New East Digital Archive

Stanford University buys Joseph Brodsky archive from Lithuania

Stanford University buys Joseph Brodsky archive from Lithuania
Josef Brodsky teaching at University of Michigan in 1972. Photograph: Wikipedia Commons

17 October 2013

Stanford University has acquired eight boxes of letters, drawings, poems and more belonging to the Nobel prize-winning Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, from the archives of a Lithuanian family. The university’s library acquired the cache from Ramunas and Elmira Katilius, who hosted Brodsky during a sojourn in Lithuania in 1966. Brodsky travelled to Vilnius shortly after completing 18 months of hard labour near the Arctic Circle for “having a worldview damaging to the state” and “social parasitism”.

His visit marked the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the Katilius family as well as with Lithuania, where he frequently escaped to towards the end of the Soviet Union. The poet eventually emigrated to the US where he kept up his friendship with the family. While in the US, Brodsky taught at several universities and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987. He died nine years later at the age of 55.

The archive includes handwritten and typed manuscripts, drawings, letters, postcards and photographs. It also contains a samizdat collection of Brodsky’s poetry in three volumes as well as his early attempts at writing poetry in English.