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Utopias of One$
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Joshua Kotin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196541

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196541.001.0001

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Osip and Nadezhda Mandel’shtam’s Utopian Anti-Utopianism

Osip and Nadezhda Mandel’shtam’s Utopian Anti-Utopianism

(p.51) Chapter Three Osip and Nadezhda Mandel’shtam’s Utopian Anti-Utopianism
Utopias of One

Joshua Kotin

Princeton University Press

This chapter concerns two anti-Soviet texts: Osip Mandel'shtam's so-called Stalin epigram and his widow's Nadezhda's memoirs. Here, Mandel'shtam accepts the “lures of liberalism” despite the antiliberalism of the Soviet Union. He develops the most radical project of all: composing a poem that links his independence to his death. His performance of an epigram mocking Stalin in 1933 anticipates Isaiah Berlin's claim that the “logical culmination of the process of destroying everything through which I can possibly be wounded is suicide.” Mandel'shtam's performance led to his arrest in 1934 and his death in a Gulag transit camp in 1938. “Total liberation in this sense,” Berlin laments, “is conferred only by death.”

Keywords:   Osip Mandel'shtam, Nadezhda Mandel'shtam, Joseph Stalin, utopian anti-utopianism, liberalism, Stalin epigram, anti-Soviet texts, communism, memoirs

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