Co-author E. L. Beznosov
Original Source: Ogonek (December 1988).
“STOP WRITING!” the judge demands.
Frida Vigdorova does not stop.
“Take away her notes!” shouts someone from the audience.
Vigdorova continues writing, at times hiding it, at times openly.
“Hey you! The one writing! Take away her notes and that’s that. ”
Frida continues stubbornly. And how can one not write? Restrain himself? Every character here is from Gogol, Saltykov-Shchedrin, or Zoshchenko; the jury, the judge, the prosecutor. Every word uttered by the judge is an example of lawlessness. Every word of the prosecutor is an incoherent roar of militant ignorance. Every certificate is forgery. A writer is being tried while the audience gathered here is least of all prepared to comprehend literature.
Life is a great artist but it is rarely able to create such a phenomenon of expression, of irreproachable finality. It is not just anyone who is being tried, but a poet and for nothing more than idleness and parasitism. Two powers collide at the trial, powers which have been forever opposing each other intellect and bureaucracy; the power of the inspired word and that of banality. In the center of the collision, probably as a visual aid, life placed a poet, while the role of the witness of this mockery, it assigned to a woman as talented as she was honest, energetic, unsparing toward herself, and courageous.
The name of Frida Abramovna Vigdorova (1915-1965), a teacher, a writer, a journalist, became widely known at the end of the 1950s, beginning of the 1960s. Her articles in Izvestiia, Komsomol’skaia Pravda, Literaturnaia Gazeta often brought about restoration of justice.
Yet the transcripts of the two trials were not to be printed.
Not a single newspaper would risk exposing them to the public. The document connecting the verbal art with irreproachable precision went from one person to the next. It was retyped many times by the fans of Brodskii’s poetry. It became one of the first works published by the newly formed Samizdat. It was read by hundreds in its homeland and then came over to the West. Its role grew by the day. Frida Vigdorova sent legal appeals to every office attaching a copy of her notes with each of the appeals, complaints, and requests.
The notes taken by F. Vigdorova made everyone who had read the document relive the trial with anger and bitterness as if the reader himself was insulted. Such is the power of art. I think that the modern reader, reading into the text, will take it with the same pain.
Brodskii’s fate is to defend the honor of Russian poetry at home and across the border. The honor of arming the intellectuals in order to fight the bureaucracy had fallen upon F. Vigdorova. Brodskii’s ardent defenders did not -allow the bureaucrats to finish him off. Brodskii returned from exile in a year and a half instead of the five years.
Joseph Brodskii and Frida Vigdorova never met. She died of cancer August 7, 1965, a month before his release.
The following transcripts were recorded by Frida Vigdorova in spite of the judge’s prohibition against doing so.
The first trial of Joseph Brodskii
Leningrad, February 18, 1964. Judge Savel’eva, presiding
Judge: What do you do?
Brodskii: I write poetry. I translate. I suppose …
J: No supposing. Stand up straight! Do not lean against the wall! Look at the court! (To me) Stop writing immediately or I’ll have you removed from the courtroom! (To Brodskii) Do you have a permanent job?
B: I thought that it is a permanent job.
J: Answer the question precisely!
B: I wrote poetry. I thought it would be published. I suppose.
J: We are not interested with what you “suppose.” Answer why you were not working?
B: I did work. I wrote poetry.
J: We are not interested in that. We want to know what organization you were affiliated with.
B: I had contracts with publishing houses.
J: Then say that. Do you have enough contracts to earn your livelihood? List their dates and the amounts they are for.
B: I do not remember exactly. My lawyer has all my contracts.
J: I am asking you.
B: In Moscow, two books with my translations were published … (lists)
J: How long is your work record?
B: About …
J: We are not interested in “about.”
B: Five years.
J: Where did you work?
B: At the factory, in the geological teams …
J: How long did you work at the factory?
B: A year.
J: Your position?
B: A metal cutter.
J: And what is your occupation in general?
B: Poet, poet-translator.
J: And who recognized you to be a poet? Who put you in the ranks of poet?
