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Hope Against Hope : A Memoir

by Nadezhda Mandelstam, Clarence Brown, Max Hayward

Buy the book: Nadezhda Mandelstam. Hope Against Hope : A Memoir

Release Date: 30 March, 1999

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Nadezhda Mandelstam. Hope Against Hope : A Memoir

What can I say, this book humbles me

I'll start by reiterating George Steiner's quote, "Nothing one can say will either communicate or affect the genius of this book. To pass judgment on it is almost insolence--even judgment that is merely celebration and homage."

And that is the truth, well-put.

In this lucid tome Mandelstam's widow recounts the years of their exile, the real life people whom they met in their travels, the day-to-day hells of the Stalinist regime, the tiny mercies and kindnesses of others, the cowards and the idiots, the drive to create art out of the most dehumanizing experiences, the triumphs and pitfalls of the human spirit... I'm getting too flowery here, and this is a book that deserves to be read, not praised by some spoilt American white-boy pseudo-intellectual like myself. I just want to say that this book evokes the kind of courage and wit one seldom sees these days.

Like Ahkmatova, like Yelena Sergeyevna Bulgakova, like so many Russian women, Nadezhda survived- because of her (and their) resilience we have not only her husband's works, but also this masterpiece. The chapters are short and so finely crafted that it shocks me. How someone can be so accurate, so succinct, so resolute and so honest all at once... If this were the standard by which writers judged their own works, well, amazon would have far fewer books to sell.

If you are looking for a glimpse of what life was 'like' during Stalin's reign in Russia, if you are looking for an unflinching view of humanity and 'utopian' projects, or if you are looking for the most eloquent and disturbing memoir I have ever read- well, here, all I can do is add my empty two-cents.


A wonderful portrait of a genius

This is one of the most wonderful books i have ever read and a sensational portrait of the russian poet Ossip Mandelstam. The book focus on mandelstam's last years when he was under the pressure and prosecution of Stalin. The prose is beautiful, full of musings on the condition of Art. She also draw a very clear portrait of what Stalinism meant for artists and people in general in Russia. But for me the most important part of the book is to see the way Ossip dealt with horror and Death. For me, this book is one of the best studies about the condition of human beings. A must.

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