Anna Akhmatova is one of the most accomplished and well loved poets Russia has ever produced. Her moving and passionate writing has won her an ardent readership all over the world. This selection, beautifully translated by poet and novelist D.M. Thomas, illustrates her broad scope and brilliant imaginative gifts. It covers both her earlier work and the poems she produced during her persecution by the Russian authorities.
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Once, when young, she had written the lines which lovers quoted to one another. Later she provided words which thousands of men and women repeated under their breath, as they suffered, feared and waited. - Observer
The greatest Russian poetess of the twentieth century -
Her fortitude and independence, the breadth of her compassion and the clarity of her realistic vision erased the line between herself and others; her intensely personal lyrics became the void of her nation's tragedy - New York Times Book Review
The extraordinary misery of her life and the extraordinary merits of her poems make Anna Akhmatova one of the great literary figures of modern times - Economist
Tragedy did not wither her: it crowned her with majesty...Her life, in Keats's phrase, became 'a continual allegory', its strands interwoven with the story of a people. Indeed, her poems can be read in sequence as a 20th-century Russian chronicle -
Her Poem Without a Hero is perhaps one of the greatest poems of the 20th century - Guardian
A timeless poet of Stalin's reign who more than anyone captured its seething fear and hopelessness - The Times
Beautiful, clever... she came to represent the aspirations of so many, putting real flesh on Shelley's aphorism about poets, not tyrants, being the unacknowledged legislators of the world - Sunday Telegraph
Her poems always lift me up. She elevates emotions, makes them almost sacred...I always find her a real solace and an incredible inspiration -
Not an easy person, but a grand one, and a great poet, described by one of her friends as 'trailing behind her an invisible mantle of fame, sorrow, great losses, hurts' - Sunday Times
This translation retains all the power that has made her verse so famous both in Russia and throughout the world. - Contemporary Review
Anna Akhmatova was born on 23 June 1889 in Odessa and grew up in Tsarskoe Selo, the imperial summer residence outside St Petersburg. Her parents separated in 1905 and she moved with her mother and siblings to the Crimea. She published her first poems in 1907. In 1910 she married the poet Nikolai Gumilev, the founder of the Acmeist school of poetry. Her collections of poetry Evening (1912), Rosary (1914), White Flock (1917), Plantain (1921) and Anno Domini MCMXXI (1921) were published to great acclaim. She and Gumilev had a son, Lev, in 1912 and divorced in 1918. Gumilev was executed for conspiracy by the Bolshevik authorities in 1921 and after this Akhmatova was treated as an enemy of the state. None of her poetry was published between 1922 and 1940 and her son was arrested and imprisoned three times between 1934 and 1956. From Six Books was published in 1940 but in 1946 she was expelled from the Union of Writers and her next major collection, The Flight of Time, did not appear until 1965. Anna Akhmatova died on 5 March 1966 and her requiem mass was attended by over five thousand mourners.