Osip Mandelstam visited Armenia in 1930, and during the eight months of his stay he rediscovered his poetic voice and was inspired to write an experimental meditation on the country and its ancient culture. 'Armenia brought him back to his true self, a self depending on the "inner ear" which could never play a poet false. There was everything congenial to him in this country of red and ochre landscape, ancient churches, and resonant pottery.' (Henry Gifford). Conversation about Dante, Mandelstam's incomparable apologia for poetic freedom and challenge to the Bolshevik establishment, was dictated by the poet to his wife, Nadezhda Mandelstam, in 1934-35, during the last phase of his itinerant life. It has close ties to the Journey.
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam (January 15 [O.S. January 3] 1891 - December 27, 1938) was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was arrested by Joseph Stalin's government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into internal exile with his wife Nadezhda. Given a reprieve of sorts, they moved to Voronezh in southwestern Russia. In 1938 Mandelstam was arrested again and sentenced to a camp in Siberia. He died that year at a transit camp.