The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center’s exhibition "Longing for world culture. A poet’s bookcase" is thought to put a new spin on Osip Mandelstam’s image through the remains of a book collection that survived to the present times thanks to Nadezhda Mandelstam and her will executor Yury Freidin. In the 1980-s it was confiscated and now it is anew presented to all the lovers of Russian poetry after being conserved for decades in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art.
Along with the books from Mandelstam’s personal collection the exhibition will feature texts that were a part of his reading list and nurtured his body of work that marks a groundbreaking phenomenon in construction and composition of the Russian poetry.
Life, work, artistic image and even an important myth of Mandelstam and his ‘beggarred lover’ as he used to call his wife would have not survived if it were not for numerous friends and contemporaries of Nadezhda Mandelstam whose letters and personal archival documents will be presented for the first time.
However, books have not brought only happyness and good fortune to the poet. The process of publishing of the adapted translation of "Till Eulenspiegel" by Charles de Coster marked not only a turning point in Mandelstam’s life but also triggered the creation of a violent and sarcastic "Fourth Prose" filled with anathemas to the Soviet literature and its actors. The exhibition will create a direct ‘dialogue’ between Mandelstam and his adversaries Arkady Gornfeld and David Zaslavsky seen through the letters and other documents of this ‘case’ made available to the large public.
Another section of the exhibition explores Mandelstam’s relationship with books through the history of the Jewish Theatre and the poet’s involvement in it. The famous essay on Solomon Mikhoels will be presented with the rare volume “Sculpture” by Joseph Chaikin written in Yiddish in the background, and the famous father’s ‘bookcase’ from the Noise of Time will be exhibited with the bookcases with the Hebrew textbook "Alef Bet" by Shargorodskaya illustrated by the poet’s epigrams protagonist Natan Altman. The artistic life of Kiev of the 1910-1920-s in which took part Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam will be told through Nadezhda Mandelstam’s letter to Nikolai Khardzhiev from 1960-s relating the events.
Special place is accorded to "The Egyptian Stamp" – Mandelstam’s prose work, to the image of the ‘stamp’ and to Valentin Parnakh who is believed to have inspired Mandelstam’s Parnok, character of the novel.
For the first time the Museum will present the Palestinian letters of Valentin Parnakh and Mikhail Gnesin from before and after the Great War and the archival materials of Parnakh’s "Pension Maubert" that will provide a larger context for Mandelstam’s prose work. The visitors will perhaps see the stamp itself that has long evaded scientific exploration. The exhibition will also include some rare materials related to Parnakh’s book "Jewish Poets, Victims of the Spanish Inquisition", among the protagonists of which Mandelstam was searching for his double.
The traditional narrative of "The Poet and the Book" completed with Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam’s editions in various languages collected by the poet’s widow will elevate the familiar image into the symbol of the world culture that does not exist without the author and the owners of the displayed books.