Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell

The Stalin Epigram

A Novel

by Robert Littell

The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell X
The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2009, 384 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2010, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Derek Brown
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The Stalin Epigram is a fictional rendering of the life of Osip Mandelstam, perhaps the greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century - and one of the few artists in Soviet Russia who daringly refused to pay creative homage to Joseph Stalin.

Based on a riveting historical episode, The Stalin Epigram is a fictional rendering of the life of Osip Mandelstam, perhaps the greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century - and one of the few artists in Soviet Russia who daringly refused to pay creative homage to Joseph Stalin. The poet's defiance of the Kremlin dictator and the Bolshevik regime - particularly his outspoken criticism of Stalin's collectivization rampage that drove millions of Russian peasants to starvation - reached its climax in 1934 when Mandelstam, putting his life on the line, composed a searing indictment of Stalin in a sixteen-line epigram and secretly recited it to a handful of friends and fellow artists.

Would Stalin and his merciless state security apparatus get wind of this brazenly insulting poem? Would the poet's body and spirit be crushed under the weight of the state if they did?

Narrated in turn by Mandelstam himself, his devoted wife, his great friends the poets Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova, along with vivid fictional characters, The Stalin Epigram is the page-turning tale of courage and the human spirit told in deftly poetic prose by a perceptive, talented writer. With the benefit of extraordinary research and an almost mystical empathy, bestselling author Robert Littell has drawn a fictional portrait of the beleaguered poet struggling to survive the running riot of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s. This memorable novel culminates in a wholly unexpected encounter that illuminates the agonizing choices Russian intellectuals faced during the Stalinist terror and explains what drew Robert Littell to the poignant subject in the first place.

ONE

Nadezhda Yakovlevna
Saturday, the 13th of January 1934


Since that white night our lifelines first coiled themselves around each other, fifteen years ago come May Day, in Kiev, in a seedy bohemian cabaret called the Junk Shop, I must have heard Mandelstam give public readings scores of times, still the pure pleasure I take from the poetry of his poems is undiminished. There are moments when I am reduced to tears by the unspeakable beauty of the words, which take on another dimension when they enter one's consciousness through the ear, as opposed to the eye. How can I explain the miracle of it without sounding like the doting wife swooning in blind admiration? This high-strung, headstrong, life-glad homo poeticus (his description of himself, casually offered up when he mooched that first cigarette from me in the Junk Shop in what now seems like a previous incarnation), this nervous lover (of me and sundry others), is transfigured -- becomes someone, something, else. (It goes ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A profound novel whose message of suffering and redemption echo that of some of Russia’s great works commingle with a refreshing narrative style that make Robert Littell’s latest work an exceptional example of historical fiction...continued

Full Review (663 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Derek Brown).

Media Reviews

The San Francisco Chronicle
A masterpiece of historical reconstruction, psychological estimation and literary architecture.

The Washington Post
This is a timeless story of courage and truth confronting the madness of absolute power. It's a brilliant work, always readable, sometimes funny and often heartbreaking.

Kirkus Reviews
Firmly in the tradition of Orwell, Kafka and Koestler—and equally harrowing.

Library Journal
Starred Review. This novel will be treasured long after the derring-do of espionage tales is forgotten.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Littell is unflinching in his portrayal of Osip's tragic arc, bringing a troubled era of Russian history to rich, magnificent life.

Booklist
Historically accurate and filled with period detail, this is both a tragic and life-affirming novel.

Author Blurb Simon Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and Sashenka
The Stalin Epigram is a wonderful and compelling read about power, poetry, love, literature, terror and Russia but it is also a fascinating, psychologically sensitive telling of the real-life tragedy of the brilliant poet Mandelstam, his fatally insulting poem about Stalin -- and the dictator's vengeance.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Russia’s Poetic Troika

Born in Odessa, Russia in 1889, Anna Akhmatova began writing poems at the age of 11, adopting her grandmother's surname because her father would not permit her to publish under his own. As a member of the Acmeist school of poetry, Akhmatova achieved celebrity along with her husband, Nikolay Gumilyov, who was executed in 1921 as a counter-revolutionary. Between 1925 and 1940, all of Akhmatova's work was banned from publication in the Soviet Union. In 1930 she composed "Requiem," one of her finest and most famous poems, in dedication to the victims of the Stalinist Terror. "Requiem" was not published in Russia until 1987. Despite heavy censorship of her work, Akhmatova remained in Russia, and died in Leningrad in 1966.

Boris Pasternak ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Stalin Epigram, try these:

We have 9 read-alikes for The Stalin Epigram, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Robert Littell
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Clear
    Clear
    by Carys Davies
    John Ferguson is a principled man. But when, in 1843, those principles drive him to break from the ...
  • Book Jacket: Change
    Change
    by Edouard Louis
    Édouard Louis's 2014 debut novel, The End of Eddy—an instant literary success, published ...
  • Book Jacket: Big Time
    Big Time
    by Ben H. Winters
    Big Time, the latest offering from prolific novelist and screenwriter Ben H. Winters, is as ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming Madam Secretary
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    by Stephanie Dray
    Our First Impressions reviewers enjoyed reading about Frances Perkins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Half a Cup of Sand and Sky
by Nadine Bjursten
A poignant portrayal of a woman's quest for love and belonging amid political turmoil.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Home
    by Crystal Hana Kim

    A moving family drama and coming-of-age story revealing a dark corner of South Korean history.

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

Win This Book
Win The Funeral Cryer

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Debut novelist Wenyan Lu brings us this witty yet profound story about one woman's midlife reawakening in contemporary rural China.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

M as A H

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.