Cheering Up (Russian Style)

I’ve been watching an excellent adaption of Pasternak’s Zhivago from 2005, unfortunately, no English subtitles – I think Pasternak’s presentation of the events of the pre- and post-Revolution changes in Russia strangely cheered me up: I cannot imagine living in circumstances such as those of Yuri Zhivago. This and reading the recent biography of Wittenstein family (The House of Witternstein) is really doing it for me, sounds banal and even evil, but the considerable suffering and bravery of others seems to put one’s trouble into a perspective. Here’s some more Russian stuff:

The full version of the above documentary – Poet About Poets – can be downloaded and enjoyed here.

4 thoughts on “Cheering Up (Russian Style)

  1. Why does Brodsky recite poems in that tone of voice? Like, I guess it’s the traditional approach but It seems to make the poems unintelligible.

  2. I don’t know if it’s traditional, Alec, I guess it’s just his style, I suppose one gets used to it over the years to the point of poems sounding like that when I read them. I don’t think I’ve ever come across an explicit explanation on this style, but maybe he does give one? Here’s what I found on a back of an audiobook I have from 1966. Not sure which Gordin’s book this is though…

    Необычное чтение Бродского и его воздействие на слушателя прекрасно описал Яков Гордин, литературовед и историк, близкий друг поэта и автор одной из наиболее серьезных книг о нем.

    Эта манера «была неотразима и воздействовала на слушателей сильнейшим, подавляющим образом Картавость, некоторая невнятность произношения, интонационное однообразие зачина забывались немедленно. Бродский мог достигнуть такой интонационной интенсивности, что слушателям становилось физически дурно — слишком силен оказывался напор».

  3. Interesting. I’m convinced that there’s some back story to it. If you listen to the clip with Akhmatova reading her poem she uses a similar tone. I looked around but couldn’t find anything on the topic.

  4. Brodsky was a great admirer of Akhmatova, of course, although early on he really didn’t care much for her kind of poetry as he says in that Swedish documentary, so maybe he picked it from her. But you’re right of course in a sense that there’s a tradition of reading poetry in a sort of “poetic tone” or something like that, I have no idea what’s written about it out there, if you come across anything interesting, please let me know.

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