St. Martin’s Press. 1st Edition. New York, 1994
One of Russia’s greatest poets, Akhmatova is still unknown to many in the West, but in her own country she is admired and adored by those who love the sound and profound significance of Russian verse. Her life began in the period before the 1917 Revolution, when as an aristocrat and artist, she enjoyed the elegance of St. Petersburg salons. She endured great hardship during the Stalin period when her poetry was no longer published and both her son and lover were sent to Siberia. However, after Stalin’s death, finally a large collection of her works were published and she received deserved recognition both in Russia and abroad, when she earned an honorary degree at Oxford. Despite the difficulties she endured, Akhmatova never expressed self-pity; instead she transformed personal pain and the tragedies of her nation into immortal lyrics.
Roberta Reeder has both edited The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova and has written one of the most important works on this poet, Anna Akhmatova: Poet and Prophet, which is both a biography and an interpretation of her poems based on extensive research on her life, on the historical period in which she lived, and on the many fascinating cultural figures she knew who touched her life such as Osip Mandelstam, Nikolay Gumilyov, Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky. Akhmatova’s model was Alexander Pushkin, who could express so much in so few carefully chosen words. At first as a young poet she wrote moving love poems expressing the joy of a first encounter and later the pain of a broken heart. However, as the oppressive Stalinist period began to destroy the very fabric of society as well as the life of the individual, she began to write poems that she thought would never be published, but which she and her friends memorized, like those in the cycle Requiem, in which she communicates the grief of a woman watching a beloved one being taken away to be sent to prison, killed, or sent to Siberia. Originally published in 1994, the biography was recently updated in 2007 based on many valuable books and articles published since the first edition, including the diary of her lover Nikolay Punin and works using the KGB archives on Mandelstam. In 1995 a paperback edition was published.