Osip Mandelstam

Donald Rayfield at Literary Review:

When in 1960 I first came across Osip Mandelstam’s poetry, nobody in the USSR had enjoyed access to his work since the early 1930s and few even knew of his existence, let alone of his death, as he had predicted, in Stalin’s Gulag. His books had been removed from libraries and bookshops. Only braver readers kept them, sometimes hidden in saucepans at their dachas. From 1958, supported by the CIA, émigré scholars collected what they could from Russian publications of the writings of banned Russian authors; the works were so in demand that students like myself copied them out by hand. Impressionable readers were stunned by the hypnotic musicality of Mandelstam’s early poems, by the penetrating appreciation of the disaster that unfolded – the ‘ship of time going to the bottom’ – during the First World War and the Russian Revolution, by the fine love poems and by the use of biology to elucidate his times.

For a student of Russian literature, Mandelstam is a godsend. Every poem has memorable lines that could be quoted in many imaginable situations. 

more here.