Joseph Brodsky Quotes


There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.

By not reading or listening to poets, society is condemned to lower modes of articulation, those of the politician, the salesman or the charlatan. In other words, it loses its own evolutionary potential. Because what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. Poetry is not a form of entertainment and, in a certain sense, not even an art form, but it is our anthropological and genetic goal. Our evolutionary and linguistic beacon


No matter under what circumstances you leave it, the home does not stop being at home. It does not matter how you lived there, right or wrong.

Every writing career begins as a personal search for holiness, self-improvement. Sooner or later, and as a general rule, very soon, a man discovers that his pen achieves much more than his soul.
Joseph Brodsky Quotes
In general, with unpleasant things, the rule is: the sooner you hit the bottom, the faster you come to the surface.

The moment he places blame somewhere, he undermines his resolve to change anything.

Poetry is not only the most concise way of transmitting human experience; It also offers the highest possible standards for any linguistic operation.

In poetic thought, the role of the subconscious is played by euphony.

Tragedy, as you know, is always an accomplished fact, while terror always has to do with anticipation, with man’s recognition of his own negative potential, with his sense of what he is capable of doing.

The delirium and the horror of the East. The dusty catastrophe of Asia. Green only in the flag of the Prophet Nothing grows here except whiskers.

If a poet has any obligation to society, it is writing well. Being a minority, he has no other choice. When this duty fails, it sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation to the poet.

Poetry is what you earn in translation.

Like every book of art, be it a poem or a dome, it is understandably a self-portrait of its author, we will not try too hard trying to distinguish between the personality of the author and the lyric hero of the poem. As a general rule, such distinctions are meaningless, if only because a lyric hero is invariably the self-projection of an author.

Treasure your human connections: your relationships with friends and family. Even your weird super weirdo cousin.

If one is destined to be born in the Empire of Caesar, that one lives remote, provincial, on the shore of the sea …
Joseph Brodsky Quotes
Try not to pay attention to those who will try to make your life impossible. There will be many of them, both in official capacity and self-proclaimed. Suffer from them if you can not escape them, but once you have gotten away from them, give them the least possible reduction. Above all, try to avoid telling stories about the unfair treatment you received from your hands; avoid it no matter how receptive your audience may be. Tales of this kind extend the existence of your antagonists …

The mania of persecution is still present. In his writings, in his exchanges with people, meet people who are in Russian affairs, Russian literature, and so on.

Outside Dostoevsky: Kafka. Outside Tolstoy: Margaret Mitchell. (In conversation, explaining his distaste for Tolstoy)

Language and, presumably, literature are older and more inevitable, more durable than any form of social organization. The repulsion, the irony or the indifference that literature often expresses towards the state is essentially the reaction of the permanent, better still, the infinite, against the temporal, against the finite.

Life, as it is, is not a battle between the good and the bad, but between the bad and the worst.

If there is something good about exile, it is that it teaches humility. It accelerates the drift of one in isolation, an absolute perspective. In the condition in which everything remains is oneself and one’s language, with no one or anything in between. Exile brings you overnight, where you would normally lead a life.

In the end, like the Almighty himself, we do everything in our image, in the absence of a more reliable model; our artifacts tell more about ourselves than our confessions.

Russian literature of the twentieth century has produced nothing special, except maybe a novel and two stories by Andrei Platonov, who ended his days sweeping the streets.

As a form of moral insurance, at least, literature is much more reliable than a belief system or a philosophical doctrine. Since there are no laws that can protect us from ourselves, no penal code is able to prevent a real crime against literature; Although we can condemn the material suppression of literature, the persecution of writers, the acts of censorship, the burning of books, we are powerless when it comes to their worst violation: that of not reading books. For that crime, a person pays with all his life; If the offender is a nation, pay with his record.
Joseph Brodsky Quotes
What should I say about life? That is long and abhors transparency.

Boredom is your window to the properties of time that one tends to ignore and the possible danger of one’s mental equilibrium. It is your window to the infinity of time. Once this window opens, do not try to close it; On the contrary, open it wide open.

The safest defense against evil is extreme individualism, the originality of thought, the capricious and even, if you will, eccentricity. That is, something that can not be faked, pretend, imitate; something with which even an experienced imposter could not be happy.

If we selected our leaders based on their reading experience and not on their political programs, there would be much less pain on earth. I think … that for someone who has read Dickens a lot to shoot him in the name of an idea is harder than for someone who has not read Dickens.

Perhaps art is simply the reaction of an organism in the face of its retentive limitations.

Perhaps the best proof of the existence of the Almighty is that we never know when we should die.

I always adhered to the idea that God is time, or at least that’s His spirit.

When the eye does not find consolation of beauty-alias-it commands the body to believe it, or, failing that, adjusts itself to perceive virtue in ugliness.

