Joseph Brodsky: Arrest and Exile, 1963-1965

 


Joseph Brodsky: Arrest and Exile, 1963-1965

 
 

You will write about us on a slant.

    —JOSEPH   BRODSKY

 

One of those who became close to Akhmatova at the end of her life, and who was made to suffer and stood his trial with dignity, was the poet Joseph Brodsky. When Akhmatova first met him, he was young, rash, and brilliant – famous by the time he was twenty, his poems recited and put to music later by many of the 1960s generation. It is important to view the Brodsky trial in the context of other events of Soviet society at the time, as part of an overall pattern. Brodsky was brought to trial in 1964, a time when everyone still remembered what happened to Pasternak and soon became wary of the "Thaw." A month after the publication in1962 of Solzhenitsyn's “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”, Khrushchev visited an art exhibition in the Manezh hall, in the former riding military exercises had been held during the times of the tsars, a become a major venue for art exhibitions under the Soviets. The exhibition featured abstract art, which triggered off a campaign against modernism. On December 12, 1962, at a session of the Supreme Soviet, Khrushchev declared that the Party had criticized Stalin's excesses but had not denied his contributions to communism. A few days later, on December 17, at a meeting of the Party and government leaders which included people in the arts, there was a denunciation of Formalism, allegedly an imitation of the worst in the art of the bourgeois West. A Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Leonid Ilyichov, gave a speech distinguishing between criticizing the cult of personality—Stalin—and criticizing Communist society and culture in general. Solzhenitsyn was present at this meeting. In his Essays on Literary Life, he writes:

At that first Kremlin meeting they still praised me, applauded me—but Ivan Denisovich was like the last breath of the explosion of the Twenty- Second Congress. A general counterattack of Stalinists began which the near-sighted Khrushchev supported wildly. We heard from him that literature was a long-range weapon and had to be verified by the Party, that he was not an advocate of the rule "live and let live"; that ideological co-existence is morally filthy and that the struggle did not allow for compromise.

    A conversation Chukovskaya had with Akhmatova on December 21 reflected these -events.  Akhmatova had hoped, with the coming of the Thaw, that there might be a chance for her Requiem to be published, but she quickly realized the potential danger to art that the Manezh affair symbolized. Chukovskaya said, "The gap is closing. The mighty Solzhenitsyn crack is beginning to be riveted shut." "Yes," replied Akhmatova, "and the Manezh. . . . My “Requiem” will not have any success if the Manezh affair also affects literature." Chukovskaya discussed the main topic going around Moscow—Ilyichov's speech and the words of Khrushchev, that not all of Stalin's acts should be condemned. Chukovskaya points out that it was possible to live under Stalin—they had lived under him—and possible to listen and read words of praise for Stalin—they had done so for thirty years. But now after everything (meaning the Thaw and the condemnation of Stalin), to have to listen to any praise of Stalin was unthinkable. 

     "It is impossible to endure a 'repetition,' "Akhmatova went on. "When you remember that in 1948-49 they began taking people away again who had returned after 1937—I know that among those who were waiting for yet another arrest there were many suicides. Waiting for the second arrest was too much for them. Can we really endure praise of Stalin—again?" During the first few months of 1963 there were more meetings with Khrushchev, at which he warned intellectuals to be careful about how far they went in their criticism of the state, and that their art must be accessible and comprehensible to the masses.

    This was the atmosphere in which Joseph Brodsky's trial took place. Brodsky was born in Leningrad in 1940; his father was a newspaper reporter and photographer. The family lived in a room and a half in a communal apartment, which by coincidence had been occupied by the Symbolist poets so popular at the turn of the century, Dmitry Merezhkovsky and Zinaida Gippius, who advocated a synthesis of sensual paganism and spiritual Christianity in their poetry. Brodsky says in his autobiographical sketch that it was from his Gippius, the elegant red-haired aristocrat, shouted abuse to the revolution sailors—the  pair left for Paris soon after the Revolution.

