Anna Akhmatova. A poetic pilgrimage

Anna Akhmatova. A poetic pilgrimage

Oxford Paperbacks, 1990


The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova had already found fame before World War I, but after 1917 her very existence was threatened by the fact that she wrote poetry. Her first husband was executed by the regime, and their son spent 14 years in Soviet Labour camps for no apparent reason except that he was their son. Another husband also died in a camp. Akhamatova herself suffered much personal hardship and critical abuse, and for a quarter of a century - from 1925 to 1940 and again from 1946 to 1956 - was banned from publishing her work. Yet she continued to write, steadfastly refusing to go into exile as many of her friends had done, and her great poems "Requiem" and "Poem without a Hero" were the product of those years of silence. She seemed only to gain strength from all that threatened her. When, in her sixties, she was rehabilitated and hailed as her country's foremost woman poet, she accepted the honours that came to her not just for herself but for all those poets of what she called the "true twentieth century", among them her contemporaries Mandelshtam and Gumilyov, who had not survived to receive them.

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