Saturday, June 4, 2011

At our feet

A couple of weeks ago a read Sigrid Nunez's fabulous "Sempre Susan: a memoir of Susan Sontag". The book is a very intimate view of one of America's greatest minds. You would absolutely adore it if you are a fan of Sontag's and find it just as fascinating if you haven't heard of her. It's a fantastic narrative of the complexities of artistic life and an interesting look at how one's ideas manifest in their professional and private life. The book is also quite gossipy, in the most brilliantly indulgent sort of way. I highly, highly recommend it. Also, I would like to share with you a passage that made me think of you all. It's about the beginning of Sontag's romance with the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky:

Joseph Brodsky had only recently settled in the United States-- he would become an American citizen the following year-- having lived first in different European cities after being expelled from his homeland, Soviet Russia, in 1972. He was only thirty-six, but a hard life had included near starvation during the German siege of Leningrad and a year and a half of compulsory farm labor (the part of a five-year sentence for "social parasitism" that he served in exile in northern Russia before the sentence was commuted), heavy smoking and heart disease had aged him. He was mostly bald, he was missing teeth, and he had a paunch. He wore the same soiled, baggy clothes every day. But to Susan he was intensely romantic. This was the beginning of a friendship that would last until his death in 1996, and in those early days she was smitten with him. Susan was one of those literary Americans for whom European writers would always be superior to native ones and for whom there was something particularly exalted and seductive about a Russian writer, above all a Russian poet. Joseph Brodsky came with laudations from, among others, W.H. Auden and Anna Akhmatova. He was a hero, too. A martyr, even: a writer who had been made to suffer like a criminal for his art. And everyone knew he was going to win the Nobel Prize. Susan was at his feet.
I wanted to share this with you because sometimes I feel that's how people perceive me. The more educated the person the more they respect East European intellectual history and very kindly, associate me with it. Sweet but oh so wrong.

LOL is right.

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