A Russian memoir in English that refuses the usual life-story linearity or hierarchies: ‘To get a low grade, to operate a milling machine, to be beaten up at an interrogation, or to lecture on Callimachus in a classroom is essentially the same.’
Chronologically reduced, however, it recounts a Jewish boyhood in post-war St Petersburg, the ‘trimming of the self’ under Communism, and Brodsky’snon-conformity, or what he calls his habit of ‘walking out’. This is ‘national biography’ in every sense; as profound about how language and literature featured in Brodsky’s life as it is funny about Russian alternatives to psychiatry.
Related recommendation: ‘In a Room and a Half’ (1985, also in Less Than One)
Origin: Russia / United States
Themes: The role of Art or Artists, Exile and/or Identity