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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

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Conference focuses on Russian poet, Oct. 6-7

A conference on Russian poet Osip Mandelstam is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6-7, on campus.

"The Legacy of Osip Mandelstam" commemorates the 25th anniversary of the gift of the Mandelstam papers to Firestone Library. Most events will take place in the Whig Hall Senate Chamber.

Mandelstam, who lived from 1891 to 1938, is considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. "He was probably the only poet who dared to write a poem critical of Stalin (an epigram of 1933), an act that more or less sealed his already unfortunate fate," said Michael Wachtel, professor of Slavic languages and literatures and one of the conference organizers. "He was arrested soon after and a few years later swept up in the purges. He died in transit, on his way to a labor camp in Siberia."

Clarence Brown, professor emeritus of comparative literature, wrote his dissertation and first book on Mandelstam. In the process, he befriended Mandelstam's widow, Nadezhda, who feared her husband's papers would be confiscated by the KGB. She smuggled them out of the country and, on Brown's suggestion, donated them to Firestone Library for safekeeping.

"They are without a doubt the most important collection of Russian poetry manuscripts located outside of Russia," Wachtel said. "They are also a curator's nightmare, since Mandelstam, as a persona non grata in Soviet Russia, wrote on the cheapest paper available."

The conference will open with a panel discussion at 9:30 a.m. Saturday on Nadezhda Mandelstam led by John Malmstad, a professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Harvard University and a 1969 Princeton Ph.D. A text by Brown, who is not able to be present, also will be read.

One highlight will be a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday by Christopher Barnes of the University of Toronto entitled "Music by Russian Poets: A Lecture-Recital of Solo Piano" in Taplin Auditorium, Fine Hall.

The conference will conclude following a 4 p.m. session on Sunday. For more information on the sessions, visit this Web site .

The conference is being funded by the Kennan Institute in Washington, D.C., the Princeton Council of the Humanities and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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