaeva) are so dense as to be almost unreadable. The equally long dissection of "September 1, 1939" by Auden,though, is like auditing a brilliant university lecture on contemporary British poetry. The paeans to Leningrad and to Brodsky's parents give a gritty feel of life in Soviet Russia. The book gives unexpected rewards, and is worth perseverin
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on December 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This collection of essays is by one of the great Russian poets of this century. In it he writes of his life and poetry, and of those poets who have meant much to him. His memoir of his separation from his parents, their twelve - year effort to reunite while being refused by the Soviet Authorities is a tale of sadness, and pain.

I have just read the essay on Nadezhda Mandelstamm and through it received an insight into her life and literature. At the age of sixty- five never really having written at length before she wrote the two great memoirs of her husband's life that Brodsky considers the true cultural history of Russia in this century.

He writes of the poems of her husband and life together which she remembered.," And gradually those things grew on her. If there is any substitute for love , it'smemory. To memorize , then, is to restore intimacy.Gradually the lines of those poets became her mentality, became her identity. They supplied her not only with the plane of regard or angle of vision; more importantly, they became her linguistic norm.So when she out to write her books, she was bound to gauge-by that time already unwittingly, instinctively- her sentences against theirs. The clarity and remorselessness of her pages, while reflecting the character of her mind, are also inevitable stylistic consequences of the poetry that had shaped that mind.In both their content and style , her books are but a postcript to the supreme version of language which poetry essentially is and which became her flesh through learning her husband's lines by heart."

One of the most striking parts of this essay is Brodsky's description of the great Akhmatova's devotion to Nadezhda Mandelshtamm.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By jeremy on November 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These essays by one of the best Russian poets of the second half of the 20th century are an invaluable resource for any student of Russian Literature. Beautifully written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yevgeniy Sokolovskiy on June 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a truly wonderful collection of essays at an affordable price and no delivery fee. A great present for an intellectual friend
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 3, 1998
Format: Paperback
Al leer éste libro he podido sentir con el autor , toda la tragedia que significó para él no ver a sus padres los últimos años de su vida y no poder acompañarlos en su enfermedad y muerte como así también las privaciones , cárceles y las secuelas de la guerra . Sentí el desgarro en su alma, por no poder volver a su país, por su ausencia definitiva de la belleza" abstracta " de Petersburgo. Es una obra conmovedora que me transmitió la tragedia vivida por su pueblo y por él mismo durante muchos años...En fin Brodsky hace sentir al lector como sólo puede hacerlo un gran escritor , que está a la altura de los mas importantes creadores Rusos de todos los tiempos.
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