Wednesday 9 November 2022

Mandelstam, Ossip "The Noise of Time"

Mandelstam, Ossip "The Noise of Time" aka "The Din of Time (RUS: Шум времени/Shum vremeni) - 1925

A story of a childhood at the turn of the last century, the author was born in 1891. His memories of his father and mother, leather smell on the bookshelf, memories of poetry, memories of Jewish customs and festivities. The author gives us a good survey of life at the beginning of the 20th century, that of his contemporaries and of his own, the reflections of his sense of alienation in the Soviet system.

While this book is only a compilation of short stories, it still gives us insights into the life of a Jewish boy in a country that didn't want any criticism, and who gave his life for his beliefs: "Only in Russia is poetry respected, it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?"

He mentions the "propertyless intellectual who needs no memories. It should be enough for him to tell of the books he has read."

And then he mentions in the "Mensheviks in Georgia" (written 1922-1927): "Everyone, Georgians, Armenians, Greeks, Persians, Englishmen and Italians spoke Russian. A wild Volapük, a Russian Black Sea Esperanto buzzed in the air." Esperanto was created in 1887 and it seemed normal to Ossip Mandelstam that everyone should know what he was talking about.

"The Noise of Time" is an interesting collection of stories that will surely please not only fans of Russian literature.

From the back cover:

"Collected prose works by one of Russia's towering literary figures. Osip Mandelstam has in recent years come to be seen as a central figure in European modernism. Though known primarily as a poet, Mandelstam worked in many styles: autobiography, short story, travel writing, and polemic. Mandelstam's biographer, Clarence Brown, presents a collection of the poet's prose works that illuminates his far-ranging talent and places him within the canon of European modernism.

This volume includes Mandelstam's
'The Noise of Time,' a series of autobiographical sketches; 'The Egyptian Stamp,' a novella echoing Gogol and Dostoevsky; 'Fourth Prose,' and the famous travel memoirs 'Theodosia' and 'Journey to Armenia.'"


  1. I love that quote about poetry being motive for murder!

    1. Yes, Lark. And he is right, in quite a few countries people get killed for writing their opinion. But we need those courageous people. If we all just shut up about injustice, it would go on and on.

  2. Replies
    1. You know I like Russian authors, Emma. And I am always pleased to find a "new" one.

  3. Sounds like an interesting read. His name is so familiar but I don't know that much about him. Will have to investigate.

    1. Thanks, Anon. I had never heard the name. He was killed or died (same thing in this case) - like so many - in 1938 in a Soviet camp.