Scope and Contents
The papers document all aspects of Brodsky's professional life, including writings, appearances, readings, lectures, advocacy and relations with other literary figures. The research interest of the papers encompasses Russian-language poetry, the Soviet emigre experience, and poetry translation. Researchers interested in Brodsky's creative process will find much relevant material, including multiple drafts (many corrected) of poems and essays (including translations by Brodsky and others). Teaching material is present in small quantities and provides only sporadic documentation of Brodsky's career as an educator. Personal papers are also present and chiefly document immigration and other legal affairs.
Brodsky's work, while rarely political, reflects broad historical and political themes that defined his era: empire, emigration, and the relationship of the individual to the state. The trajectory of Brodsky's publishing and teaching is inextricable from the emigre experience, as his early works were censored in the Soviet Union and promoted by publishers and scholars in the United States. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian literary public was able to "reclaim" Brodsky openly and his works (including Russian translations of his essays) were published there.
Brodsky's bilingual emigre identity is elucidated in his writings. A significant proportion of Brodsky's poetry was translated from Russian to English, often by multiple translators, and some poems exist in alternate versions. Brodsky's prose was also oft-translated: his early essays were written in Russian and translated into English, though most of his prose was written in English. While Brodsky's notes and corrections indicate engagement with the translation of his prose, it is evident that his commitment to and involvement in the translation of his poetry was profound.
Brodsky's personal papers document his bitter struggle with American and Soviet bureaucracies as he tried first to have his parents visit him in the United States and then to attend his father's funeral. After emigration, as evidenced particularly in his letters to editors, Brodsky lent his international acclaim to the cause of politically persecuted literary figures in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Brodsky's literary milieu, like his life and work, was transnational and multilingual. Correspondence, writings and audiovisual recordings document his close relationships with fellow Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney, Czes?aw Mi?osz and Derek Walcott and with English-language poets Anthony Hecht and Mark Strand, among others. Many of these poets translated Brodsky's poetry or dedicated poems to Brodsky in memorium. Hundreds of aspiring and accomplished Russian-language poets also sent him manuscripts, as evidenced in Writings of Others.
- circa 1890-2004
- Majority of material found within 1972 - 1996
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Letters of Recommendation (Boxes 21-22), Student Papers (Boxes 127-131) and Restricted Papers (Boxes 214-217) are restricted until 2071.
The notebooks in Box 40 are partially restricted until 2071. Access to the original notebooks is restricted. A microfilm of unrestricted pages is available.
Boxes 168-169, 171-176, 220-225, and 232 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Boxes 218-219, 226 and 233-241: Restricted fragile material. Reference copies are available for electronic documents. Consult Access Services for further information. For other materials, reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Existence and Location of Copies
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
According to a letter in her correspondence (April 1996), Ann Kjellberg (Joseph Brodsky's assistant and, after his death, literary executor) began to assemble an archive of Brodsky's papers in 1991. This effort continued after his death in 1996. Friends and associates of Brodsky (George Kline, Carl Proffer, Masha Vorobiov and others) sent Kjellberg originals and photocopies of papers to be included in the archive. Provenance of individual items can sometimes be traced by Kjellberg's or others' notes on the material.
115.28 Linear Feet ((228 boxes) + 3 broadside)
Joseph Brodsky, 1940-1996
Joseph Brodsky ended his formal schooling by walking out of his public school classroom at age fifteen and worked in a variety of places, including a factory, a morgue, and on geological expiditions. He began to write poetry in his teens and soon demonstrated a keen interest in translation. He taught himself Polish and English in order to translate poetry, including that of Czes?aw Mi?osz and John Donne. Brodsky's Russian literary influences included Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam, Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva. His early writings in Russia were circulated in samizdat (self-published) collections, the most complete one compiled by Vladimir Maramzin.
Brodsky was arrested several times starting in 1961, tried in 1964 as a "social parasite" (tuneiadets), and sentenced to five years of labor in Norenskaia (a village in the Arkhangelsk Province of northern Russia). Brodsky lived in Norenskaia from March of 1964 to October of 1965 and wrote prolificly there. Brodsky's trial and sentence brought him increasing international attention when Frida Vigdorova's transcript was publicized in the Western media. It was also around this time that his poetry began to be compiled and published in the United States. Stikhotvoreniia i Poemy (Washington, D.C. & New York: Inter-Language Literary Associates) was published in in 1965, followed by Ostanovka v pustyne (New York: Izdatel'stvo imeni Chekhova) in 1970. Even after his release from Norenskaia, Brodsky continued to be at constant risk of arrest. In 1972 he was forced to emigrate when he was suddenly granted a visa (for which he had not applied) to emigrate to Israel. He had to leave Russia within a matter of weeks.
Brodsky traveled to Austria, where he stayed with W.H. Auden for several weeks, and to England before coming to the United Sates. He accepted a position as Poet in Residence at the University of Michigan (a post that Carl Proffer, founder of Ardis Publishing, was instrumental in securing). Brodsky taught at Michigan until 1981, when he accepted a permanent position on the faculty of Mount Holyoke College. He then divided his time between New York City and South Hadley, Massachusetts. He became a United States citizen in 1977. Brodsky never returned to Russia after emigrating, though later in his life political circumstances would have allowed it and his Russian readers clamored for it.
