NEW YORK (Dec. 6)
The first publication in five years in the Soviet Union of works by Osip Mandelstam, the late Jewish poet who was ostracized and exiled during the Stalin era, is seen by observers here as further evidence that writers and poets victimized by Stalin will no longer be purged from Soviet periodicals. In addition, some observers say, the literary rehabilitation this week of Mandelstam and the late poet Anna Akhmatova makes a return to Stalinism less likely than ever.
It was noted that Mandelstam’s case is one of a dissident poet, as opposed to a specifically Jewish one because while he did not hide his heritage he expressly rejected its traditions and languages. His rehabilitation, therefore, apparently has no relation to the current Soviet Jewry situation and the rising demands for eased emigration.
Born into an assimilated family, the Leningrad intellectual was arrested in 1934, charged with satirizing Stalin, and was later rearrested and exiled. He died in a labor camp around 1938 at the age of around 47. Some say he was insane at the end.
CRITICIZED STALINIST BUREAUCRACY
Mandelstam, two of whose pieces appear in the new edition of the Poetry Annual (PPAA), keyed to the 50th anniversary Dec. 30 of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, saw the Russian Revolution as destructive of the human spirit and life and longed for the lifestyles of the classical periods. He opposed symbolism in poetry and championed classicism, clarity, craftsmanship and apoliticism.
After 1930 his works were banned by Stalin because of their criticism of his bureaucracy, but Mandelstam eventually had an influence on Russian culture, notably on the work of Boris Pasternak. The two Mandelstam essays just published describe a 1923 peasants’ conference in Moscow and a conversation the same year with Ho Chi Minh. In a foreword, critic Aleksander Dimshyts speaks of Mandelstam’s interest "in the processes of development of the international revolutionary system."