Nadezhda Mandelstam

Hope Against Hope

Hope Against Hope


A harrowing yet uplifting account of Stalin's persecution of the Russian intelligentsia in the 1930s, and of one man - Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), whose poetry, in spite of the unfolding tragedy of his life, preserved its unique creative gaiety. Nadezhda and Osip Mandelstam married in 1922. Nadezhda's memoir covers their last four years together. She begins in Moscow in May 1934 with the knock on the door at one o'clock in the morning, and her husband's arrest by the secret police for composing a satire of Stalin. She tells of his imprisonment, interrogation and exile to the Urals, where she accompanied him, and where he wrote his last great poems; his release and return to Moscow, only to be entrapped, rearrested and sentenced to hard labour in Siberia; of her own efforts to secure his release and to save his manuscripts (and to memorize all his poems in case she could not); of her discovery of the truth about his death in a transit camp near Vladivostock. For all its grim subject matter, it is a story of courage in adversity, and even humour finds a place.
Nadezhda means 'hope' in Russian, and Hope against Hope is one of the greatest testaments to the value of literature and imaginative freedom ever written. It is also a love story that relates the daily struggle to keep both love and art alive in the most desperate circumstances. After years of circulating secretly in the Soviet Union it was published in the West in 1970, and has since achieved the status of a classic.

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