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This review is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

AS IF WINTER HAD NOT TOUCHED IT Osip Mandelstam, Stone, translated and introduced by Robert Tracy (Princeton University Press) n.p.

In his Introduction Robert Tracy quotes a passage in which Mandelstam discusses the nature of the reader. 'Poetry taken as a whole,' he writes, 'is always sent to an addressee who is more or less remote and unknown . . .' The trouble is that the converse does not always hold; the reader today is likely to feel that Mandelstam is by no means unknown and that in reading this volume, dating from before the First World War, it is difficult to suppress knowledge of the poet's life and sufferings, his persecution under Stalin and his death at some staging post on the way to the Gulag Archipelago. It is only by a great effort and by dint of disregarding the chronology established by the dates affixed to individual poems that today's reader can accept them with as little context as their author was able to provide for his remote addressee-to read them, that is, as texts without historical connotations. Even so a reference to Akhmatova, a dedication to her tragic husband, Gumilyov, a certain tone of voice which she shared, force the reader back to the world of the Acmeists and to their experience of youth in the last years before 1914: 'In a light shawl, you suddenly slipped/Out of the shadowed hall-/We disturbed no one at all/Nor woke the servants up.'

The texts by 'Mandelstam'-the voice and intelligence which express themselves in the poetry of Stone-as opposed to the Mandelstam whose fate we know, show ...


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