The artist as transgressor in mandel'štam's poetry

Studies in East European Thought 36 (1-2):1-61 (1988)
In Mandel'tam's writing, artistic creativity is described as based on the indispensable yet contradictory modes of compliance and deviation. The artist, by his artistic nature, must be an obedient disciple to the tradition that inspires him, and, at the same time, a violator who renders what inspires him in an individual form. Thus, art implies iterability through novelty. In the totalitarian state, this double nature of art acquires a sinister context and brings the artist to an unavoidable conflict with the state. He has a choice between a servile compliance with the state's command and artistic independence. If the artist complies, he loses his ingenuity; if, on the other hand, he has the courage to break away from the established order, his fate is martyrdom. The criteria of truth and falsehood, the issue of loyalty, of compromise and collaboration or resistance become most relevant. Such words as outcast or non-contemporary acquire the meaning of non-collaborationist or enemy of the people. In the totalitarian state a genuine artist is viewed as a law-breaker, and his art leads him to crime. The notions of compliance and deviation cease being merely aesthetic terms and assume in Mandel'tam's poetry complex, subtle and tragic overtones.
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