Brodsky wrote nine volumes of poetry, several collections of essays and was co-founder of the American Poetry and Literacy project.
Country of Origin: Russian Federation
Country of Asylum: United States of America
Date of birth: 24 May 1940
Died: 28 January 1996
Brodsky wrote nine volumes of poetry, several collections of essays and was co-founder of the American Poetry and Literacy project. He managed to become an outstanding author in his adopted language.
Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky studied poetry with renowned Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, who soon recognised the young writer’s gift. Convicted at the age of 24 for being a “social parasite”, Brodsky served his sentence from March 1964 to November 1965 in a forced labour camp in Arkhangelsk, northern Russia.
After being exiled in June 1972, Brodsky moved to the United States after brief stays in Vienna and London. He has been poet in residence and visiting professor at the University of Michigan, Queens College, Columbia University and Cambridge University in England.
Embittered by the exile forced on him, he wrote an open letter to then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev: “I belong to the Russian culture. I feel a part of it, its component, and no change of place can influence the final consequence of this. A language is a much more ancient and inevitable thing than the state. I belong to the Russian language”. Brodsky, in “The Condition We Call Exile”, recognised this century as one where displacement and misplacement were commonplace. He admitted that it was tragic, but that there was something good about exile, for it was the highest lesson of humbleness: “Lower your pride, says exile, you are nothing but a grain of sand in the desert.”
Receiving the Nobel Prize for literature in 1987, Brodsky remarked upon the secrecy surrounding the award in his home country, which made it look like “some kind of Chernobyl” disaster, a mention of it only appearing as a footnote of a Soviet literary magazine. “Those who knew Brodsky remember him as a man with a wicked sense of humour, a love of conversation and a sterling bullshit detector,” one obituary later recalled.
A human rights decree passed by Soviet President Mikhael Gorbachev in August 1990 restored Soviet nationality to those, including Brodsky, who had been unjustly stripped of their citizenship between 1966 and 1988.
Brodsky died of a heart attack in his Brooklyn apartment on January 28, 1996. He asked to be buried in Venice, a city where he spent 19 of his winters.