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Tag archive: Osip Mandelstam

Poetic Remedy

Boris Pasternak, photographed in 1928

1960: The Soviet poet and novelist Boris Pasternak died at the age of 70. His fellow poet Osip Mandelstam once suggested that reading Pasternak’s poetry cleared the throat, reinforced the breathing and renewed the lungs. “Such verses,” Mandelstam added, “must be a cure for tuberculosis.”

Source: Osip Mandelstam, Osip Mandelstam: Selected Essays (1977), p. 83

Cockroach Whiskers

NKVD mugshot of Osip Mandelstam

1933: The poets Osip Mandelstam and Demian Bedny landed themselves in trouble for injudicious comments about Stalin. Mandelstam described how
His cockroach whiskers leer
and
His fingers are fat as grubs
and Bedny wrote in his diary that books he lent to the Soviet leader came back with greasy fingermarks on the pages.

Source: Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope: A Memoir (1971), pp. 13, 26