Anna Akhmatova Biography

Anna Akhmatova (June 23 [O.S. June 11] 1889 — March 5, 1966) was the pen name of Anna Andreevna Gorenko, theleader and the heart and soul of St Petersburg tradition of Russian poetry in the course of half a century.

Akhmatova's work ranges from short lyric poems to universalized, ingeniously structured cycles, such as Requiem (1935-40), her tragic masterpiece on the Stalinist terror. Her work addresses a variety of themes including time and memory, the fate of creative women, and the difficulties of living and writing in the shadow of Stalinism.

Early life

Akhmatova was born in Bolshoy Fontan near Odessa. Her childhood does not appear to have been happy; her parents separated in 1905. She was educated in Kiev, Tsarskoe Selo, and the Smolny Institute of St Petersburg. Anna started writing poetry at the age of 11, inspired by her favourite poets: Racine, Pushkin, and Baratynsky. As her father did not want to see any verses printed under his "respectable" name, she had to adopt the surname of one of her Tatar ancestors as a pseudonym.

Grey-Eyed King (1910)

Hail to thee, o, inconsolate pain!
The young grey-eyed king has been yesterday slain.

That autumnal evening was stuffy and red.
My husband, returning, had quietly said,

"He'd left for his hunting; they carried him home;
They found him under the old oak's dome.

I pity his queen. He, so young, passed away!...
During one night her black hair turned to grey."

He picked up his pipe from the fireplace shelf,
And went off to work for the night by himself.

Now my daughter I will wake up and rise --
And I will look in her little grey eyes...

And murmuring poplars outside can be heard:
Your king is no longer here on this earth. [1]

In 1910, she married the boyish poet Nikolay Gumilyov, who very soon left her for hunting lions in Africa, the battlefields of the World War I, and the society of Parisian grisettes. Her husband didn't take her poems seriously and was shocked when Alexander Blok declared to him that he preferred her poems to his. Their son, Lev, born in 1912, was to become a famous Neo-Eurasianist historian.

Silver Age
Anna Akhmatova by Amedeo Modigliani, 1911
Anna Akhmatova by Amedeo Modigliani, 1911

In 1912, she published her first collection, entitled Evening. It contained brief, psychologically taut pieces which English readers may find distantly reminiscent of Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy. They were acclaimed for their classical diction, telling details, and the skilful use of colour.

By the time her second collection, the Rosary, appeared in 1914, there were thousands of women composing their poems "after Akhmatova". Her early poems usually picture a man and a woman involved in the most poignant, ambiguous moment of their relationship. Such pieces were much imitated and later parodied by Nabokov and others. Akhmatova was prompted to exclaim: "I taught our women how to speak but don't know how to make them silent".

Together with her husband, Akhmatova enjoyed a high reputation in the circle of Acmeist poets. Her aristocratic manners and artistic integrity won her the titles of the "Queen of the Neva" and the "soul of the Silver Age", as the period came to be known in the history of Russian poetry. Many decades later, she would recall this blessed time of her life in the longest of her works, the "Poem Without Hero" (1940–65), inspired by Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.

The accursed years

Nikolay Gumilyov was executed in 1921 for activities considered anti-Soviet; Akhmatova presently remarried a prominent Assyriologist Vladimir Shilejko, and then another scholar, Nikolay Punin, who died in the Stalinist camps. After that, she spurned several proposals from the married poet Boris Pasternak.

My Way (1940)

One goes in straightforward ways,
One in a circle roams:
Waits for a girl of his gone days,
Or for returning home.

But I do go -- and woe is there --
By a way nor straight, nor broad,
But into never and nowhere,
Like trains -- off the railroad.

During the whole period from 1925 to 1952, Akhmatova was effectively silenced, unable to publish poetry. She earned her living by translating Leopardi and publishing some brilliant essays on Pushkin in scholarly periodicals. All of her friends either emigrated or were repressed.

Only a few people in the West suspected that she was still alive, when she was allowed to publish a collection of new poems in 1940. During the Great Patriotic War, when she witnessed the nightmare of the 900-Day Siege, her patriotic poems found their way to the front pages of the Pravda. After Akhmatova returned to Leningrad following the Central Asian evacuation in 1944, she was disconcerted with "a terrible ghost that pretended to be my city".

Upon learning about Isaiah Berlin's visit to Akhmatova in 1946, Stalin's associate Andrei Zhdanov publicly labelled her "half harlot, half nun", and had her poems banned from publication. Her son spent his youth in Stalinist gulags, and she even resorted to publishing several poems in praise of Stalin to secure his release. Their relations remained strained, however.

The thaw
Anna Akhmatova by Zinaida Serebryakova, 1922
Anna Akhmatova by Zinaida Serebryakova, 1922

After Stalin's death, Akhmatova's preeminence among Russian poets was grudgingly conceded even by party officials. Her later pieces, composed in neoclassical rhyming and mood, seem to be the voice of many she has outlived. Her dacha in Komarovo was frequented by Joseph Brodsky and other young poets, who continued Akhmatova's traditions of St Petersburg poetry into the 21th century.

Akhmatova got a chance to meet some of her pre-revolutionary acquaintances in 1965, when she was allowed to travel to Sicily and England, in order to receive the Taormina prize and the honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University (in the trip she was accompanied by her life-long friend and secretary Lydia Chukovskaya). In 1962, her dacha was visited by Robert Frost.

Song of the Last Meeting (1911)

My breast grew helplessly cold,
But my steps were light.
I pulled the glove from my left hand
Mistakenly onto my right.

It seemed there were so many steps,
But I knew there were only three!
Amidst the maples an autumn whisper
Pleaded: "Die with me!

I'm led astray by evil
Fate, so black and so untrue."
I answered: "I, too, dear one!
I, too, will die with you..."

This is a song of the final meeting.
I glanced at the house's dark frame.
Only bedroom candles burning
With an indifferent yellow flame.

Akhmatova's reputation continued to grow after her death, and it was in the year of her centenary that one of the greatest poetic monuments of the 20th century, Akhmatova's Requiem, was finally published in her homeland.

There is a museum devoted to Akhmatova at the Fountain House (more properly known as the Sheremetev Palace) on the Fontanka Embankment, where Akhmatova lived from the mid 1920s until 1952.

2009-04-03   3327    Печать

Рекомендуем также посмотреть:

Ottawa city/ Capital of Canada (2527)
King Lear - Shakespeare (3993)
Christmas (2431)
Red Armys Day (4418)
USA Holidays (2347)

Ключевые слова для этой статьи: