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Journey to Armenia by Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam visited Armenia in 1930, and during the eight months of his stay, he rediscovered his poetic voice and was inspired to write an experimental meditation on the country and its ancient culture.

This edition also includes the companion piece, “Conversation About Dante,” which Seamus Heaney called “Osip Mandelstam’s astonishing fantasia on poetic creation.” An incomparable apologia for poetic freedom and a challenge to the Bolshevik establishment, the essay was dictated by the poet to his wife, Nadezhda Mandelstam, in 1934 and 1935, during the last phase of his itinerant life. It has close ties to the Journey to Armenia.

Osip Mandelstam (1891–1938) was born and raised in St. Petersburg, where he attended the prestigious Tenishev School, before studying at the universities of St. Petersburg and Heidelberg and at the Sorbonne.

Mandelstam first published his poems in Apollyon, an avant-garde magazine, in 1910, then banded together with Anna Akhmatova and Nicholas Gumilev to form 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). During the Russian Revolution, Mandelstam left Leningrad for the Crimea and Georgia, and he settled in Moscow in 1922, where his second collection of poems, Tristia, appeared.

Unpopular with the Soviet authorities, Mandelstam found it increasingly difficult to publish his poetry, though an edition of collected poems did come out in 1928. In 1934, after reading an epigram denouncing Stalin to friends, Mandelstam was arrested and sent into exile. He wrote furiously during these years, and his wife, Nadezhda, memorized his work in case his notebooks were destroyed or lost. (Nadezhda Mandelstam’s extraordinary memoirs of life with her husband, Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned, published in the 1970s, later helped to bring Mandelstam a worldwide audience.

Journey to Armenia by Osip Mandelstam,
introduction by Henry Gifford,
translated from the Russian by Sydney Monas, Clarence Brown, and Robert Hughes
Series: Notting Hill Editions
ISBN: 9781907903472
Pages: 192
Publication Date in Hardcover:
September 25, 2018

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