        After high school, instead of going on to the university, Brodsky began odd jobs, working in a factory, as a stoker in a boiler-room, as janitor in a morgue, and he also went on a geological expedition. But all the time he continued write poetry. He taught himself English and Polish and began doing translations. His poetry is not wildly experimental, but it is brilliant and profound. He awarded the Nobel Prize in 1987 for the "unusual intensity of the spiritual intellectual life of his poems, his broad cultural horizons and artistic form. "One of his most popular early poems is 
 
"Pilgrims": 
 
By the coliseums, the robbers' dens,
by temples and bars,
by chic cemeteries
by large bazaars
by peace and grief,
by Mecca and Rome,
burnt by the blue sun
along the earth go
the pilgrims. 
 
They are maimed, hunchbacked.
Hungry, half dressed.
Their eyes are full of the sunset,
Their hearts are full of the dawn.
Behind them sing the deserts,
lightning flashes,
stars tremble above them,
and birds shriek hoarsely at them,
that the world will remain the same. 
 
Yes. Will remain the same.
Blinding as snow.
And doubtfully tender.
The world will remain deceitful.
The world will remain eternal.
Perhaps, accessible,
but nevertheless endless. 
 
And this means there will be no sense
in a belief in yourself or in God.
And it means, the only thing left
was Illusion and a Road.
 
And there will be sunsets over the earth.
And there will be dawns over the earth.
It will be fertilized by soldiers.
It will be approved by poets.
 
There is nothing political in this poem—as Efim Etkind points out in his book on Brodsky's trial. It is about people today wandering around without aim or meaning, believing that nothing will ever change, and that any idea of earthly paradise is only an illusion. But from the Socialist Realist point of view, "Pilgrims" is a political poem: it implicitly suggests the failure of the Communist state by what it does “not do”. The poem does not promote the idea that communism will eventually produce a paradise on earth; rather, it projects a cynical view of a world without hope. 
 
According to Yakov Gordin, who was one of Brodsky's closest friends and a student at the university with him, the attitude of the authorities toward Brodsky was based on two factors: his own individual personality and the political climate of the time. Brodsky was a free spirit, who hated any kind of conformity. He often behaved wildly and did not follow the rules of the game, which even under the Thaw were still quite rigid and confining. It was his public behavior, even more than his poetry, that provoked the authorities. In 1958, he began reciting his poetry at student halls and experienced an enormous success. They especially loved the way he chanted the lines, making them come alive. In 1960, he read in a poets' competition held at Leningrad's Gorky Palace of Culture. "The Jewish Cemetery" in particular created a sensation: 
 
The Jewish cemetery near Leningrad.
A crooked fence of rotten wood.
Behind the crooked fence lay all in a row
Lawyers, merchants, musicians, revolutionaries.
 
They sang for themselves
They saved up for themselves.
They died for others.
But at first they paid taxes, 
                         respected the police,
and in this world, absolutely materialistic,
they interpreted the Talmud,
                         remaining idealists.
Perhaps they saw more.
Perhaps they believed blindly.
But they taught the children to be patient
and to become persistent.
And not sow bread.
                  Never to sow bread.
 
Simply to lie down
in the cold earth, like grain.
And fall asleep forever.
And then earth would be sprinkled on them,
and candles lit,
and on memorial day
hungry old men with high voices
choking from the cold, shouted about keeping calm.
 
And they found it.
                  In the form of the decay of matter.
Not remembering anything.
Not forgetting anything.
Behind the crooked fence of rotten wood,
     kilometers from the end station of the trams.
 
