I met Nadezhda Mandelstam at her Moscow apartment in August 1975. I had struggled with her husband’s difficult poetry in Russian with the aid of various translations and such articles as I could find for a number of years. The most rewarding aids to understanding it were, in fact, her own magnificent autobiographical studies Hope Against Hope (Memuary in Russian) and Hope Abandoned. Her husband’s character and destiny as man and poet are, as she herself emphasized when I met her, the thematic center of each work. But there was still more to her own works than that. I felt that they continued into an unpropitious and iron age that gift for the re-creation of the physiognomy of both life’s external forms and its inner spirit which the great Russian memoir writers of the nineteenth century—Aksakov, Herzen, and...


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