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The Noise of Time: Selected Prose
Collected prose works by one of Russia's towering literary figures. Osip Mandelstam has in recent years come to be seen as a central figure in European modernism. Though known primarily as a poet, Mandelstam worked in many styles: autobiography, short story, travel writing, and polemic. Mandelstam's biographer, Clarence Brown, presents a collection of the poet's prose work ...more
Paperback, 249 pages
Published March 27th 2002 by Northwestern University Press
(first published 1925)
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Dec 05, 2007 Eric rated it it was amazing
Clarence Brown states with humility in his translator's introduction that to read Mandelstam (or any author) in translation is to read him bereft of his style. I agree, but the necessity of transmission sometimes trumps fastidiousness; and as Brodsky says, civilization is made of translations. Bereft of Mandelstam this volume may be, it still projects enormous intellectual power. The martyrological mythos around Mandelstam's death can make us think him an ineffectual angel, a beatifically passiv ...more
At one point in Clarence Brown’s introduction to The Noise of Time: Selected Writing’s of Osip Mandelstam, Brown quotes from an anonymous 1938 communication reporting upon the extreme condition of the poet, caught within the machinery of the Gulag:
Suspecting that his guards had received orders from Moscow to poison him, he refused to eat any meals (they consisted of bread, herring, dehydrated cabbage soup, and sometimes a little millet). His fellow deportees caught him stealing their bread ratio...more
Four stars for the prose, the volume I have (a 1967 Princeton paperback) comes up lacking in most other areas. For instance, Brown's very long introduction (nearly half the book) might have been replaced, or at the very least leavened, with very little damage to the resulting book, through the inclusion of Mandelstam's essay, "Conversations on Dante," which Brown even quotes during that introduction. I would hazard that either Brown had not yet translated that essay (he did, in any case, transla ...more
The temperature of Mandelstam's prose is so astonishingly great on every page that each word and combination of words feels thick and voluptuous. "The atmosphere of the room, having been breathed and smoked for years, was by this time no longer air but some new and unknown substance with a different weight and other chemical properties." His words on the page are as different from other authors' as that description of the air in Sergey Ivanych's dwelling.
His turns of phrase go down your throat ...more
His turns of phrase go down your throat ...more
If normal essays are flat planes then Mandelstam's are cubes. Not included in this book is the essential "Conversations about Dante," in which he shows how images can act like ventilation shafts/columns/doors - but even without that you can see (in Journey to Armenia, for example) how he uses structures and forms to fuck with our idea of how we should move through a piece of prose. Lungs spread out on a tennis court. I don't know. Forget argument.
A poetic read, with striking language that enlivens the prose of Mandelstam's youthful experiences in Russia. A meditation on memory and the passage of time as much as it is an account of life, Mandelstam infuses his poetic sensibilities into his beautiful prose. "My desire is not to speak about myself but to track down the age, the noise and the germination of time. My memory is inimical to all that is personal. If it depended on me, I should only make a wry face in remembering the past" (109).
I enjoyed this collection of prose far more than I've ever enjoyed Mandelstam's verse. Though not uniformly interesting to me, the various pieces show such incredible mastery of thought and imagination, such wit of language, that it's impossible not to call this prose masterful. Elizabeth Bishop is another esteemed poet whose prose seems much better to me than her verse, and it's arguable that Randall Jarrell and WS Merwin fall into the same category.
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam (also spelled Osip Mandelshtam, Ossip Mandelstamm) (Russian: Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам) was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets. He was arrested by Joseph Stalin's government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into inte ...moreMore about Osip Mandelstam...
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“From childhood he had been devoted to whatever was useless, metamorphosing the streetcar rattle of life into events of consequence, and when he began to fall in love he tried to tell women about this, but they did not understand him, for which he revenged himself by speaking to them in a wild, bombastic birdy language and exclusively about the loftiest matters.”More quotes…