Samizdat, the term given to underground publications of forbidden material was only just beginning, and Brodsky's poems were passed around on sheets of paper. He became close friends with three fellow poets, Dmitry Bob Anatoly Nayman, and Yevgeny Rein. Bobyshev said they were "Akhmatova’s orphans." All three were students at the Leningrad Technical Institute in the 1950s, and were soon joined by Brodsky in their poetic endeavors. They their works to each other and received invitations to recite in people's homes at literary associations and evenings devoted to poetry. Nayman said they had doubts about their talent—they believed in their stars.
 
   Nayman met Akhmatova first. A few weeks later, Bobyshev and Rein on their own to her apartment to introduce themselves. Akhmatova was packing to move, and piles of books were lying all over the floor. Having accepted offer to help her, she led them to the next room and commanded: "Read!" approved of their verse, saying they "would do," but advised them to write concisely. "And how happy we were," wrote Bobyshev in his memoir of years. "My God! Our poems were approved by Akhmatova herself, when were rejected by every almanac, magazine, and publisher in Moscow and Leningrad. This gave us great confidence."
 
     Brodsky met Akhmatova when Yevgeny Rein brought him to her dacha Komarovo. He was twenty-two years old. He recited some of his poems and liked them. Then he came with Rein and Nayman several more times. He he still did not quite grasp the full significance of who she was—until one returning from Akhmatova's by train to Leningrad, he suddenly understood. From then on he went as often as possible to visit her, and even rented a cabin Komarovo one winter just to be able to see her every day. At that point he had only read her early works: "The Gray-Eyed King," and the poem about putting on the wrong hand. He said as a "normal Soviet" it was difficult for respond to such poems. In fact, except for Mandelstam, he did not like the poets of the Silver Age, and found Blok impossibly melodramatic. It was only he read Akhmatova's later work that her poems became meaningful to him.
The four young poets waited for a "dedication"—a touch of the magic wand, of the sword on the shoulder, some symbolic "handing down of the lyre." They all devoted verses to Akhmatova with the undisguised hint that she writes poems back to them. In 1962, she wrote a poem to Brodsky:
 
I don't weep for myself now,
But let me not be on earth to witness
The golden stamp of failure
On this yet untroubled brow.
(II, p. 223)
 
With her usual gift for prophecy and insight, she predicted destiny would soon Brodsky's ability to endure adversity.
 
    One time, in 1962, Bobyshev brought Akhmatova a poem he had written for her, along with a bouquet of five beautiful roses. It was her birthday, and she was staying at Komarovo. Akhmatova mentioned the roses on his next visit, saying, “Four of them soon faded, but the fifth bloomed extraordinarily well and created miracle, almost flying around the room." Soon the young poets found out what "miracle" was—Akhmatova had written poems to them. "The Last Rose" was devoted to Brodsky, "The Fifth Rose" to Bobyshev, and "Non-existence" to Nayman. The poem to Brodsky was the one she recited to Robert Frost when he came to see her. In it she asks God to let her live a simple life and not share the terrible fate of famous women in history like Joan of Arc and Dido. She opens with an epigraph containing a line from Brodsky: "You will write about us on a slant," which appeared when Akhmatova's poem was first published, but disappeared after Brodsky's trial.
 
Brodsky had written his poem to her earlier that year:
 
. . . I did not see, will not see your tears,
I will not hear the rustling of wheels,
carrying you to the bay, to the trees,
along the fatherland without a memorial to you.
 
In a warm room, as I recall, without books,
without admirers, but there you are for them,
resting your brow on your palm,
you will write about us on a slant.
 
You will mutter then: "O, my Lord!
This air is only thickening the flesh
of thoughts which left their own recognition,
and not your new creation!"
 