If a poet has any obligation to society, it is writing well. Being a minority, he has no other choice. When this duty fails, it sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation to the poet. A majority by definition, society thinks that it has other options besides reading verses, no matter how well written they are. If it does not, it sinks into that level of locution to which society is easy prey to a demagogue or tyrant. This is the equivalent of society to oblivion.

The geography mixed with time is the same as the destination.

Racism? But is not it just a form of misanthropy?

After having exhausted all arguments in the name of evil, one pronounces the sayings of the creed with nostalgia rather than fervor.

A poet is a combination of an instrument and a human being in a single person, and the first gradually takes over the second. The feeling of this takeover is responsible for the timbre; the realization of that, for the destination.
Joseph Brodsky Quotes
I feel in the dark. And it would be difficult to discover what is worse; the darkness inside, or the darkness outside.

Love itself is the most elitist passion. It acquires its substance and stereoscopic perspective only in the context of culture, since it occupies more place in the mind than in the bed. Outside of that scenario, it falls flat in one-dimensional fiction.

There is nothing so dear as the view of the ruins.

I do not believe in that country any longer. I’m not interested. I am writing in the language and I like the language.

What is happening in Russia lacks autobiographical interest for me. Maybe it’s egocentric. Whatever it is, feel free to use it.

When Thomas Mann arrived in California from Germany, he was asked about German literature. And he said: “German literature is where I am.” It’s really great, but if a German can afford it, I can afford it.

I’m pretty prepared to die here [in New York]. It does not matter at all. I do not know better places, or maybe if I do, I’m not ready to make a move.

I was stuck in the proletariat as described by Marx.

I had this fantasy of becoming a neurosurgeon. You know, the normal fantasy of the Jewish boy, but I wanted to be a neurosurgeon for some reason. Then I started in this unpleasant way. I was the coroner’s assistant, opening corpses, pulling out the entrails, opening skulls, sticking out my brains.

In the United States, a metrical poem is likely to evoke the idea of ​​the kind of poet who wears ties and lunches in the faculty club. In Russia suggests the moral force of an art practiced against the greatest personal disadvantages, as a discipline, lonely and intense.

Every life has a file, if you want.

I was quite happy in Arkhangelsk. Later, they sent me to a town. I liked his way because it sounded very similar to the tradition of a man engaged in any world-class poem. That’s what it was, a man hired. I was working for a collective farm.

I do not try to be ridiculous or funny, but it was nice enough to be in isolation, alone.

It’s more of an exciting feeling. It’s 6 or 7 when you get up and go out with your Wellington boots or high boots. You know that in this same hour, half of the nation does the same, which gives it, with the benefit of hindsight, a satisfaction in doing those things, also, a knowledge, a sense of the nation. I was a boy from the city until then.

If they had wanted to punish me, they should have kept me in a communal apartment. Then I would have become a disaster.

I am one hundred percent Jewish by blood, but by education I am nothing. By affiliation, I am nothing.

I am not Catholic or Protestant. Protestant sounds good, but I do not think it is.

I am a bad Jew, a bad Russian, a bad everything.

In Russia, the moment a person opens his mouth you know where he is from. There is the uniformity of the experience of an individual in Russia. When you are around 7 years old you enter the school and they put you in this factory or this bureaucracy or whatever. The options are computable Here is tremendously diverse.

If I can get anywhere, I’m fine. If not, I am miserable.

I did not want to be the cre’me of the cre`me nor the martyr. I prefer to be a novelty, especially in a democracy that does not understand the language in which I write.
Joseph Brodsky Quotes
A man must know of himself two or three things: if he is a coward; if he is an honest man or given to lies; if he is an ambitious man One must be defined first in those terms, and only then in terms of culture, race, creed.

I grew up in the kind of cultural environment that always considered conversations about political discourse as tremendously low.

The government, the state, are only objects of jokes instead of serious considerations. I can not take them seriously.

I do not have principles. I am nervous.

In general, in America, each discourse of literature in 15 minutes degenerates into a conversation about ethics, morality and this or that. The Holocaust and its consequences. Well, I find it terribly boring, predictable and unimportant, because what matters about literature is aesthetic achievement.

In the West you have every opportunity for civilization to triumph.

It is partly the fault of educational institutions. But it is partly the decision to be relieved of responsibility. Literature is simply the most focused form of demands on the evolution of the species. It imposes a certain responsibility, moral, ethical and aesthetic, and the species simply does not want to force.

When I’m not writing or reading, I’m thinking of both.

Literature makes its daily operation, its daily behavior, the management of its affairs in society a little more complex. And it puts what you do in perspective, and people do not like to see themselves or their activities in perspective. They do not feel very comfortable with that. Nobody wants to recognize the insignificance of their life, and that is often the net result of reading a poem.

If there is something good about exile, it is that it teaches humility. It accelerates the drift of one in isolation, an absolute perspective. In the condition in which everything remains is oneself and one’s language, with no one or anything in between. Exile brings you overnight, where you would normally lead a life.

As long as the state allows itself to interfere in the affairs of literature, literature has the right to interfere with the affairs of the state.