B: No one. (Unprovoked) And who put me in the ranks of humanity?
J: Did you study it?
J: How to be a poet? Did you attempt to finish an institute of higher learning … where they prepare … teach …
B: I did not think that it is given to one by education.
J: By what then?
B: I think it is … from God.
J: Do you have an appeal for the court?
B: I would like to know why I was arrested?
J: That is a question not an appeal.
B: In that case, I do not have an appeal.
J: Does the defense have any questions?
Defense lawyer: Yes. Mr. Brodskii, do you contribute your earnings to your family?
D: Are your parents also working?
B: They are retired.
D: Do you live with them?
D: So your earnings were a part of the family budget?
J: You are not asking questions. You are making assumptions. You are helping him answer. Do not assume. Ask.
D: Are you registered at the psychiatric clinic?
D: Did you go through treatment?
B: Yes. From the end of December of 1963 until January 5 of this year in the Kashchenko Hospital in Moscow.
D: Do you not think that your illness prevented you from working regularly in one place for a long time?
B: Maybe. Probably. Actually, I do not know. No, I don’t know.
D: Did you translate poems for an edition of the Cuban poets?
D: Did you translate the Spanish ballad?
D: Were you affiliated with the translators’ department of the Writers’ Union?
D: The defense wishes to submit the review of the office of the translators’ department … A list of published poems … Copies of contracts … A telegram: “We ask to speed up the signing of the contract” … (lists) Even from one listing it is obvious that all the accusations of parasitism are nonsense. And I request that Mr. Brodskii be sent for medical evaluation to determine whether or not his health prevented him from holding a job on a regular basis. Besides that I ask that he be immediately released from the custody of the court. I do not think he has committed any crime, therefore his detention is unlawful. He has a permanent place of residence and can come back to court at any time.
(The court goes into deliberation. Upon return the judge reads the following decision):
Brodskii is to be sent for a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether or not he suffers from any illness which should prevent his being sent away for forced labor. His documents should be sent to the police for an additional check of his earnings. Taking into account Brodskii’s refusal to be hospitalized, he will be brought in for psychiatric evaluation from police precinct #18.)
J: Do you have any questions?
B: I would like to request paper and a pen for my cell.
J: That you should talk about with the chief of police.
B: I asked but he refused. I am asking for paper and a pen.
J: (Softening) All right. I’ll tell him.
B: Thank you.
(When we walked out of the courtroom, there were a great number of people in the hall, especially young people.)
J: Look at all the people. I did not think there would be this many people.
From the crowd: It’s not every day that a poet is on trial.
J: We do not care if it is a poet or not.
(In the opinion of the defense attorney Z. N. Toporova, judge Savel’eva should have released Brodskii from custody, so that he could go himself for the psychiatric evaluation to be determined by the court hospital. The judge, however, left him in the custody of the court and so he was sent to the hospital under guard.)
The Second Trial of Joseph Brodskii
Builders’ Club Hall 22 Fontanka, Leningrad March 13, 1964. Judge Savel’eva
The psychiatric evaluation. stated: “Possesses psychopathic traits but remains able to work. Therefore, official measures may be taken.” Those entering the courtroom are met with the sign: The trial of Brodskii, the Parasite, Continues. The large hall of the Builders’ Club is full of people.
“Please rise. The court is now in session.”
Judge Savel’eva asks Brodskii if he has any appeals for the court. It is discovered that Brodskii was not informed of the charges against him either prior to the first trial, or now. The court is in recess. Brodskii is taken away to be informed of the charges against him. He comes back after a while and states that the poems on pages 141, 143, 155, 200, 234 (lists) are not his. Besides that he requests that his diary of 1956 not be included in the case since at that time he was only sixteen years old. The defense attorney stresses this request again,
J: As far as the poems go, the court takes the request into account. However, as far as the personal diary, there is no need to exclude it from the evidence. Mr. Brodskii, as of 1956 you changed your place of work thirteen times. You worked for a year in a factory. Then you did not work for half a year. In the summer, you were a member of the geological team. Then you did not work for four months. (Lists all the employments and the breaks between them.) Explain to the court why you did not work during the breaks between your jobs but led the life of a parasite?
