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 Joseph Brodsky

Born:   24 May 1940
Deceased:   28 January 1996



From the age of 15 he worked as a miller at a factory; from 16 he engaged into writing poetry and translating works of literature.

In 1964 with concern of the vigilant Leningrad community the poet was sued for parasitism, since he was unemployed. He was arrested and sentenced to five years of exile in the Arkhangelsk Region. He was also sentenced to psychiatric expertise to establish the possibility of compelling him to work.

When in exile Joseph Brodsky went on writing. In 1965 thanks to intercession of Akhmatova, Marshak, Shostakovich and other figures of art, as well as under the impact of world community the term of the exile was cut down to the actually served term of a year and five months; finally Brodsky was allowed to come back to Leningrad.

However, in 1972 he had to immigrate and live in the USA since then. He wrote poems and prose in two languages and was employed as a university professor. Thus Joseph Brodsky became one of the central figures of three cultures at once – of Russian, Jewish and American. His intonations turned contagious for the majority of modern Russian-language poets, and his collection of essays “Less than One” was recognized the best literary critic book in the USA in 1986. He rendered literary translations into Russian (in particular, he translated Tom Stoppard’s famous play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead) and into English (including Nabokov’s poems).

Brodsky’s parents twelve times filed requests to allow visiting their son, but even after Brodsky had undergone an open heart operation in 1978 and the hospital administration sent an official letter with a request to let his parents come to the USA for tending their sick son, they got a rejection. The mother of Joseph died in 1983, and his father died in about a year. Both times Brodsky was not allowed to come to Russia for the funerals.

With the beginning of Perestroika Brodsky’s poems, as well as research reviews and magazine articles about the poet started to appear in the Soviet press. In the 1990s his books started to be published in Russia. In 1995 Brodsky was given the title of the honorary citizen of Saint Petersburg, with invitations to come back to his motherland following. Brodsky kept postponing the return, embarrassed by the public character of this event, and attention of the press that would accompany his visit. As one of his last arguments he said: “The best part of me is already there – these are my poems”.

Brodsky died of a heart attack on 28 January 1996 in New York. The poet was laid to rest at San Michele Cemetery in Venice, one of his favourite cities. Link to Joseph Brodsky's Nobel Lecture:
Link to Joseph Brodsky's Banquet Speech:
Link to Joseph Brodsky's Prose:
Link to Joseph Brodsky's Poetry:


Tags: Russian literature Russian poets Joseph Brodsky   

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