Enigma of osip mandelstam's The Ode

The aim of this article is to present a consistent conception based on linguistic facts. The author does not discuss any arguments related to its creation. The problem of the hermeneutic analysis of Mandelstam's Ode lies in the debates about Mandelstam's reasons and aims of writing the poem. There are two basic concepts that explain the emergence and importance of The Ode, 1937. N. Mandelstam, E. Gerstein, A. Kushner, S. Averintsev, B. Sarnov consider that this poem was written with a disregard for the feeling of inner poetic righteousness, in order to protect his life. They explain the absurd and ridiculous images of the poem (such as "with Stalin's eyes a mountain is pushed apart", "the thick eyebrow at someone nearby flashing") by the fact that it was written under compulsion. The second group of scholars led by M.L. Gasparov believe in the sincere pro-Stalin sentiments of the poet. The stylistic awkwardness of The Ode is not considered by this group of researchers. The author makes an evidence-based, empirical analysis of the language structure of the poem, relying on the traditional grammar and literary analysis as well as on the tools of psycholinguistic analysis based on works of N. Chomsky, A. Korzybski, J. Grinder, R. Bandler. The author concludes that The Ode is written in the Aesopian language, it is an ambiguous text, a two-planned discourse. In the foreground the reader can see a eulogy to the Vozhd. However, it is a mock eulogy, a grotesque and sinister caricature. The Ode begins in the same way as a 1937 humorous poem by Mandelstam ("If I married an Egyptian woman . . ."), and every epithet, every speech structure describing peoples' Vozhd continues the same satirical line. For example, a number of adjectives have a pronounced negative connotation: sly, anxiously, rattlesnakes, greedy, rapacious, gloomy, painfully. ?nother proof is that Stalin is portrayed in a visual modality which is untypical for the poet. Mandelstam's lyrical hero is always a kinesthetic and a poet. But here the situation is reversed: the artist draws. The second meaning of the poem comes to what is really important to Mandelstam, like people's strength, people's happiness or the continuous movement of history and the role of the poet in this movement. In these lines he returns to his primary kinesthetic modality. And that is the ode. The lines dedicated to "pivotal happiness", "kids' games", "affectionate books", sound deep, poetic, musical in Mandelstam's way. Hence, the author believes that the poet neither betrays the sense of inner poetic righteousness for the sake of political expediency, nor becomes an ideologue of Stalinism. In The Ode Mandelstam combines two genres: the ode and the satire. Satire dispels the image of Stalin, it dispels fear and darkness enveloping his figure, and through the broken Stalin's grand portrait emerges an odic, lofty story: the life of people, the mission of the poet and their unity.

Tomsk State University
  • 1 Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, Moscow, Russian Federation
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Caricature; Grotesque; Idol; Ode; Odic style; Osip Mandelstam; Satiric style; Stalin
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