Brodsky: A Personal Memoir ~ by Ludmila Shtern (Biography of Joseph Brodsky)

Brodsky: A Personal Memoir ~ by Ludmila Shtern (Biography of Joseph Brodsky)

Ludmila Shtern (Leaving Leningrad, Brandeis Univ. Press, 2001) has written the first memoir of the great Russian poet, Joseph Brodsky (Iosif Brodsky). It has been published to acclaim in Russia (now in its third printing), and is now translated into English for the first time. Shtern was a family friend of Brodsky and part of the circle of friends to whom Brodsky read his first poems.

The Definitive Biography of Joseph Brodsky

Ludmila Shtern's home was a gathering place for young Russian artists and poets. Her mother was a famous actress (and poet), her father a respected legal scholar and historian. Joseph Brodsky's close friends at the time were Yevgeny Rein, Anatoly Naiman and Dmitry Bobyshev ("Akhmatova's orphans") and Akhmatova herself was known to the group and figures prominently in Shtern's narrative of the Russian years. (Rein is today perhaps the preeminent Russian poet.)

Ludmila Shtern's memoir of Joseph Brodsky can thus be called, without exaggeration, "Russian literary history in the making." Parallels in European and American literary history, where artists lived together, worked together, encouraged and influenced each other, would be the expatriate community in France after World War One and the "Beats" in New York City, Denver and San Francisco in the 1950s.

Brodsky emigrated ahead of Shtern but their special friendship resumed when she came to the United States. Nothing in Brodsky's entire poetic output escaped Ludmila's eye. Brodsky frequently consulted her while his poems were being written. She knows all his poetry by heart.

Joseph Brodsky & Ludmila Shtern: Literary History in the Making

Much of the original poetry in Ludmila Shtern's book had not been translated before, and some of it had never been published even in Russian. In addition there are new translations of poems produced by members of Joseph Brodsky's inner circle. The poetry has been chosen to elucidate personal relationships and social history; much of it is in a comic vein, since all of these writers not only dedicated poems to each other but also needled each other with occasional verse. Sometimes silly, sometimes inspired, it is poetry that deserves to live, nevertheless, and Shtern's memoir will ensure that it does.

The book is illustrated with pictures of Brodsky and his friends, including Baryshnikov and Rein. Poems that were translated by Brodsky himself haven't been changed, of course.

Joseph Brodsky was a difficult man. He had many friends and many enemies, but perhaps more than anyone Ludmila Shtern was able, always, to tell him exactly what she thought without jeopardizing her friendship with the poet or diminishing his respect for her judgment. Readers of her book will see why.

Critical Acclaim for Brodsky: A Personal Memoir

“In this charming memoir, Shtern not only brings the famous poet Joseph Brodsky to life, but illuminates for an American audience the experiences of an entire generation of Russian intelligentsia.” – Publishers Weekly, Sept. 2004

“A warm, ebullient memoir, which focuses on her thirty-five years of close friendship with the great poet Joseph Brodsky." – Francine du Plessix Gray

Brodsky: A Personal Memoir

368 pages with 48 pages of photos, 6 x 9 hardcover

Price: $25.95
Price: $23.35
Loading Updating cart...

People who bought this item also bought

Leave a Comment