Ralph Dutli’s biography of Osip Mandelstam

This celebrated biography of the Russian poet and rabble-rouser is the definitive account of his life and work. It is contracted to be published by Verso Books. But we need your help!

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Resolutely anti-establishment and staunchly non-conformist (not to mention an incurable lothario), Osip Mandelstam (1891-1939) penned the Acmeist manifesto of 1913, the mouthpiece for a poetry movement “yearning for world culture,” as well as the many chiseled, haunting poems that have made him one of Russia’s most famous twentieth-century poets. Mandelstam’s life was also filled with a drama to match the sharpness of his words. “We live, not sensing our own country beneath us,” he wrote in his epigram against Stalin, for which he was arrested and sent into internal exile in 1934. He died just a few years later in one of Stalin’s concentration camps.

Ralph Dutli is the editor and translator of the complete, annotated, ten-volume collection of Mandelstam’s poetry in German, making him uniquely well-suited to pen Mandelstam’s biography. Published in German in 2003, the biography was widely acclaimed in major newspapers including Der Spiegel, which hailed the book for capturing the many overlooked dimensions of Mandelstam (“the high-spirited mocker and passionate lover, the untroubled scrounger and the egoist with a sense of mission, the sybaritic hedonist and the playful child in the man”). Meanwhile, Die Zeitpraised Dutli for presenting the firebrand figure “so precisely and tactfully, in a manner so rich in knowledge and ideas.” Accounting for a substantial amount of new research that has emerged since the 1973 publication of Clarence Brown’s Mandelstam, Dutli’s biography is now the definitive work on the poet.

We are now raising funds for the translation of Mandelstam, which will cost $17,100. All donations over $100 will receive a free copy of the book. Donations over $250 will get you two copies of the book, plus a $50 voucher for the Verso website (where you can purchase other books); $500 will get you four copies of the book, plus $100 on the website. If you’re able to donate $500 or more we’ll also thank you on a donors page for the project, and donations of $1,000 or more will also be acknowledged in the book.