A Coat of Many Colors: Osip Mandelstam and His Mythologies by Gregory Freidin

By Gregory Freidin

For the key poets of Osip Mandelstam's iteration, poetry represented a calling within the such a lot tangible feel. to answer it intended to style from the to be had cultural and private fabric a mythic self, one who might serve either because the organizing topic for poetry and as an item of worshipful adoration. A profitable poet like Mandelstam hence grew to become the focus of a fancy cultural phenomenon-perhaps a charismatic cult-that formed his writings, gesture, and reception.

Gregory Freidin examines Mandelstam's legacy during this broader context and lays the basis for forthcoming modernist Russian poetry as a charismatic establishment. He strains the interaction of poetic culture, own historical past, old occasions, spiritual tradition, and political advancements as they entered the symbolic order of Mandelstam's paintings and helped make sure its outlines within the reader's mind's eye. Many very important facets of the Mandelstam phenomenon, together with the Jewish subject matter, the that means of the poet's Christianity, his political stand, and, specifically, his clash with Stalin and Stalinism, obtain the following a brand new interpretation.

A case examine within the emergence of a literary cult, A Coat of many colours finds how Russian poetry of the early 20th century functioned as a charismatic establishment of a exceedingly sleek sort. those that belonged to it mixed wisdom of the new experiences in fantasy, magic, and faith with the cultivation of verbal magic, mythic cognizance, and unorthodox non secular ideals. Following Mandelstam's profession over its whole span (1908-1938), Freidin indicates how the poet benefited from literary scholarship, comparative mythology, the heritage and sociology of faith even as he was once emulating in his poetry the very topic of those educational disciplines. To account for this duality in studying Mandelstam's writings, Freidin attracts on explanatory paradigms of up to date human sciences, from Saussure and the Formalists to Weber, Durkheim, Freud, and Marcel Mauss.

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Semen Afanasievich Vengerov, a relative of mine on my mother's side (the family in Vilno and school memories), understood nothing of Russian literature and studied Pushkin as a professional task, but "one thing" he understood. His "one thing" was: the heroic character of Russian literature. He was a fine one with his heroic character when he would drag slowly along Zagorodnyi Prospekt from his apartment to the card catalogue, hanging on the elbow of his aging wife and smirking into his dense ant beard.

20 In Khodasevich's sense, the poem I will discuss here conceals nothing. On the contrary, it is precisely the unabashed display of central Symbolist notions concerning poetry, some echoing Lermontov's "Molitva," some literally transposed from Briusov's "Poetu,"21 that recommends it to our consideration. The following is a literal translation. The heart is clothed, as though in a cloud, And the flesh pretends to be stone Until the vocation of a poet Is revealed to him by the Lord. Some kind of passion has seized [him], Some kind of heaviness is alive; < previous page page_38 next page > < previous page page_39 next page > Page 39 And specters demand a body, And words are in communion with flesh.

It read: < previous page page_34 next page > < previous page page_35 next page > Page 35 A body is given mewhat shall I do with it, So whole and so mine? For the quiet joy of breathing and living, Whom, tell me, should I thank? I am both a gardener and a flower I am, too; In the prison of the world, I am not alone. On the window panes of eternity, settled My breathing, my warmth. A design shall be imprinted on them, Unrecognizable since not long ago. Let the dregs of the moment drip down The sweet design cannot be crossed out.

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