B: I worked during the breaks. I was doing the same thing I am doing now. I wrote poetry.
J: That is to say, you were writing your so called poetry? And what was the use of changing jobs so many times?
B: I began working at the age of fifteen. Everything interested me. I was changing jobs because I wanted to learn more about life and people.
J: How did you benefit your country?
B: I wrote poetry. This is my work. I am convinced I believe that that which I wrote will serve people and not only now, but future generations as well.
Voice from the crowd: Imagine that!
Another voice: He is a poet. He must think that.
J: So you think that your so-called poems benefit people.
B: Why are you calling the poems “so-called”?
J: We are calling the poems “so-called” because we have no other concept of them.
Sorokin (prosecution): You talk about the future generations. Do you think that you are not understood today?
B: I did not say that. Simply my poems had not yet been published and people do not know them.
S: You think that if they would be known, they would be accepted?
S: You claim that you have a well-developed curiosity. Why then did you not want to serve in the Soviet Army?
B: I will not answer such questions.
J: You will answer.
B: I was excused from the service. I did not “not want;” I was excused. Twice. The first time, when my father was ill and the second time because of my illness.
S: Can you live on the money that you earn?
B: I can. Being in jail, I signed a paper every day that forty kopeks a day have been spent on me. I earned more than forty kopeks a day.
S: But you have to buy clothes, shoes.
B: I have one suit, an old one, but that is the one I have. I do not need another one.
D: Were your poems evaluated by experts?
B: They were. Chukovskii and Marshak spoke very highly of my translations. Better than I deserve.
D: Were you affiliated with the translation department of the Writers’ Union?
B: Yes. I was presented in the almanac, which is called “In Russian for the First Time” and read translations from Polish.
J: You should ask about the useful work that he has done and you are asking about his appearances.
D: His translations are the useful work that he has done.
J: Brodskii, why don’t you tell the court why you were not working in the breaks between your jobs.
B: I did work. I wrote poetry.
J: But that did not prevent you from working?
B: But I did work. I wrote poetry.
J: But there are people who work in the factory and write poetry. What prevented you from doing so?
B: But all people are not alike. Even their hair color, facial expressions …
J: You did not make any startling discoveries with that. Everyone knows that already. Why don’t you tell us how to judge your participation in our great progressive movement toward communism?
B: Building of communism does not only mean standing at a machine or plowing the fields. It is also intellectual work which …
J: Leave the grand ideas alone. Why don’t you just answer how you are planning to build up your working experience in the future.
B: I wanted to write poetry and to translate. But if it goes against some established norms, I will get a permanent job and will continue writing poetry.
Jury member Tiagly: In our country everyone works. How could you remain a loafer for such a long time?
B: You do not consider my work to be work. I wrote poetry. I consider that work.
J: Did you draw any conclusions for yourself from anything that came out in the press?
B: Lerner’s article was libelous. That is the only conclusion that I have reached.
J: So you have drawn no other conclusions?
B: I have not. I do not consider myself a parasite.
J: You have said that the article “A Near-Literary Drone” published in the newspaper The Evening Leningrad is not reliable. In what way?[The article was published November 29, 1963, and was signed by A. Ionin and M. Medvedev, along with Ia. Lerer. January 8, 1964, in the same Evening Leningrad, a selection of readers’ letters was assembled under the title “There is no room for parasites in our city.”]
B: Only the name and the last name in it are correct. The age is not. The poems are not mine. In the article people whom I either barely know or do not know at all are called my friends. How can I consider such an article reliable or draw any conclusions from it?
D: You claim that your work is useful. Would the witnesses whom I will be calling be able to attest to that?
J: (Ironically to the defense lawyer) Is that the only reason that you are calling the witnesses?
S: (To Brodskii) How could you translate from Serbian independently without using someone else’s work?
