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Sugar-Paper Blue

Ruth Fainlight, 16 December 1993

... woodcuts are by Goncharova. And look: Blok. Bely. Gumilev.’ ‘The Acmeist who married Akhmatova?’ (I was such a show-off.) ‘Yes,’ they confirmed. ‘And this is the book with the cycle of poems dedicated to her by Marina Tsvetaeva’     – who titled them The Muse, and later said:     ‘I read as if ...

Anna of All the Russias

John Bayley, 24 January 1991

Selected Poems 
by Anna Akhmatova, selected and translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward.
Harvill, 173 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 00 271041 2
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The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova 
translated by Judith Hemschemeyer, edited by Roberta Reeder.
Zephyr, 1635 pp., £85, October 1990, 0 939010 13 5
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The Garden: New and Selected Poetry and Prose 
by Bella Akhmadulina.
Boyars, 171 pp., £9.95, January 1991, 0 7145 2924 9
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... without which ‘the poem can hardly be said to exist in a practical sense at all.’ Akhmatova would have dryly agreed with all that. Like her fellow Acmeists, Gumilev and Mandelstam, she took a down-to-earth view of the process, although none of them would have gone along with the English Movement’s stylised derision of high culture and classy ...

Every Slightest Pebble

Clarence Brown, 25 May 1995

The Akhmatova Journals. Vol. I: 1938-1941 
by Lydia Chukovskaya, translated by Milena Michalski and Sylva Rubashova.
Harvill, 310 pp., £20, June 1994, 0 00 216391 8
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Remembering Anna Akhmatova 
by Anatoly Nayman, translated by Wendy Rosslyn.
Halban, 240 pp., £18, June 1991, 9781870015417
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Anna Akhmatova and Her Circle 
edited by Konstantin Polivanov, translated by Patricia Beriozkina.
Arkansas, 281 pp., $32, January 1994, 1 55728 308 7
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Anna AkhmatovaPoet and Prophet 
by Roberta Reeder.
Allison and Busby, 592 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 85031 998 6
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Women’s Works in Stalin’s Time: On Lidia Chukovskaia and Nadezhda Mandelstam 
by Beth Holmgren.
Indiana, 225 pp., £25, September 1993, 0 253 33860 3
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... of a fullness and intimacy that my few recollections can hardly rival. But such was the stature of Akhmatova that every slightest pebble lending strength to the aggregate of her posthumous monument must seem valuable. Whoever sets out to write about her soon wishes that the English lexicon were richer in synonyms for ‘regal’. After ‘queenly’ and ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Painting the Century, 16 November 2000

... maybe miserable; Daphne Spencer, giving nothing away in the portrait by her uncle Stanley (1951); Anna Akhmatova in 1922, rather dryly painted, tentatively drawn and stiffly posed in a portrait by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin which is also entirely convincing as a human record – a great portrait need not be a great painting. But mostly the paint beats the ...

Clean Poetry

John Bayley, 18 August 1983

Collected Poems 1970-1983 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 172 pp., £5.95, May 1983, 0 85635 462 7
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... The Acmeist poet Zenkevich declared in 1911 that when he first met Anna Akhmatova he was struck by her saying that poetry was ‘something organic’, and that she was amused at the idea of the poet Valery Bryusov schooling himself to write a certain number of lines each day. ‘Organic’ is a word now considerably overworked, but the little anecdote does suggest aspects of an elemental distinction ...

Two Hares and a Priest

Patricia Beer: Pushkin, 13 May 1999

Pushkin 
by Elizabeth Feinstein.
Weidenfeld, 309 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 297 81826 0
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... Well into the 20th century, however, Natalya has been the object of considerable contempt: Anna Akhmatova, for example, often became vituperative about her. Comparatively little has been said about either Pushkin or his wife in this country, but in a recent broadcast Gwyn Williams described Natalya as a ‘good-natured bimbo’, not a very fierce ...

