A new selection and translation of the work of Osip Mandelstam, perhaps the most important Russian poet of the twentieth century
Political nonconformist Osip Mandelstam's opposition to Stalin's totalitarian government made him a target of the communist state. The public recitation of his 1933 poem known in English as "The Stalin Epigram" led to his arrest, exile, and eventual imprisonment in a Siberian transit camp, where he died, presumably in 1938. Mandelstam's work—much of it written under extreme duress—is an extraordinary testament to the enduring power of art in the face of oppression and terror.
Stolen Air spans Mandelstam's entire poetic career, from his early highly formal poems in which he reacted against Russian Symbolism to the poems of anguish and defiant abundance written in exile, when Mandelstam became a truly great poet. Aside from the famous early poems, which have a sharp new vitality in Wiman's versions, Stolen Air includes large selections from The Moscow Notebooks and The Voronezh Notebooks.
Going beyond previous translators who did not try to reproduce Mandelstam's music, Christian Wiman has captured in English—for the first time—something of Mandelstam's enticing, turbulent, and utterly heartbreaking sounds.
Christian Wiman was born and raised in West Texas. He is the editor of Poetry and the author of three collections of poems, Every Riven Thing, Hard Night, and The Long Home, and one collection of prose, Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.
Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) was born and raised in St. Petersburg. Along with Anna Akhmatova and Nicholas Gumilev, Mandelstam formed the Acmeist group, which advocated an aesthetic of exact description and chiseled form, as suggested by the title of Mandelstam's first book, Stone (1913). He settled in Moscow in 1922, where his second collection of poems, Tristia, appeared. In 1934 Mandelstam was arrested and sent into exile. He wrote furiously during these years, and his wife, Nadezhda, and friends memorized his work in an effort to preserve it in case it was destroyed or lost. (Her memoirs, Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned, later helped to bring Mandelstam a worldwide audience.) He died on December 27, 1938, in the Gulag Archipelago.