Summer 2006 • Vol. XXVIII No. 3 Book Reviews |

Uncle Grisha Was Right

Brodsky. A Personal Memoir by Ludmila Shtern. Fort Worth: Baskerville, 2004. 386 pp. $25.95. From Russian with Love: Joseph Brodsky in English by Daniel Weissbort. London: Anvil Press Poetry, 2004. 254 pp. $18.95.   In Ludmila Shtern's amiable, often aimless memoir, she recalls the uneducated peasant "Uncle Grisha" listening to a very young Joseph Brodsky read one night at Shtern's Leningrad home. Uncle Grisha crossed himself repeatedly during the reading, whispering to himself after each of the poet's incantatory lines. He abruptly left the gathering afterwards, returning the next morning and insisting, "Brodsky is, in fact, not like us. He is cut from a different cloth. "I don't understand poetry. I've only had four years of school. But the issue isn't the poetry, it's the thoughts," he explained, "your Joseph spoke so many thoughts last night, most of them wouldn't have even occurred to another person even if they lived to be a hundred. And the way he read, it was

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Cynthia Haven’s An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czesław Miłosz was published in 2010. Her previous volumes include Czesław Miłosz: Conversations and Joseph Brodsky: Conversations. Peter Dale in Conversation with Cynthia Haven was published in London in 2005. She writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement, Washington Post Book World, and San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. In 2008 she studied in Poland with a Milena Jesenská Fellowship from Vienna’s Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen.

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