Voznesensky first appeared on the Soviet literary scene in 1958, during the struggle for freedom in the Soviet Union after the death of Joseph Stalin. He quickly showed his promise, and, with Yevgeny Yevtushenko, became known as one of the “angry young men” of Russian letters. At mass readings Voznesensky excited listeners with poems of rebellion and hope for renewal. With his thinly veiled allusions to historical despots he warned of a possible return to a Stalinesque reign of terror. As a consequence, he was kept under police surveillance and was reprimanded for his iconoclastic stance. However, Voznesensky couched his poems in such obscure metaphors and allusions that authorities found it difficult to charge him with treason. Thus he was spared home detention and revocation of his passport, as happened to Yevtushenko. Voznesensky could travel abroad and write his poetry relatively uncensored.
Because of his popularity and reputation, both at home and abroad, Voznesensky was instrumental in the struggle for democracy in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. He continued to write poetry of high caliber, while leading the rejuvenation of Russian poetry by bringing it closer to the mainstream of world poetry.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
Born in Moscow in 1933 to a well-educated family, Andrei Andreyevich Voznesensky was exposed to art and literature at an early age. His mother, a teacher, read him poetry and inspired his interest in major Russian writers. His father, a professor of engineering, introduced him to the work of the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, which would later inspire “I Am Goya,” one of Voznesensky’s best-known poems. While growing up, Voznesensky pursued interests in the arts, especially painting, but he did not focus on poetry until 1957, the year he completed a degree from the Moscow Institute of Architecture. Then, in a strange twist of fate, a fire at the institute destroyed his thesis project. For Voznesensky, this was a sign that his future lay not in architecture but in poetry.
In the same year, he met the famed Russian writer Boris Pasternak, with whom he had been corresponding. Pasternak served as a mentor for Voznesensky, but the younger poet quickly found his own voice. The similarities between the work of the two authors lie in their moral vision and their goals as writers to revive Russian literature after years of oppression under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. An essential difference is in their fates. In spite of an easing of government censorship following Stalin’s death in 1953, Pasternak was expelled from the powerful Soviet Writers’ Union for the 1957 publication of Doktor Zhivago (Doctor Zhivago, 1958). The...
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