“It comes from God”: the trial of Joseph Brodsky

brodskyThere’s a fascinating read up at The New England Review: Frida Abramovna Vigdorova’s transcript of the 1964 trial of Joseph Brodsky, translated by Michael R. Katz. It ends with the judge pronouncing this sentence on the future Nobel laureate: “Brodsky will be sent to remote locations for a period of five years of forced labor.” And the guards, passing the defense counsel, sneer, “So? You lost the case, comrade lawyer!”

I found this particularly telling as an example of the clash between the state and the individual writer:

JUDGE: How long did you work at the factory?

BRODSKY: A year.

JUDGE: As what?

BRODSKY: A milling-machine operator.

JUDGE: And, in general, what is your specific occupation?

BRODSKY: Poet. Poet-translator.

JUDGE: And who said you’re a poet? Who ranked you among poets

BRODSKY: No one. (Unsolicited) Who ranked me as a member of the human race?

JUDGE: Did you study for this?

BRODSKY: Study for what?

JUDGE: To become a poet. Did you attend some university where people are trained … where they’re taught…

BRODSKY: I didn’t think it was a matter of education.

JUDGE: How, then?

BRODSKY: I think that … (perplexed) it comes from God…

JUDGE: Do you have any petitions for the court?

BRODSKY: I’d like to know why I was arrested.

JUDGE: That’s a question, not a petition.

BRODSKY: Then I have no petitions.

Read the whole thing.

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Filed under Books, Poetry, Writing

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