July 01, 2015

Travel Notes

Lovers of Joseph’s Brodsky’s poetry finally succeeded in making his ancestral home in St. Petersburg into a memorial space. The kommunalka in the city center was inhabited by Brodsky and his parents, and the poet lived there between 1955 and 1972, when he was forced to emigrate. The museum is now informally called the “Room-and-a-Half” – the name Brodsky gave his former home in one of his poems. The family occupied two rooms, but a large part of one was taken up by a photo lab used by the poet’s father.

Efforts to make the apartment into some form of a museum failed for two decades, due to the fact that the other rooms were continually inhabited by neighbors. One woman refused to move, forcing organizers to completely seal off her part of the property and the front door, and make the museum accessible only via what used to be a servants’ entrance from a back stairwell. The museum is not completely finished, and pesky mildew problems have prevented its curators (who also run the city’s Akhmatova Museum) from bringing in valuable historic items and manuscripts.

For now, the space is more of a symbolic tribute to Brodsky’s life in Russia, with sculpture busts arranged in the communal kitchen to represent the public accusing him of “parasitism” at his infamous trial. In another room, historic footage is projected on the wall while Brodsky’s voice recites his poetry.

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