B: This is an ignorant question. Sometimes the contract includes an interlinear translation. I know Polish. Serbian, I know less but the languages are related, therefore I was able to translate using …
J: The court calls Witness Grudinina.
G: I have been directing the work of aspiring poets for eleven years. For seven years, I was a member of the committee, working with young writers. Now, I direct the upper-class poets in the Young Pioneer Club and the society of young writers at the plant “Svetlana.” I was asked by the publishing house to compile and edit four collective volumes with the poetry by young writers. That included over two hundred names. Thus, I am familiar with the work of all young poets in the city.
Brodskii’s work, as that of a starting-our poet, is known to me from his 1959 and 1960 poems. These poems were still rough, but they had some vivid ideas and images. I did not include them in the collective volumes, yet I found the author to be talented. I had not had a chance to meet Brodskii in person until the fall of 1963.
After the publication of the article “Near-literary Drone” in The Evening Leningrad, I called Brodskii in to talk to me since the youth was bombarding me with requests to intercede on the behalf of the slandered man. To my question, what is he doing now? he replied that he has been studying languages and doing literary translations for about a year and a half. I took from him the manuscripts of his translations in order to get familiarized with them.
As a professional poet and as someone who knows literature, I maintain that Brodskii’s translations are done on a highly professional level. Brodskii has a special and a rare talent for the literary translation of poetry. He showed me a project of 368 poetic lines. Besides that, I read 120 lines of his translations published in the Moscow editions.
From personal experience of having done literary translations, I know that the work of such volume requires from a writer at least a year and a half of intense involvement and that not counting the hassles related to the publication of the poems and consultations with specialists. Time required for something like that can not be measured, as you well know. If one is to estimate his income, using the lowest publication prices, from his translations which I have seen with my own eyes, Brodskii has earned about 350 new rubles and the only question remaining is when the rest of his work will be published.
Other than the translation contracts, Brodskii showed me his contracts with the radio and television. That work has already been completed but not yet paid for in full.
From talking to Brodskii and the people who know him, I am aware of his very modest life-style. He refuses himself clothes and entertainment and spends most of his time at the work desk. The money that he earns for his work he brings into his family.
D: Is it necessary for literary translators of poetry to be well acquainted with the author’s work in general?
Gr: Yes. For good translations, like those of Brodskii, it is necessary to know the author’s work and to truly understand his voice.
D: Does the payment decrease if one works using the interlinear?
Gr: It does. When I was doing a translation from Hungarian using the interlinear, I was receiving a ruble (old currency) less per line.
D: Is such method of translation common among the translators?
Gr: It is. One of the most prominent Leningrad translators, A. Gitovich, uses this method with translating from the Old Chinese.
D: Is it possible to learn a language on one’s own?
Gr: I learned two languages on my own in addition to those I learned at the university.
D: If Brodskii does not know Serbian, can he still produce a highly literary translation?
Gr: Of course.
D: Do you consider using a word for word translation as using someone else’s work?
Gr: God forbid.
Lebedeva, a member of the jury: I am now looking at the book. There are only two short poems by Brodskii in it.
Gr: I wish to explain a few things about the specifics of the literary work. The thing is that …
J: Don’t. So what is your opinion of Brodskii’s poetry?
Gr: In my opinion, as a poet, Brodskii is very talented, a lot more so than many of those who are considered to be professional translators.
J: And why is he working alone and does not go to any literary organizations?
Gr: In 1958 he asked to be accepted into my literary organization. However, I heard him to be a hysterical young man and did not accept him, pushing him away with my own hands. That was my mistake, which I greatly regret. I will gladly accept him now and will work with him if he so desires.
Tiagly, a member of the jury: Did you yourself ever see him work or did he use someone else’s work?
Gr: I never saw Brodskii sitting and writing. At the same time, I have never seen Sholokhov sit at a desk and write. And yet that does not mean …
J: It is indecent comparing Brodskii to Sholokhov. Didn’t you ever explain to the youth that the government demands that they study? After all Brodskii only finished seven grades.
