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Anna Akhmatova : her poetry /

Main Author:
Other Authors: Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna, 1889-1966.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Berg, 1996
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SUMMARY

This superb introduction to the work of the famous Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1886-1966) begins with an account of her life in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg and Stalinist Russia, and focuses principally on her poetry. Incorporating all recent scholarship, the author traces the way in which Akhmatova's work reflects the tumultuous times in which she lived, and her emergence as the spokeswoman of her generation, to provide a long overdue account of her entire career.


Review by Choice Review

Wells (Curtin Univ., Australia) provides a well-written, readable study that begins with an objective, measured account of Akhmatova's life and "image." Although acknowledging that Akhmatova's life and times must necessarily shape her writing, the author concentrates primarily on the poetry, tracing the evolution of the poet's art, in which he finds continuities in themes and style. By looking at the patterns in the structure of each of her collections, he deciphers how form works to enhance and complement content. He sees shifts in emphasis of three basic subjects throughout her career: love, poetry, and politics. He concentrates on the poet's later, more "complex" works after providing a concise, competent reading of Akhamatova's early, "solipsistic" lyrics. Wells demonstrates an excellent command of the critical literature, judiciously citing both the poet and her interpreters. Without critical pretensions of his own, Wells has written an excellent, dispassionate, yet sensitive, introduction to Akhmatova, a vade mecum to her poetry, and an overview of her career and her place in the troubled cultural history of Russian in the 20th century. Though most useful to general readers, undergraduates, and graduate students, senior scholars can also learn from this book. C. A. Rydel; Grand Valley State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
AUTHOR NOTES

Anna Akhmatova, 1889 - 1966 Poet Anna Akhmatova was born in 1889 in Bolshoy Fontan near Odessa, Ukraine and was the daughter of a naval engineer. She attended a girls' gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo, Smolnyi Institute in St. Petersburg, Fundukleevskaia gymnasium (1906), law school (1907), and then moved to St. Petersburg to study literature. When she was 21, she became a member of the Acmeist group of poets, led by Nikolai Gumilev, who she married in 1910 and had one son with, Lev Gumilev. They were divorced in 1918 and that same year she married Vladimir Shileiko. This marriage also failed and she was later married to Nikolai Punin until his death in 1958. Her first husband was executed in 1921 for antirevolutionary activities; afterwards, she entered a period of almost complete poetic silence that lasted until 1940.

Akhmatova's first collection of poetry was "Vecher" ("Evening"), which appeared in 1912. Two years later, she gained fame with "Chyotki" ("Rosary" 1914). Her next collections were "Belaya Staya" ("The White Flock" 1917), "Podorozhnik" ("Plantain" 1921) and "Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922). For a brief time during World War II in 1940, several of her poems were published in the literary monthly Zvezda. In 1942, her poem "Courage" appeared on a front page of Pravda.

In 1941, following the German invasion, Akhmatova delivered an inspiring radio address to the women of Leningrad. She was evacuated to Tashkent where she read her poems to hospitalized soldiers. In an effort to gain freedom for her son who had been exiled to Siberia, Akhmatova's poems eulogizing Stalin appeared in several issues of the weekly magazine Ogonyok. "Poema Bez Geroya" (Poem Without a Hero, 1963) was begun in Leningrad in 1940 and was revised for over 20 years. It is divided into three parts and has no consistent plot or conventional hero. This poem wasn't published in the Soviet Union until 1976. "Rekviem" (Requiem, 1963) is a poem-cycle that was a literary monument to the victims of Stalin's Terror. The earliest poems were dated 1935 and the remainders were written from 1938-40. Requiem is ten short, numbered poems that deal with her personal experiences following the arrests of her husband, friends and son. The last poem reflects the grief of others who suffered loss during that time of terror.

Akhmatova was awarded the Etna-Taormina Price, an international poetry prize awarded in Italy in 1964, and received an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University in 1965. Anna Akhmatova died in 1966.

(Bowker Author Biography)


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