Brodsky Among Us: A Memoir

Brodsky Among Us: A Memoir

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Ellendea Proffer Teasley

Series: Jews of Russia & Eastern Europe and Their Legacy
ISBN: 9781618115782 (hardcover) / 9781618115799 (paperback)
Pages: 192 pp.
Publication Date: April 2017

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A searingly personal memoir of the great Russian poet by his American friend and publisher, containing much previously unknown material about how Brodsky left Russia and how he made his way in the new world, and how, during the cold war, Americans played a crucial role in his fate.

Ellendea Proffer Teasley is the author of Mikhail Bulgakov: Life & Work and co-founder of Russian Literature TriQuarterly and Ardis Publishers. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1989.


Guest: Dr. Ellendea Proffer Teasley, author, translator, publisher of Russian literature, and co-founder of Ardis Publishers, discusses her new book "Brodsky Among Us" (Academic Studies Press, 2017). The book was a bestseller in Russia and was just published in its original English language edition in April. In this podcast, Dr. Proffer Teasley also discusses her late husband Carl Proffer, the founding of Ardis Publishers, the origin of the Ardis name, and her personal experiences with Russian literary giants Joseph Brodsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Elena Bulgakova, and Lily Brik, among others.


[Ellendea Proffer Teasely’s] memoir of Joseph Brodsky, with its concise and penetrating character portrayals, and the depiction of the poet’s journey from fifteen year-old school dropout to Nobel Prize winning poet, is itself a work of poetry and deserves to be included in both undergraduate and graduate programs of Russian literature.
— Marya Zeigler, Department of Defense, Slavic and East European Journal Vol. 62.3
Among the reminiscences of the Soviet Union and Russian literary endeavors at the turn of the twenty-first century, this is the most appealing memoir-with-history. It is a truly wonderful book—intelligent, witty, warm, truthful. … A wonderful portrait of a moment in history and a generation that acted to improve it. A wonderful book, as I said, and repeat for emphasis.
— Irena Grudzinska Gross, Princeton University and the Polish Academy of Science, The Russian Review (Vol. 7, No. 2)
It took Joseph about six months to people his Michigan world — Russians found him, American poets found him, interested graduate students and other poets found him; he found the girls himself.

This striking observation sums up Ellendea Proffer Teasley’s memoir about Joseph Brodsky. It’s all there: the author’s nostalgia, fuelled by the memory of helping Brodsky leave the ­Soviet Union for the US in 1972; the poet’s ­magnetism and cosmopolitan appeal; and his restless hedonism, which is admiringly, if also ironically, described.
— Andre van Loon, The Australian

Praise for the Russian Edition

…Ellendea Proffer Teasley’s memoir of the poet, which became a sensation when it was first published in Russian three years ago, provides a penetrating and at times deeply moving account of both the myth and the man behind the work. She renders the Brodsky she knew not just as a great poet and deeply imperfect human being, but also as a political thinker who was uncompromising and unforgiving in his beliefs.
— Marat Grinberg, Commentary
Brodsky Among Us, by Ellendea Proffer Teasley, the co-founder of the legendary American publishing house Ardis in a translation by the well-known Viktor Golyshev, has already caused a sensation…. [In this memoir] Teasley cuts against the Brodsky cult, the transformation of his poetry and prose into objects of mindless adoration. Her memoir is a call to return the human face to the image of a literary colossus…. Brodsky Among Us allows one to see this celebrity outside of his usual context, and this sharp “shift of vision” is what is truly in order to read Joseph Brodsky’s poetry.
— Artem Pudov, Nezavisimaia gazeta
If this book did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. But the problem is that very few people would be able to invent it—that is, to write it this way: without teary-eyed delight or spiteful score-settling, without petty fights with either the dead or the living, and at the same time with a full understanding of the caliber and distinctiveness of its “hero.” … What is this book actually about? It is about a young American—educated, a lover of literature, open to the world—who came to Russia in the late nineteen-sixties. About how she and her husband met a poet whose gift was obvious, sharp, and charming. About how that man then—before their eyes and with their help—took off on a dizzying path. And this, oddly enough, is a rather difficult story to tell.
— Anna Narinskaia, Kommersant Daily
Ellendea Proffer Teasley, in her short new memoir [Brodsky among Us] offers a different view of the poet. It’s an iconoclastic and spellbinding portrait, some of it revelatory. Teasley’s Brodsky is both darker and brighter than the one we thought we knew, and he is the stronger for it, as a poet and a person...Brodsky Among Us appears to have been written in a single exhalation of memory; it is frank, personal, loving, and addictive: a minor masterpiece of memoir, and an important world-historical record.
— Cynthia Haven, The Nation
[Ellendea] Proffer Teasley’s memoir is an excellent primary source for information about Brodsky’s character and personality, his exile and journey to the United States, his adaptation to this new culture and his attitudes toward it, his relationship with writers and intellectuals in America, and his undiminished opposition to and hostility towards the Soviet Union.
— Ayse Dietrich, Department of History, Middle East Technical University, International Journal of Russian Studies (7.1, 2018)

Table of Contents

A Word about the Context
How Do You Like Your Poets? 
Great Bird-Cherry Street, 1969
The Muruzi House, 1969
Lugano, 1969
New Year’s Eve, 1970
The Roof of the Peter and Paul Fortress
The Schwarzenberg Palace: 1972
Ann Arbor
The Muse and the Addressee
The Oldest Modern City
Stockholm, 1987
A Birthday in New York: May 24, 1990
The Akhmatova Museum, 2003
Ardis Titles 1971–2002
English Language and Bilingual Books
Русские издания/Russian Publications