05 July 2015

I am quite convinced that without such a ‘we’, there can be no proper fulfilment of even the most ordinary ‘I’, that is, of the personality. To find its fulfilment, the ‘I’ needs at least two complementary dimensions: ‘we’ and – if it is fortunate – ‘you’. I think M. was lucky to have had a moment in his life when he was linked by the pronoun ‘we’ with a group of others.

And later: ‘A real community is unshakable, indubitable, and enduring. It cannot be broken up, pulled apart, or destroyed. It remains unaffected and whole even when the people united by it are already in their graves.’

Such cliques are not proof of the existence of a sense of fellowship, since they consist of individualists who are out to achieve only their own aims. They refer to themselves as “we”, but in this context the pronoun indicates only a plurality devoid of any deeper sense or significance.’ The underlying theme of the memoirs is this war between humanist values and the utilitarian system which was imposed by decree and then by terror,

one of her most memorable phrases, Nadezhda describes her husband’s work on a poem as a dig for ‘the nugget of harmony’, and in the same chapter comments that ‘the search for lost words is an attempt to remember what is still to be brought into being.’

Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam