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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Memories of Brodsky

This year's Booker Prize winner Andrei Sergeyev writes on the poet Joseph Brodsky, who died a year ago. An excerpt:

Brodsky visited me on Malaya Filyovskaya Ulitsa at the start of 1964. I open the door and saw a red-haired guy standing there. Wide-shouldered, strapping, full of confidence. ...

I had him sit in my favorite rocking chair. Joseph was on business -- [Anna] Akhmatova gave him my telephone. Joseph wanted to translate something pure. Pure at that time meant translations from a Western European language and an unprogressive author.

He came to me the morning that he was about to go to Leningrad. It was well known that he would be put away. And Anna Andreyevna [Akhmatova] tried to protect him. Knowing well the way things worked, she advised him to stay in Moscow because it was a local affair, a matter for Leningrad. A campaign would be launched and then forgotten. ... Within a day or two, he was taken away. And then there was a trial and later [he was exiled to] Norenskoye. ...

In November 1988, I flew to New York. No sooner had I been settled into the apartment by [the poet and Yale University professor] Tomas Venclova, than Joseph appeared at the door.

"Andrei Yakovlevich, we've already seen each other once in this life. What are we going to do in the next?"

I was struck by Joseph's appearance. He was somewhat swollen, big, white, not pale, but white. He had just returned from a trip to France. It was probably around 11 o'clock when Joseph said in a very authoritative tone:

"Andrei Yakovlevich, it's 11 o'clock and time to sleep. You still don't know what jet lag means. Go to bed and call me tomorrow morning at nine. We will be waiting for you to come."

Joseph had in mind his cat. I heard this phrase many times during my stay in New York. ...

I saw and recognized Joseph in everything and everywhere. America transformed him. He appeared as a thoughtful, cautious Anglo Saxon. He learned the formal art of conversation, smoothed over rough edges. But all that was best from the past was still in place.

Obshchaya Gazeta, Jan. 30 -- Feb. 5.