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Hope Against Hope

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4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  374 ratings  ·  41 reviews
A poignant monument to their love and is also a unique first-hand account of the life of the intelligentsia under Stalin. Mandelstam describes what it was like to get the knock on the door in the middle of the night and to live a life in exile, unable to trust anyone, constantly fearful.
Paperback, 442 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Modern Library (first published 1970)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,573)
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Hadrian
We live, not sensing our own country beneath us,
Ten steps away they dissolve, our speeches,
But where enough meet for half-conversation,
The Kremlin hillbilly is our preoccupation.
They’re like slimy worms, his fat fingers,
His words, as solid as weights of measure.
In his cockroach moustaches there’s a hint
Of laughter, while below his top boots gleam.
Round him a mob of thin-necked henchmen,
He pursues the enslavement of the half-men.
One whimpers, another warbles,
A third miaows, but he alone prods and
...more
Chris Coffman
Aug 10, 2007 Chris Coffman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those exploring the human soul
Only a process that is very beautiful and very terrible could produce this book: the anguish of two human souls being tormented by a cruel, fiendishly clever, and virtually all-powerful State determined to murder both the body and soul of its victims. Whether we deserve to benefit as readers from the terrible tempering endured by the poet Osip Mandelstam and his widow Nadezhda Mandelstam is a matter that can be easily determined: we do not deserve it. We are not worthy of the Mandelstams. They b ...more
Steve
A remarkable book (so far). Mandelstam landed in hot water for this poem on Stalin (which is sometimes called the "Kremlin Mountaineer"):

We live, deaf to the land beneath us,
Ten steps away no one hears our speeches,

All we hear is the Kremlin mountaineer,
The murderer and peasant-slayer.

His fingers are fat as grubs
And the words, final as lead weights, fall from his lips,

His cockroach whiskers leer
And his boot tops gleam.

Around him a rabble of thin-necked leaders -
fawning half-men for him to
...more
Eric
Utterly heartbreaking. An essential witness.

"Anticipating his arrest M. obtained a copy of the Divine Comedy in small format and always had it with him in his pocket, just in case he was arrested not at home but in the street."


"And after his death--or even before it, perhaps--he lived on in camp legend as a demented old man of seventy who had once written poetry in the outside world and was therefore nicknamed The Poet. And another old man--or was it the same one?--lived in the transit camp of V
...more
Geoff
Moved up on the "to reread queue", perhaps right after Proust.
John
Mar 03, 2013 John rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
First and foremost, M.'s book is entirely engaging and engrossing memoir. Several of its features are most striking and prominent in my mind as I write these comments.

Nadia is fully present on every page. The sort of person she was is fully evident in every paragraph - for the most part a strong-minded, unshakably independent, clear sighted, uncompromisingly honest observer of her time and place, who could not be moved or broken under years of relentless and unremitting repression at the hands o
...more
Rick
Mandelstam’s memoir of her and her husband’s life in Soviet Russia between 1934 and 1938, between which times he is twice taken into the Gulag, the second time fatally, is among the best and most powerful of nonfiction books. It is not only a unique and exceptionally frank personal testament but a work of art.

Nadezhda means “hope” in Russian, which makes the title a wryly ironic pun. Mandelstam’s wit and resilience are the twin beacons that light this memoir of life in a relentlessly dark time.
...more
Madeline
If you are anything like me, you'll start to feel pretty bad about eating while reading Hope Against Hope - even drinking tea starts to feel like you're mocking Mandelstam and her friends. "Look at me, sitting here in my capitalist comfort, my hybrid bourgeois-intelligentsia existence, with the air conditioning on and very little chance of being arrested. How can I stand myself."

So, yeah, it took me a while to get through this. Partly because it's loosely structured, so sometimes it's hard to fo
...more
Nick
Nadezhda Mandelstam was the wife, and later widow, of the poet Osip Mandelstam. He is considered one of the four great poets of twentieth century Russia: Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova, and Marina Tsvetaeva are the others (I think an argument could be made for Andrei Blok). "Hope Against Hope" narrates the Mandelstams' perilous voyage through the punitive bureaucracy of Stalinist Russia: from Moscow to prison to the south and, then, for the poet, to the prison camp where he died. His offense, a ...more
Lutzka Zivny
This book should be the opposite of uplifting. It should leave one devastated and hopeless, yet mysteriously it has the opposite effect.
I would encouraged anyone going through difficult times to read it. I would pretty much encourage anyone to read it. See if I throw the term "life changing experience" around lightly.
Oh, you will also learn tun about poetry and history.

