March 01, 2013

Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam

The early spring of 1913 saw publication of the first book by a poet known only within his close circle of friends. The young man in question was only 22 years old, but he had already managed quite a bit in his short life: he had studied in St. Petersburg’s prestigious Tenishev School, and then in France, at the Sorbonne, and at Heidelberg University in Germany, and then at St. Petersburg University. He was a frequent guest at the renowned “Tower,” the home of poet and philosopher Vyacheslav Ivanov. He had already developed friendships with Russia’s most insightful and groundbreaking poets. And he had become a habitué of the Stray Dog Cabaret, a gathering place for St. Petersburg’s poets, artists, and musicians, and knew all the city’s most influential “ists” – the Symbolists, the Futurists, not to mention the Acmeists, the group with which he was most closely associated.

Then again, the feverish prewar years in St. Petersburg was a time when everyone was trying their hand at poetry and everyone who was anyone wanted to hobnob with the city’s fashionable and mysterious decadents.

But not everyone was Osip Mandelstam, the young author of this book. It was titled Stone (Камень), and it was a collection of masterpieces.

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