The Word That Causes Death’s Defeat: Poems of Memory (Annals of Communism)
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Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966), one of twentieth-century Russia’s greatest poets, was viewed as a dangerous element by post-Revolution authorities. One of the few unrepentant poets to survive the Bolshevik revolution and subsequent Stalinist purges, she set for herself the artistic task of preserving the memory of pre-Revolutionary cultural heritage and of those who had been silenced. This book presents Nancy K. Anderson’s superb translations of three of Akhmatova’s most important poems: Requiem, a commemoration of the victims of Stalin’s Terror; The Way of All the Earth, a work to which the poet returned repeatedly over the last quarter-century of her life and which combines Old Russian motifs with the modernist search for a lost past; and Poem Without a Hero, widely admired as the poet’s magnum opus.
Each poem is accompanied by extensive commentary. The complex and allusive Poem Without a Hero is also provided with an extensive critical commentary that draws on the poet’s manuscripts and private notebooks. Anderson offers relevant facts about the poet’s life and an overview of the political and cultural forces that shaped her work. The resulting volume enables English-language readers to gain a deeper level of understanding of Akhmatova’s poems and how and why they were created.
25 Biographical and Historical Background calling for the Provisional Government to step down and yield all power to the soviets turned violent, as pro- and antigovernment soldiers ﬁred on each other. In the end the demonstrations ﬁzzled as the Petrograd Soviet refused to assume sole leadership of the government, but the possibility of civil war still hung in the air. On August 16 Akhmatova wrote to Lozinsky, ‘‘Today I got a letter from Valya Sreznevskaya, which starts with: it seems that more
toward the abyss; when everyone else accompanying her had stopped, he alone continued with her up to the very edge of the pit and called after her as she fell. Throughout 1939 and 1940, Akhmatova’s domestic situation was an 80 Terror and the Muse extremely difﬁcult one. Since she was clearly no longer a member of the Punin family, the other members of the household wanted her to move out. The small apartment had become even noisier and more crowded when Irina Punina got married in September
bohemia not only for her beauty, but also for her gifts as an actress and dancer. If her talent was not of a type that would last through the centuries, it was nevertheless intensely characteristic of its era, and her contemporaries recognized and admired it as such. As Akhmatova looked through Sudeikina’s papers, the faded past assumed a vivid reality. Akhmatova wrote years later, ‘‘Olga’s things . . . suddenly demanded their place under the poetic sun. They came to life for a moment, as it
keep going straight, Best go back to your father’s, His garden still waits.’’ 3 The evening draws on With its thickening gloom. When I walk to the corner Let Hoffmann come too. He knows just how hollow A stiﬂed scream sounds, And whose doppelganger Is wandering around. After all, it’s no joke That for twenty-ﬁve years I’ve been seeing the same Shadow ﬁgure appear. ‘‘So just round the corner? Go right—that’s it now? Thanks a lot!’’—There’s a ditch And nearby a small house. Who could know that the
rather than neoromantic. Every new artistic movement had its journal, and the increasingly vocal anti-Symbolist sentiment found its voice in the aptly named Apollon (Apollo), which started publishing in late 1909. Gumilyov regularly contributed critical articles. In October 1911, he joined with an older poet, Sergei Gorodetsky, to form a group calling itself the Poets’ Guild. Akhmatova was the group’s secretary and put out the bulletin of its monthly meetings. In March 1912, her ﬁrst book of