As the failures go, trying to remember the past is like trying to grasp the meaning of existence. Both make you feel like a baby holding a basketball: the palms of your hands keep sliding.

In certain periods of history, only poetry is able to deal with reality by condensing it into something that can be grasped, something that would not otherwise be retained by the mind.

The Russian conversation about political evil is as natural as eating …

In general, love comes with the speed of light; separation, with that of sound.

When the eye fails to find beauty, comfort alias, commands the body to believe it or, failing that, adjusts itself to perceive virtue in ugliness.

There was Lenin, who looked like a cherub in her blond curls. Then Lenin in his twenties and thirties, bald and tense.

There is no executioner who is not afraid to become a victim one day, nor is there a sadder victim who does not recognize (if only to himself) a mental capacity to become an executioner.

In times of ladybugs, like these, one – a writer, especially – can afford to be brutal, thin, mean, etc. In fact, in times of ladybugs one practically has to sell shit and trash, otherwise it will not be sold.

What should I say about life? That is long and abhors transparency.

… boredom speaks the language of time, and is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life … the lesson of your total insignificance. It is valuable to you, as well as to those with whom you should rub shoulders. “You are finite,” time tells you in a voice of boredom, “and whatever you do is, from my point of view, useless.” As music to your ears, this, of course, may not count; however, the sense of uselessness, of limited meaning even of its best and most ardent actions is better than the illusion of its consequence and the consequent self-satisfaction.

… in the business of writing what one accumulates is not experience, but uncertainties. Which is just another name for crafts.

An object, after all, is what makes the infinite private.

The eye is identified not with the body to which it belongs but with the object of its attention.

The formula for prison is the lack of space counteracted by an excess of time. This is what really bothers you, that you can not win. Prison is the lack of alternatives, and the telescopic predictability of the future is what drives you crazy.

The fact that we are living does not mean that we are not sick.

What worries me is that the man, unable to articulate, to express himself properly, returns to action. As the vocabulary of the action is limited, so to speak, for his body, he is forced to act violently, extending his vocabulary with a weapon where there should be an adjective.

Judge: And what is your occupation in general? Brodsky: poet, poet-translator. Judge: And who recognized you as a poet? Who put you in the poet’s ranks? Brodsky: Nobody. And who put me in the ranks of humanity? Judge: Did you study it? … How to be a poet? Did you try to finish an institute of higher education … where do you prepare? … teach Brodsky: “I did not think I would give it to you for education.” Judge: Why then? Brodsky: I think it’s from God.

The Constitution does not mention rain.

All literati have at least one imaginary friend.

I do not believe in political movements. I believe in the personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some kind of change, within himself, not outside.

How wonderful it is to find a friend in everyone.

Boredom speaks the language of time, and is to teach you the most valuable lesson of your life: the lesson of your absolute insignificance.

It’s good to read everything about something and something of everything.

The man is what he reads.

The true story of consciousness begins with the first lie.

After all, it is difficult to master both life and work equally well. Then, if you are forced to pretend one of them, it will be better to be life.

Snobbery? But it’s just a form of despair.

A language is something older and more inevitable than any other state.

Each person must know at least one poet from beginning to end: if not as a guide through the world, then as a criterion for language.

The poetic notion of the infinite is much larger than that which is sponsored by any creed.

What I like about cities is that everything is King size, beauty and ugliness.

Who included me among the ranks of the human race?

For the poet, the creed or doctrine is not the point of arrival but, on the contrary, the point of departure for the metaphysical journey.

It would be enough for me to have a jury system of twelve against a judge’s system as a basis for preferring the United States to the Soviet Union. I would prefer the country where you can go to the country that you can not.

For a writer, there is only one form of patriotism: his attitude towards language.

Poetry is rather an approach to things, to life, than to typographic production.

Bad literature is a form of betrayal.

Life, as it is, is not a battle between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

This is the generation whose first cry of life was the Hungarian uprising.

Because darkness restores what light can not repair.

Treasure your human connections: your relationships with friends and family.

Life is a game with many rules but no referee. One learns how to play more by looking at it than by consulting any book, including the sacred book. No wonder, then, that so many play dirty, so few win, so many lose.

The triumph of Robert Frost was not at the opening ceremony of John Kennedy, but the day he put the last period in “West-Running Brook.”

Poems, novels: these things belong to the nation, to culture and to people. People have been stolen and now stolen things are being returned to their owners, but I do not think their owners are grateful to receive them.

As for the state, from my point of view, the measure of a writer’s patriotism is not an oath from an elevated platform, but how he writes in the language of the people among whom he lives.

I’m losing my Soviet citizenship, I’m still a Russian poet. I think I’ll be back. Poets always come back in flesh or on paper.

My poems published in Russia do not make me feel in any way, to tell you the truth. I’m not trying to be shy, but it does not tickle my ego.

I do not want to immerse myself in that mud slide, which is what I consider the literary process.


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