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Anna Akhmatova is recognised as the greatest woman poet of Russian literature. Her work has a classical perfection, drawn from Pushkin, and a passionate voice, which rises directly out of the drama of her own life. Many men fell in love with her beauty, yet all three of her marriages were brutally unhappy. Her life has a particular resonance for women. She began writing at a time when 'to think of a woman as a poet was absurd,' as she remarked ironically. Her genius soared above any such category; yet the human price she had to pay for that triumph was as a wife and mother. Her first husband was executed by the Bolsheviks; her only son spent sixteen years in the Gulag during Stalin's terror; her third husband died there. Although banned from publishing poetry for a quarter of a century this did not stop her writing in secret, which as Feinstein says 'gave voice to the suffering of the Russian people'. Her stubborn loyalty to friends in danger - Shostakovich, Mandelstam, Pasternak and the playwright Bulgakov - showed a courage few possess, and she became an iconic figure for those whom the Soviet regime repressed.This heroic role was sustained through illness (she had TB for much of her adult life), poverty and a lifelong conflict between womanly affections and the demands of her art. Another great Russian poet of the twentieth century, Marina Tsvetayeva, called her 'Anna of all the Russias' as if she were a Tsarina.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780297643098
ISBN-10: 0297643096
Format: Hardback
(242mm x 166mm x 35mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 30-Jun-2005
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Thoroughly engaging biography of the gloriously knotty Russian poet, by British poet, novelist and biographer Feinstein (Pushkin, 1999, etc.). The author's previous research into the life and work of Marina Tsvetayeva, for A Captive Lion (1987), provided a natural segue into her study of Akhmatova's long, tortured career. The poet emerges here as romantically capricious yet deeply pious, fiercely dedicated to her craft and to mentors such as Osip Mandelstam, Alexander Blok and Boris Pasternak. Akhmatova essentially refashioned herself a bohemian from aristocratic roots in Tsarskoye Selo, summer home to the tsars. She was devoted all her life to her kindly, beautiful mother. Her handsome, philandering father disapproved of poetry, so Anna Andreevna Gorenko took Akhmatova as a pen name. She believed from an early age that omens portended a remarkable destiny for her. Tall, elegant and thin, she married the wealthy poet Nikolay Gumilyov, an editor of the influential literary journal Apollon, mostly in order to flee the provinces and establish herself in pre-Revolutionary St. Petersburg. Her first volumes, Evening and Rosary, established her status at the Stray Dog Cafe, a legendary Petersburg hangout for intellectuals and artists. A dizzying number of dire affairs ensued, as well as two more damaging marriages. It all served as fuel for Akhmatova's creative fire, though the wild euphoria of revolution was followed by the embittering disillusionment of civil war and famine. Always in frail health, she refused to go into exile even as numerous friends, longtime lover and art critic Nikolay Punin and her sadly neglected son Lev Gumilyov were imprisoned, tortured and worse. Her work was disparaged as too decadent, too religious and too sentimental, but she endured, surviving the revolution and Soviet terror to secure a triumphant legacy. Feinstein's magisterial translations of Akhmatova's poetry further enrich this portrait of a mythic personality as vulnerable as she was implacable. A window to a dazzling lost age. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Elaine Feinstein

Elaine Feinstein is a prize-winning poet, novelist and biographer. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1980 and her work has been translated into many languages. She is the author of highly praised lives of Pushkin and Ted Hughes (the first biography).

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