Monday, May 23, 2011

"A black Irish beer that disappears in the course of the creative process"

Brodsky describes the daily routines of Auden, with whom he briefly stayed in Austria (I assume in Kirchstetten though the article doesn't specify) after being kicked out of the USSR:
W. H. Auden drinks his first martini dry at 7:30 in the morning, after which he sorts his mail and reads the paper, marking the occasion with a mix of sherry and scotch. After this he has breakfast, which can consist of anything so long as it’s accompanied by the local dry pink and white, I don’t remember in which order. At this point he sets to work. Probably because he uses a ballpoint pen, he keeps on the desk next to him, instead of an inkwell, a bottle or can of Guinness, which is a black Irish beer that disappears in the course of the creative process. At around 1 o’clock he has lunch. Depending on the menu, this lunch is decorated by this or that rooster’s tail, or cocktail. After lunch, a nap, which is, I think, the only dry point of the day.
This is from a New Yorker profile of Brodsky (who apparently wasn't gay; for some reason I had always assumed he was). There are some vaguely pleasant renderings of Brodsky's poems; I must say that, although he has technically been fortunate in his translators (Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht, ...), they have tended to overdo the house-training; I've never managed to get a handle on the idiosyncrasy (in the Fowlerian sense) of Brodsky's work. 

Cf. Lydia Davis on Auden's sleeping habits.

1 comment:

John Hayes said...

I can understand why he might want a nap at that point.