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Joseph Brodsky papers from the archives of the Katilius family, 1966-1997

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by Elga Zalite |
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Ramūnas Katilius, Joseph Brodsky and Lithuanian poet Tomas Venclova

In June 2013, the Special Collections department of Stanford University Libraries acquired 8 manuscript boxes of Joseph Brodsky’s papers from Lithuania, materials that had belonged to the family of Ramūnas and Elmira Katilius.

In 1966, soon after his return from exile to the North of Russia, Joseph Brodsky, then a Russian dissident poet, later a Nobel laureate, came to Lithuania, where he found new and devoted friends, including the Katilius family. This friendship, which developed first in Vilnius and then in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), lasted until Brodsky’s forced emigration from the Soviet Union and continued during his subsequent life in the West.

Over the years, Ramūnas Katilius assembled a wide range of documents concerning Joseph Brodsky’s personality and his creative work. The most valuable section, the core of the newly acquired collection, consists of handwritten manuscripts and those typed by the poet on his personal small-character typewriter. The original materials in the papers include Brodsky’s drawings, letters, postcards and photographs. The collection also contains a Samizdat collection of Joseph Brodsky’s poetry in 3 volumes, as well as some early published works, his translations of poetry and drama into the Russian language.

Ramūnas and Elmira Katilius also collected printed materials about Joseph Brodsky’s public activities, his interviews for different journals and articles on the poet’s relations with Lithuania and his friends. The latter include Tomas Venclova, Czeslaw Milosz and Yevgeny Rein. Articles and printed ephemera cover the time period from 1966 until 2011, with the bulk of material dating from 1966 to 1997.

This collection, which uncovers a very special and less known angle of Joseph Brodsky’s life, can be considered an archive of friendship. The collection is an important complement to the main collection of Brodsky’s papers in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Yale University and materials in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg.

For background on how the collection came to SUL, see Cynthia Haven's article "From Russia, via Lithuania, With Love," Stanford Magazine, September/October 2013, http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=64337.

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An online finding aid to the collection, Guide to the Joseph Brodsky papers from the archives of the Katilius family, is available at: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8k35w48/

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