Andrew Kahn, Mandelstam's Worlds. Poetry, Politics, and Identity in a Revolutionary Age, Oxford University press, 2020, 720 p.
Available in July 2020
Rightly appreciated as a 'poet's poet', Mandelstam has been habitually read as a repository of learned allusion. Yet as Seamus Heaney observed, his work is 'as firmly rooted in both an historical and cultural context as real as Joyce's Ulysses or Eliot's Waste Land.' Great lyric poets offer a cross-section of their times, and Mandelstam's poems represent the worlds of politics, history, art, and ideas about intimacy and creativity. The interconnections between these domains and Mandelstam's writings are the subject of this book, showing how engaged the poet was with the history, social movements, political ideology, and aesthetics of his time.
The importance of the book also lies in showing how literature, no less than history and philosophy, enables readers to confront the huge upheaval in outlook can demand of us; thinking with poetry is to think through the moral compromise and tension felt by individuals in public and private contexts, and to create out of art experience in itself.