Gr: His knowledge is extensive. I am convinced of that after reading his poetry.
S: Did you ever read his bad, pornographic poems?
Gr: No, never.
D: I would like to ask you something. The results of Brodskii’s work for 1963 is as follows: Poems in the book Dawn Over Cuba, translation of Galczynski’s poems (though not yet published), poems in the book Yugoslavian Poets, the gaucho songs and publication in The Flame. Can this be considered serious work?
Gr: Absolutely. it is a full year’s work. As for the money, this work may not necessarily produce profits today, but in a few years. It is wrong to judge a young poet by the sum that he had received. He may not be lucky in the beginning and additional work may be required. As the joke goes: The difference between a parasite and a starting-out poet is that the parasite eats but does not work, while the poet works but may not always eat.
J: The court does not appreciate that remark. In our country, a man earns according to his work. Therefore, it can not be that a man who works a lot does not receive much. In our country where young poets are treated with such regard, how can you say that they starve? Why did you say that the young poets do not eat?
Gr: I did not say that. I simply suggested that there is truth to every joke. Starting-out poets’ earnings are not at all proportional.
J: That depends on them. Besides, the court does not need such clarification. You have however explained that your comment was a joke. We will accept that.
(The next witness is called.)
J: Let me see the passport. Your last name is not very clear. (Takes the passport) Etkind … Efim Gershevich … Go ahead.
Etkind: (A member of the Writers’ Union and an instructor at the Herzen University.) In my position in the literary sphere and connected with the education of young translators, I often had to read and listen to the translations of young artists. About a year ago, I had a chance to get acquainted with the works of Brodskii. These were the translations of a wonderful Polish poet, Galczynski, whose poems were barely known to our readers and were almost never translated prior to this. I was tremendously impressed by the clarity of the poetic images, the musicality, the passion and the energy of the verse. I was also amazed by the fact that Brodskii mastered the Polish language on his own, without anyone’s help. He read Galczynski’s poems in Polish, with the same enthusiasm with which he read his Russian translations. I realized that I was dealing with a man of rare talent and what is not any less important, with capacity for work and assiduity. The translations which I had the chance to read later on, confirmed that opinion. These were, for example, the poems by the Cuban poet Fernandes, published in the book Dawn Over Cuba, and those of the contemporary Yugoslavian poets, printed in the edition of the State Literary Publications. I had many conversations with Brodskii and was amazed at his knowledge of American, English, and Polish literature.
Poetry translation is the most difficult job, which requires diligence, knowledge, and talent. On this path an artist may encounter numerous disappointments while the material gain is a thing of the distant future. one may translate poetry for a number of years without earning a ruble. Such work requires selfless love for poetry and work in general. Language, history, other cultures’ studies, all that does not happen right away. Everything I know about Brodskii convinces me that he has a great future as a poet-translator ahead of him. This is not merely my opinion. The bureau of the translators’ department, after finding out that the publishing house dissolved their contracts with Brodskii, made a unanimous decision about appealing to the director of the publishing house about giving Brodskii work and restoring with him the contracts.
I also know for a fact that this opinion is shared by the greatest authorities in the field of poetic translation, Marshak and Chukovskii, who are …
J: Speak only about yourself.
E: Brodskii must be given a chance as a poet-translator. Away from the big city, where there aren’t the needed books nor the literary sphere, this is very difficult, almost impossible. I repeat that in my opinion this path holds a great future before him. I must say that I was very surprised when I saw the announcement “Brodskii-the parasite, on trial.”
J: You did know about such a combination?
E: I did. However I did not think that the court would accept this. Keeping in mind Brodskii’s poetic technique, there was nothing to prevent him from hack work. He could have easily translated hundreds of lines if he were doing that in a relaxed manner. The fact that he did not earn much does not at all mean that he is not a hard worker.
J: And why is he not a member of any organization?
E: He attended our translators’ seminars.
J: Well, seminars.
E: He fit into the seminars in the sense …
J: And without sense? (Laughter from the public) That is, I meant to ask, Why did he not belong to any organization?
