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Modernist Archaist offers a selection of Osip Mandelstam's poetry in English translation, edited by Russian scholar Kevin M. F. Platt, who also contributes an illuminating essay. Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), one of the most significant poets of twentieth-century Russian literature, also embodied more fully than any other its profound paradoxes. He was a Jew born in Poland who became a leading Russian poet; a committed modernist who was faithful to the great examples and strict forms of the past literary tradition; a rebel with decidedly revolutionary aspirations who, yearning for a new and different future, rejected the faith and social values of his well-to-do merchant parents, but who died in the same year as his own father. Most strikingly, Mandelstam, who preserved socialist and left-leaning political sympathies into his maturity, was driven from public life in postrevolutionary society, arrested as an enemy of the people, and hounded to death in the Soviet prison camps. Yet while Mandelstam's poetry bore witness to the impossible convulsions of twentieth-century Russian culture and politics, it was by no means limited or defined by these historical contexts.In an early statement of his creative credo, Mandelstam wrote: "For an artist, a worldview is a tool or a means, like a hammer in the hands of a mason, and the only reality is the work of art itself.
Translators: Clarence Brown is professor emeritus at Princeton University. He is author of a biography of Mandelstam and editor and translator of editions of the poet's works. Bernard Meares is a translator who lives and works in Geneva, Switzerland. W. S. Merwin is a poet and essayist who lives on Maui, Hawaii. His most recent book is Present Company. Eugene Ostashevsky is a Russian-born American poet and editor of OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism, containing the 1930s writings of Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms and others of their circle. Bob Perelman is a poet and critic whose most recent book is Iflife. Charles Bernstein is a poet and essayist whose most recent book is Girly Man. Both teach at the University of Pennsylvania. Editor: Kevin M. F. Platt teaches Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. His scholarship focuses on Russian history and culture, with particular interest in poetry and poetics. He is the author of History in a Grotesque Key: Russian Literature and the Idea of Revolution and co-editor (with David Brandenberger) of Epic Revisionism: Russian History and Literature as Stalinist Propaganda.