Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Written in 1986

"I have always envied those nineteenth-century characters who were able to look back and distinguish the landmarks of their lives, of their development. Some event would mark a point of transition, a different stage. I am talking about writers: but what I really have in mind is the capacity of certain types of people to rationalize their lives, to see things separately, if not clearly. And I understand that this phenomenon shouldn't be limited to the nineteenth century. Yet in my life it has been represented mostly by literature. Either because of some basic flaw of my mind or because of the fluid, amorphous nature of life itself, I have never been capable of distinguishing any landmark, let alone a buoy. If there is anything like a landmark, it is that which I won't be able to acknowledge myself--i.e., death. In a sense, there never was such a thing as childhood. These categories--childhood, adulthood, maturity--seem to me very odd, and if I use them occasionally in conversation I always regard them mutely, for myself, as borrowed." --
the late Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, from the title piece in his wonderfully stimulating collection of essays,
Less Than One. Odd, how the Soviet world he depicts having grown up in is now as remote from us as the nineteenth century he refers to above.

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