Based on a riveting historical episode, The Stalin Epigram is a
fictional rendering of the life of Osip Mandelstam, perhaps the
greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century -- and one of the
few artists in Soviet Russia who daringly refused to pay creative
homage to Joseph Stalin. The poet's defiance of the Kremlin
dictator and the Bolshevik regime -- particularly his outspoken
criticism of Stalin's collectivization rampage that drove millions
of Russian peasants to starvation -- reached its climax in 1934
when Mandelstam, putting his life on the line, composed a searing
indictment of Stalin in a sixteen-line epigram and secretly recited
it to a handful of friends and fellow artists. Would Stalin and his
merciless state security apparatus get wind of this brazenly
insulting poem? Would the poet's body and spirit be crushed under
the weight of the state if they did? Narrated in turn by Mandelstam
himself, his devoted wife, his great friends the poets Boris
Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova, along with vivid fictional
characters, The Stalin Epigram is the page-turning tale of courage
and the human spirit told in deftly poetic prose by a perceptive,
talented writer. With the benefit of extraordinary research and an
almost mystical empathy, bestselling author Robert Littell has
drawn a fictional portrait of the beleaguered poet struggling to
survive the running riot of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s. This
memorable novel culminates in a wholly unexpected encounter that
illuminates the agonizing choices Russian intellectuals faced
during the Stalinist terror and explains what drew Robert Littell
to the poignant subject in the first place.
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