E: We do not offer membership, that is why I can not say “belonged.” He came to us and read his translations.
J: (To Etkind) Did you have any problems at work or in your personal life?
E: (Puzzled) No. Actually I have not been at the university for the last two days. Perhaps something had happened.
(The question was perplexing for the public and apparently for the witness as well.)
J: Why is it that when you were talking about Brodskii’s knowledge you emphasized foreign literature? Why did you not speak of our literature?
E: I spoke with him as with a translator, and for that reason I was interested in his knowledge in the spheres of American, English, Polish literature. In those areas his knowledge is vast, diverse, non-superficial.
Smirnov: (A prosecution witness, in charge of the house of defense) I do not know Brodskii personally but I wish to say that if all citizens treated material earnings as he does, we won’t have communism for long. Intellect is a dangerous weapon for its possessor. Everyone was saying how bright he is, practically a genius. Yet nobody said what kind of man he is. He grew up in a cultured family, but had only finished seven grades. I would like to know how many of those sitting here today would want to have a son with a seven-grade education? He did not serve in the army, for the reason of being the sole provider for his family. So what kind of provider is he? It was said that he is a talented translator, but nobody is saying that he is confused. And what about his anti-Soviet lines?
B: That is not true.
Sm: He should change many of his ideas. I also question that excuse that he had received from the psychiatric clinic. It was simply that his mighty friends began ringing all the bells and asked: Oh, save the young man! He should be treated with forced labor, and then no mighty friends will be able to help him. I don’t know him personally, but I know of him from the press. And I have heard excuses. I question the medical excuse which released him from military service. I am not a doctor, but I question it.
Brodskii: When I was released from the service, I was released as the sole provider. My father was ill, in bed after a stroke, and I was working and earning a living. How do you know me to talk that way about me?
Sm: I got acquainted with your private diary.
B: On what grounds?
J: You do not have to answer that.
Sm: I read his poetry.
J: There are poems brought in evidence, which were not written by Brodskii. How do you know that the poems which you have read are really his? After all, you speak of poems not yet published.
Sm: I just know.
J: The next witness. Logunov.
L: (Assistant director of Hermitage, of the financial department.) I do not know Brodskii personally. I met him for the first time here in court. One can no longer live the way he does. I do not envy the parents of such a son. I’ve worked with writers and moved in their circles. I compare Brodskii with Oleg Shestinskii. Oleg traveled with the agitation brigade. He graduated from Leningrad State University and a university in Sofia. He also worked in the mines. What I wanted to say is that one must work, share all the cultural experiences. Then Brodskii’s poetry would be real poetry. He must start his life over again.
D: Witnesses should talk about facts. They …
J: You will evaluate their testimonies later on. Next witness, Denisov.
Den: (Pipe layer from the CPD-20) I do not know Brodskii personally. I know of him from our press. I am here as a citizen and the representative of the community. I was appalled by what I read about Brodskii in the press. I wanted to get familiarized with his work. I went to the library, his books were not there. I asked my friends whether they have heard of him. No one has. I am a worker. In my life, I only changed two jobs. I am not satisfied with Brodskii’s statement that he knew many trades … You can not learn a trade in such a short period of time. I heard here that Brodskii has some ability as a poet. Why, then, was he not a member of any organization? Does he not accept the theory of dialectical materialism? Engels after all maintained that work makes a person. Brodskii, however, is not satisfied with such a formula. He thinks otherwise. Perhaps he is very talented, then why does he not find recognition in our literature? Why is he not working? I wish to express my opinion, that I find his work activity unsatisfactory.
J: The court calls Mr. Nikolaev.
