Less Than One: selected essays

by Joseph Brodsky

Paperback, 1986





Farrar Straus Giroux, , 1986


'Genius . . . bringing ardent intelligence to bear upon poetry, politics and autobiography' Seamus Heaney Essayist and poet Joseph Brodsky was one of the most penetrating voices of the twentieth century. This prize-winning collection of his diverse essays includes uniquely powerful appreciations of great writers- on Dostoevsky and the development of Russian prose, on Auden and Akhmatova, Cavafy, Montale and Mandelstam. These are contrasted with his reflections on larger themes of tyranny and evil, and subtle evocations of his childhood in Leningrad. Brodsky's insightful appreciation of the intricacies of language, culture and identity connect these works, revealing his remarkable gifts as a prose writer. 'Sparkles with intellect, and combines the precision of scholarship with the passion of the poet' The Times Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature… (more)

Media reviews

If there's an essential essay collection, it's this one.
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New York Review of Books
Brodsky’s title piece, “Less Than One,” takes us back to his St. Petersburg childhood, and “A Guide to a Renamed City” is a wonderful evocation of the former capital, a city in which a man “spends as much time on foot as any good Bedouin.” Although Less Than One is vitriolic on the subject of Russian politics, the general effect of these essays is of an intelligence as lyrical and benign as Auden’s own. The two pieces on him are outstanding, and there are equally brilliant essays on other poets, on Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, and Mandelstam, Dante, Montale, and Derek Walcott—the last the most illuminating and understanding appraisal that has been written about the West Indian poet.


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