Hope against Hope, her first volume of memoirs, is a vivid and disturbing account of her last four years with her husband, the efforts she made to secure his release, to rescue his manuscripts from oblivion, and later, tragically, to discover the truth about his mysterious death.
Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam was born in Saratov in 1899, but spent her early life in Kiev, studying art and travelling widely in Western Europe. She learned English, French and German fluently enough to undertake extensive translation work, which supported her in the hard years ahead. She met the poet Osip Mandelstam in Kiev in 1919, and they married in 1922. From then until Osip's death, her life was so inextricably linked with her husband's that without her extraordinary courage and fortitude most of his work would have died with him. She spent the Second World War in Tashkent, teaching English and sharing a house with her close friend the poet Anna Akhmatova. After the war she led an inconspicuous existence as a teacher of English in remote provincial towns. In 1964 she was granted permission to return to Moscow, where she began to write her memoir of the life she had shared with one of the greatest Russian poets of the twentieth century, and where she continued to preserve his works and his memory in the face of official disapproval. Nadezhda means 'hope' in Russian, and she herself chose the English titles for her two-volume memoirs. She died in 1980.