Among Brodsky's many awards and honors are a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1977), a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award (1981), a National Book Critics Circle award (1986), the Nobel Prize in Literature (1987), France's Order of the Legion of Honor (1991), and honorary degrees from Yale University (1978), Dartmouth College (1989), and Oxford University (1991). He was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1991 to 1992.
Brodsky suffered from heart disease throughout his adult life and he had several open-heart surgeries. He died of heart failure on January 28, 1996.
During his lifetime, much of Brodsky's collected poetry and prose was published by Ardis in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Russian-language poetry) and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York (English-language poetry, English translations and prose collections). Brodsky's major publications from 1977 to 2000 include:
- Chast' rechi: Stikhotvoreniia 1972-76 (Ardis, 1977)
- Konets prekrasnoi epokhi: Stikhotvoreniia 1964-71 (Ardis, 1977)
- V Anglii (Ardis, 1977)
- A Part of Speech (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980)
- Rimskie elegii (New York: Russica, 1982)
- Novye stansy k Avguste: Stikhi k M.B., 1962-1982 (Ardis, 1983)
- Less Than One: Selected Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986)
- Uraniia (Ardis, 1987)
- To Urania: Selected Poems 1965-1985 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988)
- Watermark (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992)
- On Grief and Reason: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995)
- Peizazh s navodneniem (Dana Point, California: Ardis, 1996)
- So Forth: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996)
- Collected Poems in English, 1972-1999 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000)
The Library of Congress system is used to transliterate Russian, but diacritics are not used. Illustrative examples are: Iuz Aleshkovskii and Efim Etkind. Names of Russian emigres are spelled in accordance with the individual's usage or record of publication. Therefore these spellings do not necessarily conform to standard Library of Congress transliteration. For example, the spelling Joseph Brodsky is used throughout the finding aid, while Brodsky's parents are referred to as Aleksandr Brodskii and Mariia Brodskaia.
Electronic files were refreshed into the Yale University Library Rescue Repository. Technical specifications are filed with the media in Restricted Fragile.
Boxes 227-231 and folders 3767-3822 and 4710-4758 are unused. Original videocassettes are now housed in boxes 171-176. Restricted fragile material.
Boxes 161-167 and folders 3645-3723, 3725-3736, 3747-3756, 3758-3766 are unused. Original audiocassettes and reel-to-reel audiotapes are now housed in boxes 220-225 and 232. Restricted fragile material.
- American literature -- 20th century
- Ardis (Firm)
- Auden, W. H. (Wystan Hugh), 1907-1973
- Audiovisual materials
- Authors, American -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Authors, Russian -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Barańczak, Stanisław, 1946-2014
- Berlin, Isaiah, 1909-1997
- Born digital
- Brodski, Mariia
- Brodskiĭ, Aleksandr
- Brodsky, Joseph, 1940-1996
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Dovlatov, Sergeĭ, 1941-1990
- Electronic documents
- Emigration and immigration
- Essays -- 20th Century
- Essays -- Translations into English
- Essays -- Translations into Russian
- Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
- Golyshev, Viktor, 1937-
- Hecht, Anthony, 1923-2004
- Jangfeldt, Bengt, 1948-
- Katilius, Elmira
- Katilius, Ramunas, 1935-2014
- Kjellberg, Ann
- Kline, George L. (George Louis), 1921-2014
- Mandelʹshtam, Nadezhda, 1899-1980
- Mandelʹshtam, Osip, 1891-1938
- Maramzin, Vladimir, 1934-
- Miłosz, Czesław, 1911-2004
- Nobel Prize winners
- Nobel lectures, including presentation speeches and laureates' biographies
- Nobel lectures, including presentation speeches and laureates' biographies
- Picken, Margo
- Poetry -- 20th Century
- Poetry -- Translations into English
- Poetry -- Translations into Russian
- Poetry International (Festival)
- Poets, American -- 20th century
- Poets, Russian -- 20th Century
- Proffer, Carl R.
- Proffer, Ellendea, 1944-
- Russia -- Emigration and immigration
- Russian literature -- 20th Century
- Samizdat -- Russia
- Schiltz, Véronique, 1942-
- Shults, Sergei
- Solzhenit͡syn, Aleksandr Isaevich, 1918-2008
- Spender, Stephen, 1909-1995
- Sumerkin, Alexander, 1943-2006
- Ufli︠a︡nd, Vladimir, 1937-
- Underground literature -- Soviet Union
- United States -- Emigration and immigration
- Verheul, Kees, 1940-
- Viereck, Peter, 1916-2006
- Vorobiov, Masha
- Walcott, Derek, 1930-2017
- Weissbort, Daniel, 1935-2013
- Wilbur, Richard, 1921-2017
- Ėtkind, E. G. (Efim Grigorʹevich), 1918-1999
- Guide to the Joseph Brodsky Papers
- by Lisa Conathan
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.