N: (Retired) I don’t know Brodskii personally. I just want to say that I know about him for the last three years by the detrimental influence that he has on his peers. I am a father. I have learned from personal experience what it’s like to have a son who does not work. I have often seen Brodskii’s poetry in my son’s possessions. There is a forty-two-part poem and separate poems as well. I also know Brodskii from the case of Umanskii. There is a saying: Tell me who your friends are and I will tell who you are. I knew Umanskii personally. He is renowned for being anti-Soviet. Listening to Brodskii, I heard my son. My son also says that he considers himself a genius. Like Brodskii, he does not want to work. People like Brodskii and Umanskii have a detrimental influence on their peers. I am surprised at Brodskii’s parents. It seemed that they supported him in unison. From the style of his poems it is apparent that Brodskii can write poetry. However, these poems caused nothing but harm. Brodskii is not merely a parasite. He is a militant parasite. People like him should be treated without mercy. (Applause)
Tiagly, the jury member: So you think that Brodskii’s poetry influenced your son?
J: In a negative manner?
D: And how do you know it was Brodskii’s poetry?
N: There was a folder. On it, it was written “Joseph Brodskii.” D: Did your son know Umanskii?
D: Then why do you think that it was Brodskii and not Umanskii who had the detrimental influence on your son?
N: I consider Brodskii and the likes of him to be of the same cloth. Brodskii’s poems are shameful and anti-Soviet.
B: What are my anti-Soviet poems? Recite at least one line.
J: I forbid it.
B: But I would like to know what poems he is talking about. Perhaps they are not mine.
N: If I knew that I would be speaking to the court, I would make copies and bring them in.
J: The court calls Romashova.
R: (An instructor of Marxist-Leninist theory at the Mukhina School) I do not know Brodskii personally, but I know of his so-called activity. Pushkin said that talent is above all work. But look at Brodskii. Does he work? Does he do anything to make his poems comprehensible for the people? I am surprised that my colleagues are creating such a halo around him. After all, it is only in the Soviet state that the court speaks to him so benevolently, advising him to study in such a friendly manner. I, as a secretary of the party organization, of the Mukhina School, can honestly say that he influences the youth in a negative way.
D: Did you ever see Brodskii?
R: No. But his so-called activity allows me to judge him.
J: Can you give us more facts?
R: Being an educator of youth, I know their opinions of his poetry.
D: Are you yourself familiar with his poetry?
R: I am. It is horrible. I can not repeat his poems. They are awful.
J: The court calls Mr. Admoni. May I see your passport since the last name is quite unusual?
Admoni: (A professor at Herzen University. A linguist, a man of literature, a translator.) When I heard that Joseph Brodskii is being tried for parasitism, I felt it my duty to express my opinion to the court. I consider myself to have every right to do so, since I’ve worked with the youth for about thirty years now as a university professor and also in view of the fact that I have been doing translations for many years.
I barely know Joseph Brodskii. We greet each other but have never exchanged more than two phrases. However, in the course of the last year, perhaps a bit longer, I have been following his translations intently, through his appearances at the translators’ evenings and in publications. I was doing that because these translations were competent and expressive. Based on the translations of Galczynski, Fernandes, and others, I can wholeheartedly say that they demanded tremendous work from the author. They serve as proof of the great skill and culture of the translator. Miracles do not happen. Neither skill nor culture come by themselves. They require constant and persistent work. Even if the translator is using the interlinear he must have a good conception of the language from which he is translating, feel the structure of that language, know the life and the culture of its people, etc., in order for the translation to be of real value. Besides doing all that, Brodskii was also studying the languages themselves. It is therefore clear to me that he worked, worked intensely and persistently, And after finding out today that he has only finished seven grades, I understood that his task of acquiring such skill and culture, which he possesses, was truly immense. One may use the words of Maiakovskii, “You exhaust one word for the sake of a thousand tons of verbal ore,” when one speaks of the work of a poet-translator.
The statute used in the accusation against Brodskii is directed at those who do not work a lot, rather than those who do not earn a lot. For that reason the accusation of parasitism against Brodskii is absurd. A man who works as much as Brodskii, who works persistently without thinking of large profit, who is ready to restrict himself to the necessities so that he could only master his art and create true literary works, can not be accused of being a parasite.
J: What is it that you said about not judging those who do not earn a lot?
