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Additional info for American Writers: Supplement VIII
LESS THAN ONE Though Brodsky had developed something of a following and a reputation in his adopted country by the mid-1980s, his works were not very well known in the United States at that point, in large part because of the innate difficulty of his poetry, made that much greater by the challenge of translation. The publication of Less Than One, a collection of essays, brought 30 / AMERICAN WRITERS him much wider public acclaim. It received the 1986 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.
Brodsky's enemy is nostalgia, and his attachments are personal and individual rather than political and national. Brodsky's essays avoid political attacks on totalitarian government. His main line of attack against the annihilating forces of history, politics, and evil in general derives from a love of the baroque excesses of individual eccentricity. In "A Commencement Address," (given at Williams College in 1984), Brodsky turns an incident in his own youth into a parable. While in a Soviet prison camp, he and his fellow inmates were forced to partake in grueling lumber-chopping competitions, often a contest of guards against prisoners.
In "A Commencement Address," (given at Williams College in 1984), Brodsky turns an incident in his own youth into a parable. While in a Soviet prison camp, he and his fellow inmates were forced to partake in grueling lumber-chopping competitions, often a contest of guards against prisoners. On one occasion, Brodsky (though he does not name himself) kept chopping long after the competition had ended and everyone else was in a state of exhaustion. This seemingly insane act actually resulted in an end to all further calls for woodchopping competitions.