This interview was first published Gefter. in Russian, on Sept. 11, 2015. Arcade published the interview and an accomanying essay by Ian Probstein, on Nov. 12. 2015: the essay is linked here. See also at Arcade “In Imploded Sentences: On Charles Bernstein’s Poetic Attentions” by Enikö Bollobásin (written for the Janua Pannonious Prize: linked here). A one hour TV with Probstein and Bernstein is on PennSound: linked here.
It is said that a translator is like a spy: if everything is fine, the author of the original is praised and the translator is barely noticed; if not, the translator is blamed. Having that in mind, I am going to discuss several translations of Osip Mandelstam’s “Stalin’s Epigram”, which cost him two exiles and eventually, life.
Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) led an unsettled life full of tribulations, wandering and exile. After his Stalin’s epigram of 1933, for which the dictator, who used to say that “vengeance is best when served cold,” never forgave the poet.