Less Than One is the first collection of prose writings by the forty-six-year-old Russian émigré poet Joseph Brodsky, who has lived and worked in New York City since his expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1972. Judging from some of his remarks here, it isn’t surprising that Brodsky hasn’t issued a volume of his prose before. For Brodsky considers prose to be distinctly inferior to poetry. Whereas the latter, as Brodsky says in his essay on Osip Mandelstam, “is an extremely individualistic art,” a poet’s “turning to prose,” as he writes elsewhere, may be “a kind of literary nostalgie de la boue, a desire to merge with the (writing) mass, to become, at last, ‘like everyone else.’” This fear of conformity helps explain the style of Less Than One. The difficult transitions and unexpected turns of thought are...


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