Perhaps the greatest of the whole brilliant galaxy of Russian twentieth-century poets, Osip Mandelshtam died in a Siberian transit camp in 1938 at the age of forty-seven. The survival of many of his poems in desperate hiding-places and in the memories of those closest to him has been described by his widow Nadezhda in her memoirs Hope Against Hope. Dense and sonorous, his poetry magnificently merges the European past at its best with Russian experience at its worst.
James Greene’s substantial selection contains over a hundred poems from all periods of Mandelshtam’s career, from the three collections published during his lifetime, Stone (1913), Tristia (1922) and Poems (1928) as well as many others published only long after his death. The volume moves from a serene historic vision of European civilisation to the horrors of Stalinist repression.
James Greene’s versions of Mandelshtam have been widely praised above all others. The core of his selection was first published in 1977, and three times revised and expanded up to the present edition, which contains a new introduction by Donald Rayfield in addition to the two forewords to the first edition by Nadezhda Mandelshtam and Donald Davie.