The Nobel Prize in Literature 1987
Born: 24 May 1940, Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia)
Died: 28 January 1996, New York, NY, USA
Residence at the time of the award: USA
Prize motivation: “for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity”
Language: English, Russian
Prize share: 1/1
Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad, the Soviet Union (now Saint Petersburg, Russia), and worked as a poet, essayist and translator. He was arrested in 1964 and sentenced to five years at hard labor in the Arkhangelsk region of northern Russia. During his exile Brodsky was published in the United States, and many of the author’s colleagues in the West worked for his release. He was set free in 1965 but was expelled from Russia seven years later, after which he settled in the United States. He taught there at several universities and was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 1991.
Joseph Brodsky began writing poetry at the age of 18. His poetry was inspired by Russian predecessors such as Alexander Pushkin and Boris Pasternak, but also by British poets such as John Donne and W.H. Auden. His forced exile affected Brodsky’s writing, both linguistic and thematically. In Chast’ rechi (1977) (A Part of Speech), he describes how he gradually loses hair, teeth, consonants and verbs. A recurring theme in the Brodsky’s poems is the relationship between the poet and society. For Brodsky, literature and language are important tools in the development of society, something that develops human thinking.
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