Oleg Lekmanov
Translated by Tatiana Retivov

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures, and History
ISBN: 9781934843284 (hardcover) 
Pages: 200 pp.
Publication Date: January 2010

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Now available for the first time in English, Oleg Lekmanov’s critically-acclaimed Mandelstam presents the maverick Russian poet’s life and work to a wider audience and includes the most reliable details of the poet’s life, which were recently found and released from the KGB archives. Through his engaging narrative, Lekmanov carries the reader through Mandelstam’s early life and education in pre-revolutionary Petersburg, at the Sorbonne in Paris, and in Heidelberg and his return to revolutionary Russia. Bold and fearless, he was quoted as saying: “Only in Russia do they respect poetry. They even kill you for it.” Osip Mandelstam compared a writer to a parrot, saying that once his owner tires of him, he will cover his cage with black cloth, which becomes for literature a surrogate of night. In 1938, Mandelstam was arrested and six months later became a statistic: over 500,000 political prisoners were sent to the Gulags in 1938; between 1931 and 1940, over 300,000 prisoners died in the Gulags. One of them was the poet Osip Mandelstam. This is the tragic story of his life, pre-empted by the black cloth of Stalinism.

Oleg Lekmanov is a professor at Moscow State University. His main interest has focused on Russian poetry of the twentieth century. Dr. Lekmanov has authored over two hundred articles and his latest papers explore the creative writings of O. Mandelstam, A. Akhmatova, and A. Solzhenitsyn. He is the author of Book on Akmeism (2000) and Sergei Esenin (2007, with Michail Sverdlov).

Lekmanov makes an important contribution to understanding and appreciation of Mandelstam’s life and work. Highly recommended.
— V. D. Barooshian, emeritus, Wells College, in CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September 2010
An invaluable text for the undergraduate student intent on studying Mandel’shtam’s life and historical context in greater detail, particularly given the inclusion of the records of Mandel’shtam’s arrest and interrogation, and Lekmanov’s skilled contextualization of the poet amongst his contemporaries and epoch.
— Max Anley, University of Durham, in Slavonica, April 2011
Lekmanov’s book contains insightful observations of the poems and convincing attempts at psychological reconstruction. The author does not attempt to conceal the hero’s ‘idiosyncrasies’ and manages to forego engaging in ‘objective Schadenfreude.’ Mandelstam was at times funny, hysterical, naïve, but even in the most curious guise he managed to maintain high stature, without which his poetry would not have been possible. . . . This is the image of Mandelstam that Lekmanov presents, reminding us of the inherent kinship between poetry and nobleness.
— Andrei Nemzer, Vremya Novostei (of the original Russian edition)

Table of Contents


Chapter One
Chapter Two
BETWEEN “STONE” (1913) AND “TRISTIA” (1922) 
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
BEFORE THE ARREST (1928-1934) 
Chapter Five
THE FINAL YEARS (1934-1938) 

Index of Names

List of Illustrations

Osip Mandestam. 1895
Osip Mandestam. Early 1910-s
Nadezhda Mandelstam. 1923
Olga Arbenina-Gil’debrandt. 1920-s
Osip Mandestam. 1923
Olga Vaksel
Boris Kuzin. 1930-s
Boris Pasternak
Vladimir Maiakovsky
Aleksandr, Emil, Nadezhda and Osip Mandelstam, Maria Petrovykh, Anna Akhmatova. 1934
Osip Mandestam. 1934
Osip Mandelstam. 1938. A photograph from his case