Joseph Brodsky Monument, Moscow (+)

IMG_3425.jpg2The Joseph Brodsky monument in Moscow, located more or less across from the Fyodor Chaliapin house and the old U.S. embassy on Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya Street, seemed to me to come out of nowhere. I just happened to be walking along the street one day and there it was. Voice of Russia tells me it was unveiled in May 2011.  I find it to be one of the most interesting sculptural complexes in Moscow, what with its added people in the background playing off the main character of Brodsky in the foreground.

IMG_3421.jpg2 IMG_3424.jpg2Somebody might say that Brodsky here is something of a snob, with his nose in the air in regards to the smaller, faceless people around him, and that person might be right. Brodsky wasn’t one to suffer anyone he considered a fool and sculptor Georgy Frangulyan surely had that in mind when creating this ensemble. But one turns one’s head skyward for more than one reason, and I don’t doubt that the lonely figure of Brodsky looking to the heavens has other meanings as well.  I saw Brodsky read his poetry at the Boston Public Library in the early 1980s. Frankly, it was a bit of a chore. In my opinion, his heavily metered, chanting performance voice turned all his spectacular words into a monotone mush. I could not take my eyes off of his face, however. That was an extraordinary sight. Many years later I spent a few days at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and I trekked over to the Slavic Department where Brodsky taught for some time after his emigration to the U.S. I wrote a bit about how Brodsky ended up there thanks to Carl Proffer, in a Moscow Times blog, which you can jump to if you’re so inclined. For the record I also post two photos of the building that houses the Slavic Department at UMI, one on the outside, the other from the inside.

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6 thoughts on “Joseph Brodsky Monument, Moscow (+)”

  1. Joseph did think cosmically, and I get that to a certain extent, but I can’t help remembering the scene from the outstanding German film “The Lives of Others,” when the hero is at the piano playing a sonata given him by a dear friend who has just committed suicide. He recalls the line attributed to Lenin—“If I don’t force myself to stop listening to Beethoven’s Appassionata, I won’t manage to make the Revolution.” And yet we’re still listening to that transcendent work of art, and the Bolshevik Revolution has taken its place on the ash heap of history. I guess it proves his point. Maybe we should all walk around gazing up.

    1. Yes, I’m sure a lot of folks would do well to try it more often (looking to the heavens), but I’m a kind of practical kind of guy and I like always to keep an eye on all the drain holes, pitchforks and low-lying brick walls that one can encounter… ))) Once we make it to Joseph’s distinguished immobility, we can forget about that stuff…

  2. It warmed the cockles of me heart to see that building again. My ex-wife always said that our happiest years were the two years (of 33) we spent in Ann Arbor. She got her MA in German there and was sent on her way to a doctorate at Georgetown. The two greatest professors I had in my many, many years of study were Heinrich Stammler at the University of Kansas and Assya Humesky at the U of M. Truly world-class. They are the reason to this day I read and re-read in the original the classics of Russian and German literature. If, in the next two weeks or so, I write the article on monuments in poetry and literature, be assured that Joseph’s insights on the topic will be at the forefront.

    1. I find it quite surprising how the early part of our education is what sticks with us most. The further away we get from the present moment, the more importance and substance experiences seem to have. Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing. It’s been a pleasure.

  3. In the fall of 1976, I was fortunate and visionary enough to enroll in Joseph Brodsky’s seminar on Modern Lyric Poetry at the University of Michigan. Especially in the United States, he was at that time famous as an expelled persecuted dissident from our archenemy, the Soviet Union. I, however, suspected that he was much more than that, if he himself would even admit that he was that. And I was right. We spent the semester discussing his favorite poets—-Auden, Cavafy, and Frost.
    He was intense, passionate about poetry and life, and sickly, for he smoked incessantly, although not during the lesson.
    For the past several months I have looked unsuccessfully for a serviceable translation of his poem “Pamyatnik” (Monument). I think we can all agree that his subject is particularly timely now in summer 2020, everywhere in the U.S., but especially in the South. I was going to write an essay using his poem as the theme, and then to my surprise I learned of his own monument in Moscow. It’s not much like the monument in his poem, although no doubt foreign tourists will be photographed around and in front of it. His posture, his stance, is not at all grandiose. He’d never be mistaken for a general, politician, or even a great thinker. There are no projectors shining beams on him at night. But people probably do scurry by on their way to work.
    He would not have wanted a monument of this sort. His monument would be people like me remembering his soothsaying truths. At 73 last month while sheltering at home here in Los Angeles, while observing like Joseph only not butterflies, but hummingbirds, the creatures who come between us and nothingness, I wrote my first poem, an ode to the bird in COVID-19 time. And my little monument to his memory, our shared memories, was that first poem.
    Thank you for your notification and photos.

    1. And thank you for your story! I have been to the classroom where you studied with Brodsky, and to the office where you probably went to see him at least a time or two. I wasn’t yet thinking about this blog when I was there, so I was only later able to cobble together a blog about Brodsky at UM using photos of the outside of the building…

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