Brodsky, Joseph Alexandrovich

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(19401996), poet, translator.

Joseph Alexandrovich Brodsky left school at the age of fifteen, and worked in many professions, including factory worker, morgue worker, and ship's boiler, as well as assisting on geological expeditions. During his early years, Brodsky studied foreign languages (English and Polish). His first foray into poetry occurred in 1957 when Brodsky became acquainted with the famous Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, who praised the creativity of the budding poet. In the 1960s Brodsky worked on translating, into Russian, poetry of Bulgarian, Czech, English, Estonian, Georgian, Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Polish, Serbian-Croatian, and Spanish origins. His translations opened the works of authors such as Tom Stoppard, Thomas Wentslowa, Wisten Oden, and Cheslaw Milosh to Russian readers; John Donne, Andrew Marwell, and Ewrypid were newly translated.

On February 12, 1964, Brodsky was arrested and charged with parasitism and sentenced to five years deportation. In 1965, after serving eighteen months in a labor camp in northern Russia, protests in the USSR and abroad prompted his return from exile.

During the summer of 1972, Brodsky emigrated to the United States and became a citizen in 1980. Before his departure from the Soviet Union, he published eleven poems during the period from 1962 to 1972.

By the 1960s Brodsky was still relatively unknown in the West. "Cause of Brodsky" found scant exposure on the pages of the emigrant press (Russkaya mysl, Grani, Wozdushnye Puti, Posev, etc.). Brodsky's first collection of poems was released by the Ardis publishing house in 1972. Throughout the 1970s Brodsky collaborated as a literary critic and essay writer in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and gained a wider readership in the United States.

Brodsky taught at several colleges and universities, including Columbia University and Mount Holyoke College. In 1987 he won the Nobel prize for literature. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1991 to 1992.

Brodsky died in 1996 of a heart attack in his Brooklyn apartment.

See also: dissident movement; intelligentsia


Bethea, David M. (1994). Joseph Brodsky and the Creation of Exile. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Loseff, Lev. (1991). "Home and Abroad in the Works of Brodskii." In Under Eastern Eyes: The West as Reflected in Recent Russian Emigre Writing, ed. Arnold McMillin. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan Press with the SSEES University of London.

Loseff, Lev, and Polukhina, Valentina, eds. (1990). Brodsky's Poetics and Aesthetics. London: Macmillan.

Polukhina, Valentina. (1989). Joseph Brodsky: A Poet for Our Time. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Polukhina, Valentina. (1992). Brodsky through the Eyes of His Contemporaries. London: Macmillan Press.

Polukhina, Valentina. (1944). "The Myth of the Poet and the Poet of the Myth: Russian Poets on Brodsky." In Russian Writers on Russian Writers, ed. Faith Wigzell. Oxford: Berg.

Maria Eitinguina

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