Anna Akhmatova 1888–1966
(Pseudonym of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko) Russian poet, translator, and essayist.
Akhmatova is often seen as Pasternak's successor in the Silver Age of Russian poetry and is generally considered the finest woman poet Russia has produced. Participating with the Acmeists in a reaction against symbolist poetry, she wrote in a concise and accessible style. Words are used logically, imagery is concrete. Hers is an intimate and authentic poetry, showing a love of nature, of Russia, and of love itself.
Akhmatova's early collections of poetry, notably, Vecher (Evening), Chotki (Rosary), and Belaya Staya (The White Flock) contain lyric self-portraits and intensely personal reflections on love and love's sorrows. They nevertheless grope towards the making of universally true statements and do so, in the opinion of many critics, with admirable success. Critics acclaim Akhmatova's ability to reach the general through her own experiences. Written in the clear and exacting style for which she is renowned, Akhmatova's early works are often seen as the chronicle of a passionate woman's movement from love through pain and bitterness to a restoration of faith in love and life.
Although Akhmatova continued to write, after the publication of her Anno Domini MCMXII in 1921, she did not publish another collection until her Iz shesti knig (From Six Books) appeared in 1940. In this period of silence, she suffered great personal tragedy. Akhmatova's first husband, the poet Nikolai Gumilev, was executed as a counterrevolutionary and their only son was sentenced to a prison camp. He was not finally released until after the death of Stalin. Akhmatova's work of this period reflects her anguish over these events and shows a more overt love of country than her earlier works. As war and revolution spread through Russia, Akhmatova wrote of both her own losses and those suffered by all Russian people.
Akhmatova was expelled from the Writer's Union in 1946 and her work was banned from publication until after Stalin's death. She nevertheless continued to record the terrors of his regime in her poetry and speaks compelling of them in the acclaimed poem cycle, Requiem. After Stalin's death Akhmatova was allowed to travel abroad. In 1965, she received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. She was also elected to the governing board of the Writer's Union. Akhmatova worked up to her death and her works are still being translated.
(See also CLC, Vol. 11; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed. [obituary]; and Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 1.)