Nadezhda Mandelstam

Hope Abandoned
  • Hope Abandoned

  • Hope Against Hope recounted the last four years in the life of the great Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam, and gave a hair-raising account of Stalin's terror. Hope Abandoned complements that earlier masterpiece, and in it Nadezhda Mandelstam describes their life together from 1919, and her own after Mandelstam's death in a labour camp in 1938. She also sets out his system of values and beliefs, and provides striking portraits of many of their contemporaries including Boris Pasternak and their champion till his own downfall, Nikolai Bukharin, as well as an astonishingly candid picture of Anna Akhmatova.

Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam was born in Saratov in 1899, but spent her early life in Kiev, studying art and travelling widely in Western Europe. She learned English, French and German fluently enough to undertake extensive translation work, which supported her in the hard years ahead. She met the poet Osip Mandelstam in Kiev in 1919, and they married in 1922. From then until Osip's death, her life was so inextricably linked with her husband's that without her extraordinary courage and fortitude most of his work would have died with him. She spent the Second World War in Tashkent, teaching English and sharing a house with her close friend the poet Anna Akhmatova. After the war she led an inconspicuous existence as a teacher of English in remote provincial towns. In 1964 she was granted permission to return to Moscow, where she began to write her memoir of the life she had shared with one of the greatest Russian poets of the twentieth century, and where she continued to preserve his works and his memory in the face of official disapproval. Nadezhda means 'hope' in Russian, and she herself chose the English titles for her two-volume memoirs. She died in 1980.

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