A: I said that according to this statute those judged should not be the ones who do not earn a lot but those who do not work a lot.
J: What do you mean by that? Did you read statute which says that communism is achieved only through the work of millions?
A: Any work which benefits the society should be respected.
Tiagly: Where did Brodskii read his translations and in what languages did he read?
A: (Smiling) He read in Russian. He translates from foreign languages into Russian.
J: If a simple person asks you a question, you must answer him and not smile.
A: I am explaining that he was translating from Polish and Serbian into Russian.
J: Address the court not the public.
A: I apologize. It is a habit of a professor to speak to the audience.
J: Mr. Voevodin (a witness), do you know Brodskii…
CONVERSATIONS IN THE COURTROOM
“Writers. We should get rid of all of them.”
“Intellectuals! They sit on our back.”
“What about the intellectuals? Don’t you think they work also?”
“And what are you? Look how she is working using someone else’s labor.”
“I can also get an interlinear and start translating poetry.”
“Do you know what an interlinear is? Do you know how a poet uses it?”
“I know Brodskii. He is a good man and a good poet.”
“He’s anti-Soviet. Did you hear the prosecutor?”
“Did you hear what the defense attorney said?”
“She spoke for money, the prosecutor did it for free. That means he is right. ”
“Of course. All those defense attorneys want is the money. The more the better. Everything else does not concern them.”
“That is nonsense.”
“Are you insulting me? Careful or I’ll call the bailiff. Did you hear what the prosecution recited?”
“He wrote that a long time ago.”
“I am a teacher. If I did not believe in education, what kind of teacher would I be?”
“You see what is happening to our children?”
“But Brodskii wasn’t even given a chance to defend himself.”
“That’s enough. We have heard enough of your Brodskii.”
“Hey you! You are the one who was taking notes. Why were you taking notes?”
“I am a journalist. I write about education, and I want to write about this.”
“What’s there to write about? Everything is clear here.”
“All of you are in this together. We should take away your notes ”
“So what will happen?”
“Try it and you’ll see. ”
“So you are threatening me! Bailiff! I’m being threatened!”
“He is a bailiff and not a policeman, to jump at every word.”
“Bailiff, you are being called a policeman! You should all be thrown out of Leningrad! Then you’d find out what it is all about. You parasites!”
“Comrades, what are you talking about? He will be vindicated. Didn’t you hear the defense attorney?”
The judge comes back and the verdict is read:
“Brodskii systematically did not perform the duties of Soviet man of producing material good and providing for himself. That is apparent from his numerous changes of jobs. He was warned by the department of Moscow State Security in 1961 and by police in 1963. He promised to find permanent employment but did not. He continued not working. He continued writing and reading his decadent poems. From the deposition of the Committee working with the young poets, it is apparent that he was not considered a poet. He was criticized by the readers of The Evening Leningrad. For those reasons the court in accordance with the statute of 54.1961 sentences Brodskii to five years of internal exile and hard labor.”
The bailiffs passing the defense attorney: So? Guess you lost the case, comrade attorney.
Source: Jonathan Eisen, ed., Glasnost Reader (New York: New American Library, 1990), pp. 60-77.
Annotated Bibliography Samples
This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-20 13:19:26
For a sample of an entry from an annotated bibliography entry in PDF, click on the downloadable file in the media box above.
Below you will find sample annotations from annotated bibliographies, each with a different research project. Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.
As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.
Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left.
Sample MLA Annotation
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor Books, 1995.
Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecuritiesand failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters inLamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic.
In the process, Lamottincludes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.
Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.
In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.
For information on formatting MLA citations, see our MLA 2016 Formatting and Style Guide.
Sample APA Annotation
Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.
An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.
The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.
For information on formatting APA citations, see our APA Formatting and Style Guide.
Sample Chicago Manual of Style Annotation
Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.
Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.
This annotation includes only one paragraph, a summary of the book. It provides a concise description of the project and the book's project and its major features.
For information on formatting Chicago Style citations, see our Chicago Manual of Style resources.