The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell
A Novel

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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.

About Robert Littell

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ROBERT LITTELL is the author of sixteen previous novels and the nonfiction book For the Future of Israel, written with Shimon Peres, president of Israel. He has been awarded both the English Gold Dagger and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for his fiction. His novel The Company was a New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a television miniseries. He lives in France.
Published April 24, 2009 by Simon & Schuster. 385 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Against the advice—more accurately, the pleading—of his wife, friends and colleagues, he composes and publicly declaims an inflammatory, eventually infamous 16-line epigram that characterizes Stalin as a murderer, then describes the Soviet leader’s “cockroach whiskers” and fingers “fat as grubs.”...

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The Guardian

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In 1934, the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam composed a viciously sarcastic poem denouncing Stalin.

Jun 12 2010 | Read Full Review of The Stalin Epigram: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

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Jun 14 2010 | Read Full Review of The Stalin Epigram: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

Littell, who met with Osip’s wife in 1979 and recorded the story of his imprisonment and death, tells a harrowing, almost absurdist tale of imprisonment, exile, and death in the Soviet state.

May 17 2009 | Read Full Review of The Stalin Epigram: A Novel

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