Brodsky's life quickly became more complicated. As a result of Khrushchev’s meetings with intellectuals in 1963, Leningrad decided to "clean the city." Brodsky's trial was the first, but certainly not the last attempt to punish artists for individualism. Gordin says the court condemned Brodsky as a real opponent because he was a free spirit. Although he did not plot to overthrow the regime, his very existence was a threat to the status quo. They felt this instinctively, therefore in their eyes they were not condemning a totally innocent victim.
    The campaign against Brodsky began with a nasty article that appeared “Vechernii Leningrad” in November 1963. The person who had organized the attack against Brodsky was Yakov Lerner. In 1956 he had been director of Technological Institute, where a newspaper, “Kultura” (Culture), had been put by the students. As self-appointed guardian of the purity of Communist ideology Lerner attacked several articles in this paper—those on film by Nayman and Paul Cezanne by Rein. Lerner became head of one of the vigilante groups took the law into their own hands and carried out unwarranted searches.
Lerner himself would be charged with black marketeering and sentenced to prison. But on November 29, his article, "Subliterary Drone," appeared in “Vechernii Leningrad”. Its basis was a relatively new Regulation against people who allegedly were not working and were sponging off Communist society. The article was signed by Lerner, A. Ionin, and M. Medvedev.
    The only aspect of Lerner's article that was correct was the spelling of Brosky's name. It claimed that some years ago a young man calling himself a appeared in velvet pants carrying a briefcase stuffed with papers. Friends him simply "Osya," but elsewhere he was known as Joseph Brodsky. He was a loner who had not joined any literary circles. His poetry was full of pessimism, a mixture of decadence, modernism, and simple gibberish. Brodsky, it was asserted, had not even finished high school. The authors quoted poems that weir not written by Brodsky, and then criticized them. They accused Brodsky of not working, mentioned people identified as friends, among them a mystic and a criminal. They charged that Brodsky met an American in Samarkand to whom he wanted to give a forbidden manuscript, then lost his nerve. He allegedly planned to leave the country with his friend O. Shakhmatova, who was with him in Samarkand—they were going to steal a plane and fly it abroad.
Lerner enlisted the support of Alexander Prokofiev, head of the Leningrad Writers' Union. Vladimir Admoni says that Prokofiev was a real poet and did not have the features of an executioner. He was good-natured, sympathetic; a short man, with a round peasant's face, who had a genuine lyric gift. He actually tried to promote young poets rather than help destroy them. Yet he was against
the public readings of Yevtushenko andVoznesensky in Moscow, and seemed jealous of the popularity achieved by Brodsky, Andrey Bitov, and others. Without his sanction, Brodsky could not be arrested. Lerner showed him a falsified epigram saying it had been written by Brodsky against Prokofiev, who believed it. After Lerner's article appeared, Brodsky wrote a reply, but no newspaper would accept it.
At that point Efim Etkind, a distinguished scholar at the Herzen Pedagogical Institute who had been deeply impressed by Brodsky's works and the poet Gleb Semyonov asked Gordin to go to Moscow to deliver a letter to Etkind's friend Frieda Vigdorova, explaining what had happened. The literary scholar Vladimir Admoni knew Vigdorova from Tashkent during the war. Vigdorova wrote children’s books and was a journalist whose columns appeared in such important newspapers as “Literaturnaya gazeta” and “Pravda”, chiefly essays on material from letters sent to the editors, begging for help and talking about injustices encountered in everyday life. A strong person, she was also restrained and quiet, and managed to overcome tremendous difficulties in order to help people. She became a member of the District Soviet Council, where she listened to endless pleas; although they exhausted her, she continued to help people in any way she could. In the late autumn of 1963 Vigdorova came to visit Leningrad, and Admoni showed her an article attacking young Leningrad writers, in particular Brodsky. Vigdorova decided to devote herself to helping Brodsky during this period of his arrest and trial. But she developed terminal cancer, and in August 1965 she died at just over fifty years old.
    There are various interpretations as to why Brodsky became the victim of the regime's attack at this particular moment in Russian history. For his trial was not just an individual affair, but a turning point in the history of the relationship between the poet and the state. In the second half of the 1950s, a large number tented young writers and poets had appeared in Leningrad. In first place, according to Admoni, was Joseph Brodsky, because of the power of the poetry poured from his soul. Most of the work of the Leningrad writers was non-political; there was no one comparable to Yevtushenko in Moscow. Yet the works of the Muscovites were often published—admittedly sometimes meeting with op- position from the regime—whereas the works of the Leningrad writers were not.
A series of attacks appeared during the 1960s, and the rumor was that Brodsky would be only the first victim—others would follow. Therefore, many people rallied to Brodsky's cause not only because he was a remarkable poet but because they wanted to protect all poets from the arbitrary will of the state, which had been punishing artists and intellectuals for so long. This time there was hope that things would be different, and some very brave intellectuals like Admoni and Etkind dared to make a public protest. As Gordin says: "The soul, the conscience, find rose up against the shameless, cold cynicism of state figures who punished, who had the unlimited right to pulverize innocent people on their grind-stone. It was only a handful of people who protested, but they were members of
the Union of Writers.'14 The Brodsky trial became a symbol of the active in the sixties, and its suppression in Soviet society. There would soon be such events—the trial of Daniel and Sinyaysky, the support for Solzhenitsyn Sakharov—but Brodsky's case was the first.
