First published in 1986 and reissued in 2020 to mark what would have been Joseph Brodsky’s eightieth birthday, this collection of essays offers an intimate look into his life and work. The book begins and concludes with a set of autobiographical essays about the Nobel laureate’s difficult life as a poet in Soviet Russia, while other essays include insights on the works of Russian writers such as Anna Akhmatova, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Osip Mandelstam as well as other influential poets such as C. P. Cavafy, W. H. Auden, and Eugenio Montale. Brodsky’s close readings of beloved poems are in-depth and comprehensive; in particular his essay titled “On ‘September 1, 1939’ by W. H. Auden,” in which he provides line-by-line commentary of the iconic poem. Brodsky’s mastery of language is unmistakable in this award-winning collection of essays, providing deep analysis of great works and reflections on the life of an artist who survived extraordinary obstacles.
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