Memories of Brodsky

Anatoly Naiman: Akhmatova, Brodsky and Me, 13 May 1999

... it is almost impossible now to separate him from his own legend. What Derzhavin was to Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova was to Brodsky: the mentor who anointed him as the next great Russian poet. When Brodsky died, the journal Zvezda printed Akhmatova’s quatrain ‘I don’t weep for myself now’, with a new dedication to ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

David Jackson: Russia and the Arts , 18 May 2016

... is seen here, was one of Repin’s pupils at the Academy. Her decoratively symbolist portrait of Anna Akhmatova draws attention also to a period of prolific cultural activity in which innovative female practitioners would at last be noticed. For the most part, however, the zenith of Russian portraiture at the NPG is, through its focus on the architects ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... Isaiah Berlin gave a broadcast in which he described his first visit to the legendary Russian poet Anna Akhmatova in Moscow in 1945 – a visit cut short in its prime by the bellowing of Randolph Churchill in the courtyard outside, hotly pursued by the Russian Secret Police. Alas, such humorous anecdotes will not be found by Berlin devotees in his latest ...

The Beloved

Michael Ignatieff, 6 February 1997

Giving Offence: Essays on Censorship 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Chicago, 289 pp., $27.50, March 1996, 0 226 11174 1
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... one gets it in the balls, that one in the forehead,         him right between the eyes. Anna Akhmatova, who was present, told Mandelstam that she thought it ‘a monumental, rough-hewed, broad-sheet character of a piece’ – in other words, a crude political lampoon. The discriminating literary critics from the NKVD who ransacked ...

The Project

Robert Conquest, 22 December 1994

Stalin and the Bomb 
by David Holloway.
Yale, 464 pp., £19.95, September 1994, 0 300 06056 4
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... particularly striking. Bronstein’s widow, Lydia Chukovskaya, no less courageous than her friend Anna Akhmatova, in the long run faced down Stalinism, and tells her husband’s fate in her story ‘Sofia Petrovna’. The manuscript, hidden for years by a series of friends, was published only in 1988: passages from it would merit inclusion in ...

Among the Writers

Joanna Biggs: In Beijing, 10 May 2012

... did dragon dances to drown them out). I’d imagined that meeting dissidents would be like meeting Anna Akhmatova. But Qi was tired and cold and I couldn’t think of a question that didn’t seem childish. So I didn’t ask her ...

The Writer and the Valet

Frances Stonor Saunders, 25 September 2014

... with sheaves of typescript. These are given to the visitor (‘the guest from the future’, as Anna Akhmatova put it), who is now tasked with the sacred and thrillingly immortalising responsibility of carrying Pasternak’s writings out of this place where the clock has stopped and into the world beyond.Berlin’s reports of his meetings with ...

On the horse Parsnip

John Bayley, 8 February 1990

Boris Pasternak: The Tragic Years 1930-1960 
by Evgeny Pasternak.
Collins Harvill, 278 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 272045 0
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Boris Pasternak 
by Peter Levi.
Hutchinson, 310 pp., £17.95, January 1990, 0 09 173886 5
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Boris Pasternak: A Literary Biography. Vol.I: 1890-1928 
by Christopher Barnes.
Cambridge, 507 pp., £35, November 1989, 0 521 25957 6
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Poems 1955-1959 and An Essay in Autobiography 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Michael Harari and Manya Harari.
Collins Harvill, 212 pp., £6.95, January 1990, 9780002710657
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The Year 1905 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Chappell.
Spenser, £4.95, April 1989, 0 9513843 0 9
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... as Stuart Hampshire finds its genius in the love relation between Lara and Zhivago, while the poet Anna Akhmatova, although she admired Pasternak as a poet, could not take him seriously as a deep sage and public figure, or even as a lover, and professed maliciously to suppose that the Lara episodes had been written by Olga Ivinskaya, Pasternak’s ...

Call it magnificence

Michael Hofmann: Antonio Muñoz Molina, 20 December 2018

Like a Fading Shadow 
by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Camilo A. Ramirez.
Serpent’s Tail, 310 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 894 1
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... to loved ones’ is Benn’s description – not even the layman thinks that’s poetry. Poetry, Anna Akhmatova said, ‘is made from all sorts of rubbish’. ‘There is nothing that is not memorable,’ Muñoz Molina says, and then we get a half-page list of things that were found on Ray when he was finally picked up at Heathrow Airport on 8 June 1968 ...

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