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This interview is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

In Conversation with Joseph Brodsky Brenda Lyons

brenda lyons: Do you think that art or a great artist is produced out of a condition of exile?

joseph brodsky: Not really. It is simply that an artist may have a certain gift; what he produces has to do with the magnitude of the gift, or rather, if you will, with the generosity of the giver. And, also, partly with one’s own individual intelligence, which is a gift.

And the giver is…?

Presumably the Almighty, or Mother Nature, whichever way you would like to put it.

You’ve spoken of the poetics of obfuscation. What do you mean by this?

What I was really talking about was that when literature experiences a certain pressure, let’s say in the form of censorship, it tends to create oblique ways of getting to the reader. It starts to operate in allegories, which is often of very good consequence to language and literature. In a sense the pressure from a society in the form of censorship engenders allegorical systems. It’s not exactly obfuscation; it’s simply getting around the censor. And that sort of necessity to fool the censor is very often responsible for great metaphorical developments in literature. Since the subjects of literature in the final analysis are fairly limited, it’s essentially all about either betrayal or about love or good luck. I must add that great art can be as much a product of happiness as of unhappiness. Almost inevitably, an artist in his ...

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