24. Mai 2010

Men die, writers do not

Heute wäre er 70 Jahre alt geworden.
Der Meister des Wortes, des lyrischen Wortes, der Meister der Gefühle, der Nobelpreisträger, den ich so sehr liebe.

"All my poems are more or less about the same thing – about Time. About what time does to Man." – Joseph Brodsky

Language Is Greater than Time

"Against all-devouring Time, which leads to the absence of both the individual and the world, Brodsky mobilises the word. Few modern poets have stressed with such intensity the word's ability to withstand the passing of time. This conviction recurs frequently in Brodsky's poems, often in the last lines:

I don't know anymore what earth will nurse my carcass.
Scratch on, my pen: let's mark the white the way it marks us.
("The Fifth Anniversary", 1977)

That's the birth of an eclogue. Instead of the shepherd's signal,
A lamp's flaring up. Cyrillic, while running witless
on the pad as though to escape the captor,
knows more of the future than the famous sibyl:
of how to darken against the whiteness,
as long as the whiteness lasts. And after.
("Eclogue IV: Winter")

Brodsky's belief in the power of the word must be seen against his view of time and space. Literature is superior to society – and to the writer himself. The idea that it is not the language but the poet who is the instrument is, as we have seen, at the core of Brodsky's poetics. Language is older than society and, naturally, older than the poet, and it is language that keeps nations together when "the centre cannot hold" (with Yeats's words).

Men die, writers do not. A poet who formulated the same thought with similar pregnancy was W.H. Auden in his "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" (1939). It was the third and last part of this triptych that made such an indelible impression on Brodsky (he describes it in the essay "Less Than One") when he first read the poem during his exile in northern Russia:

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,
Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives …

Language, in other words, is superior not only to society and the poet but to time itself. Time "worships language" and is thus "lesser" than it. There is a strain of a romantic fatalism in this assertion, but in Russia, a country where people, in Pushkin's words, are always "mute", the writer has always occupied a unique position. This emphasis on the dominance of language is thus not an expression of aestheticism; in a society where language is nationalised, where language is political even when it does not speak of politics, the word possesses an enormous explosive force.(...)" unbedingt weiter lesen
Das Gedicht von Joseph Brodsky "Seven Strophes" ist hier zu lesen.

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