Your image, tormenting and elusive,
I could not touch in the mist.
“God!” I said by mistake,
never thinking to say that myself.

God
...more
Sooz
as i sit down to try to capture the essence of this book, i find i have no idea where to start ...so .... i will start with the preface written by Joseph Brodsky that is included in ths particular edition. and really? what Brodsky writes feels so true to me and -even before beginning the actual memoir- i feel he has given me great insight into the motivation and direction of Nadia Mandelstram's decision to write her story.

beginning with the idea of poetry preceding prose -within the broader cont
...more
Lee Razer
A powerful and insightful window into the first couple of decades of post-revolution Soviet Russia. Nadezhda Mandelstam, educator and widow of Osip Mandelstam, one of Russia's greatest poets of the twentieth century and one of millions of Stalin's victims, wrote this account in the 1960s. It is thanks to her efforts that much of his poetry survived to the present day, but her own literary contribution here towers beside those writings of her husband.

It is a memoir of these two specific people, y
...more
Edward Waverley
Jul 22, 2013 Edward Waverley marked it as to-read
Shelves: rushdoony
Otto Scott spoke about this book in a taped interview with Rev. RJ Rushdoony:

Nadezhda Mandelstam was the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam and both of them were interesting people. They were Jewish revolutionaries or Liberals, you might say. Osip was a poet, very well known and she was raised in an upper class well to do family. She was taught in childhood three or four different languages, read the classics. They were both highly literate, very intelligent, ardent for the revolution. And, of cou
...more
Claire
I suddenly noted that I have already read this book a couple years ago - I just needed the memory boost. (It's the first part of a Soviet memoir.)

Or, maybe there's something more insidious going on in my head, like a brain worm, which is related to a Yeerk except instead of controlling your physical movements it removes sizable chunks of your memory.

THAT is the scary part, not this! In comparison to such phenomenal mental collapse, Stalin et al are cuddly bears.
James
Feb 19, 2014 James rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: gulag
somewhat tedious to read, maybe it's not a good translation.

books by ginzburg & steiner much more interesting

the part about the secret police sending "artists" around to see what kind of work the real artists were doing was an interesting insight.

Stalin was probably the meaneast man in world history.

