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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