Less Than One (1976, reprinted in his eponymous collection of essays)


by Joseph Brodsky (1940 - 1996)

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

Genres: Autobiographical

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