Yvonne
I knew nothing about Oslip Mandelstam before reading this book - hadn't even heard of him actually - but found the tale of his life and death during the terror under Stalin very interesting. Having recently read the Gulag Archipeligo made this book all the more meaningful. It was well written but rather dry at times; sometimes I found myself surprised that I was still reading and enjoying it. It gives insight into the creating of poetry that I found exceedingly enlightening but did go into the t ...more
Jim Hale
One of the great memoirs describing life in the Soviet Union and the unrelenting war that the regime waged on the artistic community. Amazingly, Mandelstam recounts it all with a tremendous spirit and no self pity. She, and her more famous husband, are two of the most humble heroes I've ever come across.
Mary
Memoir. Delightful dry humor. Delicious words.
Jennifer
This is a stunning memoir, and probably the book that best captures the sinister surrealism of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union. Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of the blacklisted poet Osip Mandelstam, describes their lives in the four years between when Osip ran afoul of Stalin and when he was finally sent to a labor camp (where he subsequently died). Her writing is beautiful and tragic, a paean of love to her lost spouse and a blistering critique of tyranny. If I could give this more than five ...more
Michael
This was an excellent book. The widow Mandelstam writes of her husband, the poet, Osip’s life. She begins the book with him being arrested by the old Soviet government. He was later to die in captivity. In this story she tells of the underground life of so many during those years following the Revolution. And while she writes despairingly - as the title tells it - it also sings of the power of the human spirit and of the generosity and grace present even in the face of barbarity and treacherousn ...more
Sheila
I was forced to read this in graduate school and am grateful to this day for what it taught me. it and it's sequel, Hope Abandoned, are the memoirs of the wife of a famous poet sent to Siberia during Stalin's reign. It has so much to teach you about that time, and it's just beautifully evocative. I love the Russian classics, and this would be a great companion read for a book club who might try War and Peace, Notes from the Underground, and Anna Karenina (my least favorite of the three).
Andrew
Hope Against Hope revolves around two main topics: poetry and dictatorship. A memoir, it focuses mainly on the life of her husband, poet Osip Mandelstam. Osip being the more famous of the pair, Nadezhda herself is not lacking whatsoever in powerful literary merit; her words and story-telling are sharp and full of pathos.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in the murderous chaos of the late Stalin regime or for those who like moving and powerful memoirs.
Billie
My daughter's name was inspired, in part, by this woman. This book is incredible. The author was the wife of a Russian poet killed during Stalin's regime. Her writings on living in such a bizarre political environment should be, I believe, required reading for all. She captures the crazy mindsets of the leaders, followers and everyone in between.
Linda
By examining the rise of totalitarianism in Russia, this book answers the question of how a whole society can be controlled and manipulated into blindly accepting the power of their leaders, no matter how corrupt they may be. This book is incredible; a highly recommended, life-changing read.
Polina
Очень интересная книга в плане описания жизни в сталинскую эпоху.
Много также про О.М., как он жил, "работал", много про поэзию, про акмеистов и символистов, про жизнь и про людей. Читать довольно сложно. Местами очень гнетуще, местами - вдохновляюще-обнадеживающе. И все же жутко.
Susan
Nadezhda Mandelstam's memoir of life during Stalin's purges and the arrest of her husband, poet Osip Mandelstam. I admit I did not finish this book, even though it was well-written and moving. Just too bleak for me right now.
Molly Jones
Mar 11, 2007 Molly Jones rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Russian fans
I guess that Mandelstam's perserverance is supposed to reflect her idea of hope. But it wasn't enough for me to finish the HUGE book. One horrible thing happening after another and the writing isn't interesting.
Emma
Astonishing grace, intellect, courage, wit and desperate poignancy. Difficult to grasp the breadth of the tragedy during Stalin's terror. Nadezhda Mandelstam's account takes the breath away.
Deirdre
so intelligent, but simply observed. no hysteria, just life, while stalin's jailers & inquisitors hound her husband Osip Mandelstam, great Russian, anti-Soviet poet to death.
Andrew
This book might be a little thick for people who don't know much about or who don't have much interest in soviet / Stalin era history, but for those that do, it's dynamite.
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  • A Life in Letters
  • Story of a Life
  • Journey into the Whirlwind
  • Sleepwalker in a Fog
  • Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag
  • Flaubert and Madame Bovary
  • Vintage Baldwin
  • The Great Terror: A Reassessment
  • Lectures on Russian Literature
  • Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s
  • The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (Modern Library Paperbacks)
  • Selected Poems
  • On Being Ill
  • The Stories (So Far)
  • Searches and Seizures
  • Kolyma Tales
  • Doting
  • The Noise of Time: Selected Prose
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Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam (Russian: Надежда Яковлевна Мандельштам, née Hazin; 31 October 1899 – 29 December 1980) was a Russian writer and a wife of poet Osip Mandelstam.
Born in Saratov into a middle-class Jewish family, she spent her early years in Kiev. After the gymnasium she studied art.
After their marriage in 1921, Nadezhda and Osip Mandelstam lived in Ukraine, Petrograd, Moscow, and Geo
...more
More about Nadezhda Mandelstam...
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“I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.” 2381 likes
“And after his death - or even before it, perhaps - he lived on in camp legend as a demented old man of seventy who had once written poetry in the outside world and was therefore nicknamed The Poet. And another old man - or was it the same one? - lived in the transit camp of Vtoraya Rechka, waiting to be shipped to Kolyma, and was thought by many people to be Osip Mandelstam - which, for all I know, he may have been. That is all I have been able to find out about the last days, illness and death of Mandelstam. Others know very much less about the death of their dear ones.” 4 likes
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