Anna of All the Russias (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
At the beginning of her great poem Rekviem (1963; Requiem, 1964), Anna Akhmatova wrote,In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad. . . . Standing behind was a young woman, with lips blue from the cold, who . . . asked me in a whisper (everyone whispered there), “Can you describe this?” And I said, “I can.” Then something like a smile passed fleetingly over what had once been her face.
In Requiem, Akhmatova made good her word, becoming, as she said in that work, the voice of a hundred million Russians enduring Stalin’s reign of terror. In another of her masterpieces, Poema bez geroya (1960; A Poem Without a Hero, 1973)over which she labored for more than twenty years, from 1940 to 1962she would compose an elegy for the beauty and the beautiful destroyed by revolution and two world wars.
Born in Bol’shoy Fontan, a small town near Odessa, on June 23, 1889, Anna Andreevna Gorenko was the third child of naval engineer Andrey Gorenko and his second wife, Inna. Anna grew up outside St. Petersburg at Tsarskoe Selo, where the tsars had their summer palace. Her family was not literary: Anna recalled that there was only one book of poetry in the house. Yet by the age of eleven she had begun to write poems, and by thirteen she had read the French symbolists, who deeply influenced her early work. The family spent their summers...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Booklist 102, no. 12 (February 15, 2006): 36.
Kirkus Reviews 74, no. 1 (January 1, 2006): 27.
London Review of Books, September 1, 2005, p. 13.
The Nation 283, no. 2 (July 10, 2006): 30-34.
The New Republic 234, no. 23 (June 19, 2006): 33-37.
The New York Review of Books 53, no. 11 (June 22, 2006): 40-42.
The New York Times Book Review 155 (March 19, 2006): 20.
Publishers Weekly 253, no. 1 (January 2, 2006): 46-47.
The Spectator 298 (July 2, 2005): 30-32.
The Times Literary Supplement, September 16, 2005, p. 13.
(The entire section is 55 words.)