The Stalin Epigram

  • by Robert Littell
  • Narrated by John Lee, Anne Flosnik
  • 10 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Stalin Epigram is a masterful rendering of the life of Osip Mandelstam, one of Russia's greatest poets of the 20th century. His heroic protest against the Stalin regime---particularly his outspoken criticism of the collectivization that drove millions of Russian peasants to starvation---finally reached its apex in 1934. When he composed a searing indictment of Stalin in a 16-line poem, secretly passed from person to person through recitation, the poet was arrested. It is widely accepted that Stalin himself was directly involved in Mandelstam's exile and his death in a Siberian transit camp in 1938. A master of historical detail and cultural authenticity, best-selling author Robert Littell based this novel in part on a memorable, intimate meeting with Mandelstam's wife in 1979. Narrated by Mandelstam's wife, his friends Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova, and Mandelstam himself, this lucid account of the relationships between the artists, politicians, and proletariat of Stalinist Russia is an astounding moment in history brought to life by a perceptive, immensely talented writer.

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What the Critics Say

"Littell is unflinching in his portrayal of Osip's tragic arc, bringing a troubled era of Russian history to rich, magnificent life." (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)
"Not since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich has an author captured the crushing sense of foreboding that hung over Uncle Joe’s Soviet state with the clear-eyed acuity that imbues every page of Robert Littell’s The Stalin Epigram. … [It’s also] a quintessentially Russian love story, which virtually guarantees that the rose’s thorn will outlive its petals." (BookPage)
"[T]here is a surreal quality to the story that makes it by turns gruesome, darkly absurd and hysterical. … The strength of this narrative lies in the straightforward description of the awful absurdities, the brutality, the bureaucratic pretzel logic and the mental and physical responses to it, that were required to survive Stalin’s regime." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

An Espionage Artist Smuggling Art into his Oeuvre

'The Stalin Epigram' is unlike any Littell novel I've read. It is sad, beautiful, complex. It is a writer not playing with words to earn a living, or to impress, or to get laid, or to sell one stupid book. It is a lonely poet casting a stone into a cave, writing a love note to a dead lover, or telling Stalin to take a flying leap. It is art and art is always a little mad.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

what was the point of this book?

There have been many outstanding narratives and histories about the tragic destiny of the great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, including his wife's first-rate memoir, Hope Abandoned. Stalin Epigram is not one of them. Robert Littell is singularly untalented when it comes to portraying real people and events, and tends to compensate by loading his fictionalized histories (such as The Company) with gossipy sex stories and empty bravado--call it the men's locker room version of Cold War history. Plus, Littell has a maddening tendency to introduce characters and plot lines that go nowhere at all--it's as if his imagination runs out in the middle of each chapter. The research is equally shabby--the secret police were not called the KGB in 1934, and St. Petersburg was called Leningrad. This audiobook was a complete waste of a audible credit.
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- Lanlady

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-13-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio