This collection of essays thrusts Joseph Brodsky—previously known more for his poetry and translations—into the forefront of the “Third Wave” of Russian émigré writers. Originally published the year before Brodsky received the Nobel Prize in Literature, Less Than One includes intimate literary essays and autobiographical pieces that evoke the daily discomfort of living under tyranny. His insights into the works of Dostoevsky, Mandelstam, and Platonov, as well as the non-Russian poets Auden, Cavafy and Montale are brilliant; Seamus Heaney said of Brodsky’s treatment of one of Auden's most famous poems, “There will be no greater paean to poetry as the breath and finer spirit of all human knowledge than Brodsky’s line-by-line commentary on ‘September 1, 1939.’”
Less than One, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, was Brodsky’s first published work of prose, and “if there’s an essential essay collection . . . it’s this one” (The Guardian). This edition, reissued to mark Brodsky’s eightieth birthday, allows the reader to delve into the Nobel laureate’s mastery of language, through both his analysis of great works and his own brand of descriptive dissent, at a pivotal point in his career.