Akhmatova was in Moscow in December 1963, and she invited Shostakovich to come see her at the Ardovs'. He was then the deputy to the Supreme Soviet for the area of Leningrad where Brodsky lived. Shostakovich told Akhmatova that nothing could be done for Brodsky, because he had been meeting with foreigners. However, Shostakovich did speak with Tolstikov, head of the Leningrad City Council.
It was clear when the articles appeared that Brodsky had to leave Leningrad. He lived for a while near Moscow in the Kaluga district, but then he found that the woman he loved was having an affair with another poet, someone considered a good friend, and Brodsky returned immediately to Leningrad. On February13, 1964, Brodsky was arrested on the street. At 9:30 P.M. three men approached him, and without any documents proving their legal right to do they put him in a car and took him to the police station, where he was placed solitary confinement. Subsequently he was put in the same prison as Lev Gumilyov had been, Kresty [Crosses], made famous in Akhmatova's “Requiem” cycle.
On February 18, the trial began in the Dzerzhinsky District Court. Vigdorova did all she could beforehand to help. She turned to several important writers, found a lawyer and witnesses. Three formal legal witnesses appeared for defense: Admoni, Etkind, and Natalya Grudinina, the head of a seminar of young poets in which Brodsky had once taken part. Admoni appeared not because had had any strong ties earlier with Brodsky, but on principle—he could not remain silent. It was the first time, said Admoni, that someone had appeared at such a trial chiefly as a matter of conscience. Admoni and his wife both thought the result of his appearance at best would mean he would lose his job and expelled from the Union of Writers, and at worst that he would be arrested sent to a camp. And yet his wife, the scholar Tamara Silman, did not attempt to dissuade him. "For many long decades we had preserved the inner strength our souls, and refused to turn to the executioners," Admoni wrote. "And now for the first time, a chance appeared to reveal this strength—a chance to prevent the executioners from carrying out their intentions. And it seemed that our secret inner spiritual freedom meant nothing if it were not transformed into action at the appropriate moment—even if it was doomed to failure."
Admoni added that something like this would have been absolutely unheard of during the Stalinist period. Now a different time had come—with the death of Stalin, the curtailment of the horrible trial against the Jewish doctors, the execution of Beria, the condemnation of Stalin at the Twentieth Congress. But then Khrushchev began to return to the old ways. The basis of the system had not changed. However, something inside people's souls had changed and the grew former mute silence became impossible. There was a feeling that protest might
at last be effective. Once the decision had been made, it was necessary to go all the way, even if it meant sacrifice. As someone who had spent his life at an institute teaching young people to love literature, Admoni said to himself, "Who if not me?"
    It was not so easy to rally writers of the older generation in Leningrad behind Brodsky. Brodsky had insulted many of them, treating their works with mocking irony and sometimes even with contempt. He was often arrogant, but Admoni felt it was a kind of naive arrogance, the pride of someone who was aware how great his own talent was, but not wise enough to hide his pride. But they knew how much he respected Akhmatova and was close to her, and this made a difference in their minds. Akhmatova had shown Admoni poems by Brodsky, and Admoni realized immediately the great gift of this poet. Admoni thought Brodsky and Akhmatova understood each other because they shared many important things in common: a disregard for external circumstances that might otherwise have crushed them; an unpretentiousness; their ability never to lose their great dignity in spite of persecution and poverty. She along with Chukovsky, Marshak (the noted author of children's books), and many others sent letters and telegrams to the KGB and the court.
    The court was on Vosstaniya Street: a crowd gathered outside the entrance, and also stood in the corridors and filled the hall on the second floor. They were mainly young people who came to show their moral support. Gordin, an influential figure among the students, asked them not to get out of control, and they behaved well, knowing any scandalous action would only work to the detriment of the accused. Brodsky's parents sat with their eyes glued to the door, waiting for their son to appear. Judge Savelyeva arrived—a vulgar, ignorant woman, who knew just how much power she held in her hands. There was no barrier behind which the accused normally stood. Brodsky just stood alone, isolated, near his parents on the bench. His face reflected that inner peace which Akhmatova radiated her entire life, no matter how bad her situation. Savelyeva could not really insult him, reach his inner core, and he was never frightened by her shouting. Gordin says Brodsky's calm was more than just a form of courage. His simple, biblical features expressed confusion at the authorities' inability to comprehend him, and he in turn could not understand this strange woman, her unmotivated maliciousness. Vigdorova wrote to Chukovskaya on February 22, 1964: "Perhaps one day he will become a great poet, but I will never forget how he looked—helpless, with an expression of astonishment, irony, and challenge all at the same time." Sitting in court and taking meticulous notes, Vigdorova wrote down the essence of what occurred, and then made this information available both in the USSR and abroad. Her reporting made people aware of what was really going on. Vigdorova was on her own: for the first time in her life she could not obtain an assignment from a newspaper or get a press pass. She and Chukovskaya both wrote the KGB and Union of Writers but got no reply. Any contacts Vigdorova may have had either could not or did not wish to help. Even the popular Voznesensky, Yevtushenko, and Akhmadulina, to whom the regime often listen could not get a response in this particular case.

 
 
The judge began by asking Brodsky what he did. He replied, "I write poetry. I translate." The judge asked if he had any regular work, and Brodsky said, thought that was regular work." He told her he had contracts with publishers. The judge asked who had recognized him as a poet, and Brodsky replied, " No one. Who was it who decided I was a member of the human race?" The judge wanted to know where Brodsky had studied to be a poet. Brodsky replied, didn't think you learned that. . . I think this is. . . from God." Brodsky's lawyer was experienced and proved that the allegations in the newspaper articles been false, that Brodsky earned money from translations, lived at home, and few expenses. After the trial, Judge Savelyeva was amazed to discover so many people standing in the corridor. Israel Metter told her, "It's not every day they judge a poet.'" Actually, Metter adds, that was not quite accurate. Poets judged every day in the Soviet Union, but the regime did not usually take an active interest.
The next three weeks were the hardest for Brodsky. He was sent to a chiatric clinic to be tested to see if he was fit to be sent into exile, and had submit to all sorts of ill treatment during the tests. On March 13, Brodsky's second trial began. It took place at the Club of Building Renovators on 22, Fontanka next to the Leningrad City Court, which had once been the headquarters of tsar's secret police. By this time Brodsky had many prestigious people writing letters and telegrams and collecting money for him. A number of these supporters including Admoni and Etkind, testified on his behalf at the trial; but witness for the prosecution, ordinary workers and pensioners who had never met Brodsky before or read his poetry, nevertheless condemned him as harmful to society.
This time Brodsky was asked by the judge how he had participated in building communism. Brodsky replied, "Building communism is not just standing lathe or behind a plough. It is also the work of the intelligentsia." Admoni and Etkind both gave brilliant speeches in Brodsky's defense.
Admoni says that in the pause before the verdict, everyone somehow senselessly hoped that he would be pardoned. All the accusations and the witnessing against him was such clear nonsense, and after his own testimony and of other scholars, and the lawyer's speech and Brodsky's own concluding words plus telegrams from Akhmatova and Shostakovich, it seemed somehow imp that the verdict would go against the poet. However, it had been decided be hand: five years' exile to the village of Norinskaya near Konosha in the of Archangel region. And they then understood just how naive and childish hopes had been. They could not win against the impenetrable political machine. On this level, nothing had changed. The verdict was read at one o'clock in morning. Brodsky was led out by the police. As Admoni, Vigdorova, and others walked slowly along the Fontanka, through the cold, wet darkness of March night, they were silent.
Etkind relates how this trial pitted two traditional foes against each other, bureaucracy and the intelligentsia. Brodsky represented Russian poetry.
 
