Lucy and Todd

Joseph Brodsky

In Stuff We Like on July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm

‘[Lenin’s] omnipresent images … plagued almost every textbook, every class wall, postage stamps, money, and what not…  There was baby Lenin, looking like a cherub in his blond curls.  Then Lenin in his twenties and thirties, bald and uptight, with that meaningless expression on his face that could be mistaken for anything, preferably a sense of purpose. …  Then there was an oldish Lenin, balder, with his wedge-like beard, in his three-piece dark suit, sometimes smiling, but most often addressing the “masses” from the top of an armored car or from the podium of some party congress, with a hand outstretched in the air.

There were also variants: Lenin in his worker’s cap, with a carnation pinned to his lapel; in a vest, sitting in his study, writing or reading; on a lakeside stump, scribbling his April Theses, or some other nonsense, al fresco.  Ultimately, Lenin in a paramilitary jacket on a garden bench next to Stalin, who was the only one to surpass Lenin in the ubiquitousness of his printed images. …

I think that coming to ignore those pictures was my first lesson in switching off, my first attempt at estrangement.  There were more to follow; in fact, the rest of my life can be viewed as a nonstop avoidance of its most importunate aspects.  I must say, I went quite far in that direction; perhaps too far.  Anything that bore a suggestion of repetitiveness became compromised and subject to removal.  That included phrases, trees, certain types of people, sometimes even physical pain; it affected many of my relationships.  In a way, I am grateful to Lenin.  Whatever there was in plenitude I immediately regarded as some sort of propaganda.’

From Less Than One

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