The lot had fallen on him by chance. There were many other talented poets at the time who might have been in his place. But once the lot fell upon him, he understood the responsibility of his position—he was no longer a private person but had become a symbol, the way Akhmatova had been in 1946, when she was picked out of hundreds of possible poets to be punished, and became a national symbol of the Russian poet, as Brodsky had become that day. It was hard for Brodsky—he had bad nerves, a bad heart. But he played his role in the trial impeccably, with great dignity, without challenge, and with fervor, calmly, understanding that by the way he answered he evoked deep respect not only from his friends but from those who once had been indifferent to him or even hostile.
The second trial lasted five hours and exhausted everyone. Etkind says Vigdorova was never the same. It was as if something had disrupted the calm balance her soul—something had broken the harmony of her inner world. Vigdorova Chukovskaya worked incessantly—obtaining signatures, making phone calls, petitions—and the "Brodsky affair" took over their lives. Everyone thought that things had changed after the Twentieth Congress, and some ways they had: millions had returned from the camps, forbidden books finally printed. That was why Brodsky's trial was so shattering. Everyone afraid the repression of the Stalin era was returning. Reading Vigdorova's on the trial, many felt the need to protest. Scholars, writers, journalists, students sent letters to the Communist Party, the Supreme Court, the Secretary of the Leningrad Council, and the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, as well as to the Writers' Union, all to no avail.
 
Vigdorova wrote to Konstantin Fedin, secretary of the Writers' Union, that she was weak and exhausted and therefore was now going to shift the responsibility far the fate of the talented young poet to him. But plans were afoot to expel her born the Union of Writers. Then, on October 15,1964, Khrushchev was removed, and Prokofiev was soon removed from the Union of Writers as well. Grudinina, Aclmoni, and Etkind—the main witnesses for the defense at the Brodsky trial— were voted in as members of the Secretariat of the Union of Writers. Vigdorova was not expelled, but in November came the shattering news that she had terminal cancer. She felt she was a failure because she had not succeeded in getting Brodsky freed. While she was ill, she asked Chukovskaya, "Well, how is our red-haired boy?" Chukovskaya told her that Yevtushenko had just returned from Italy and had sent in his report to the KGB. He had met with representatives of the intelligentsia and it was clear that the "Brodsky affair" was damaging the prestige of the Soviet Union. Yevtushenko urged Brodsky's release as soon as possible.
Nayman describes the conditions under which Brodsky was living in exile. He was actually settled in the village of Norinskaya, where he was renting a People treated him kindly. In the evening, Brodsky could get the BBC and Voice of America on the radio. "There was enough to eat, enough firewood, and time for poetry, too. Letters came, books were sent. It was sometimes to telephone Leningrad from the post office in the neighboring village of Danilovo.”
Nayman compares the association in people's minds at that time between Brodsky and Akhmatova:
It goes without saying that when compared with "'37," "the Brodsky case" was "a battle of butterflies," as Akhmatova liked to say. It meant suffering, poetry, and fame for him, and Akhmatova, while doing what could be done to help him, spoke approvingly of the biography they were "making for our Ginger." “Requiem” began to circulate clandestinely approximately the same time, in the same circles and in the same number of copies as Vigdorova's transcript of Brodsky's trial. Public opinion unconsciously made a link between these two things, though not one which could be named openly: the poet defends the right to be a poet and not to have any other occupation so that he or she should be a when necessary to speak on everyone's behalf. The transcript of the poet’s trial sounded like poetry on the most profound themes of public concern and “Requiem”, poetry on the most profound themes of public concern sounded like a transcript of the repressions, a kind of martyrology, a record of acts of self-sacrifice and martyrdom.
With the removal of Khrushchev, there was hope that Brodsky might be freed. Admoni wrote a petition to the Supreme Court, and many others tried to help as well. In September 1965 the Supreme Court reviewed the case; althought the verdict was not repealed; Brodsky was finally freed. On September 11, I received a telegram from Komarovo: "REJOICING STOP ANNA SARRA EMMA STOP”. Sarra Arens was helping take care of Akhmatova and Emma Gershtein was with her. Brodsky had been released and Akhmatova was celebrating.
When he was freed, Brodsky went to see Chukovskaya, and together called up Akhmatova and his parents. Then Chukovskaya called Vigorova’s daughter and told her, "Sashenka, Joseph has returned." There was silence both ends. They were both too filled with emotion to speak. Chukovskaya to herself, "Go to the grave. Whisper these words to the earth. Tridochka has returned.' “
Admoni relates that he saw a photocopy of a page from one of Akhmatova’s notebooks, a note made that September: "Joseph has been freed by the decision of the Supreme Court. This is a great joy. I saw him a few hours before this news. He was horrible—he seemed to be on the verge of suicide. He (at least I think so) was saved by Admoni, who met him at the train, when this madman was returning from seeing me." Apparently Admoni and his wife were at the Komarovo train station, waiting for the train to go to the city, when they suddenly saw Brodsky running by. Admoni called him over and asked him what was going on. Brodsky muttered something. Admoni invited him to come with them to Leningrad. Brodsky asked Admoni about the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which the couple had just visited. When they got to Leningrad, they found Brodsky a taxi and accompanied him home. The next day they learned about the review of the case.
Etkind's book on the trial ends with a letter written by Brodsky on June 4, 1972, when he left the Soviet Union, addressed to Leonid Brezhnev. In it he said that he was not leaving Russia of his own free will, and hoped that he would remain a part of Russian literature:
I belong to Russian culture I recognize myself as part of it and do not want to leave. . . The measure of a writer's patriotism is how he writes in the language of the people among whom he lives and not the oaths[JT1] from a podium. I am bitter to have to leave Russia. I was born here, grew up here, lived here and everything I have in my soul I owe to it. . . . Once I stop being a citizen of the USSR I will not stop being a Russian poet. I believe I will return; poets always return—in the flesh or on paper. . . the only righteousness is goodness. No one ever wins with evil, anger or hatred, even when it is justified. . . . I hope you will understand what I am asking for. I ask you to give me the possibility to continue to exist in Russian literature, in the Russian land. I do not think I am guilty before my Homeland of anything. . . . I don't know what your reply will be or whether there will ever be one. It's a pity I did not write you sooner, and now there is no longer any time. But I will tell you that in any case, even if my people do not need my body, my soul will still be important for them.
In 1987, Joseph Brodsky won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His prophecy has now come true: his poems are being read and admired in his native land. He recently married and has a daughter named Anna, after Akhmatova.

 
 
 
 
 

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