Anna Akhmatova: Poet and Prophet

Roberta Reeder, Author
Roberta Reeder, Author St. Martin's Press $35 (619p) ISBN 978-0-312-11241-7
Paperback - 978-0-312-13429-7
Hardcover - 864 pages - 978-1-932800-23-4
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In this monumental biography of one of Russia's-and the 20th century's-greatest poets, Reeder, editor of the poet's complete works, deftly combines incisive literary analysis with a complex portrait of Akhmatova (1889-1966) and her turbulent times. Initially influenced by the Symbolists and Imagists, the poet became more oracular, moving from the ``chamber intimacy'' of her earlier work to poetry that increasingly addressed the oppressiveness of the Russian people: ``I-am your voice,'' one poem proclaims. So fervently did Akhmatova embrace this role that Stalin's regime suppressed her poetry for 20 years. Drawing upon interviews with the poet's friends and colleagues, some interviewed for the first time for publication, Reeder humanizes a woman lionized by the Russian people. Oppressed by governmental scrutiny, she was sometimes afraid to commit poetry to paper, relying instead on her memory and on those of her friends. Her romantic entanglements with Modigliani and Pasternak (whose persistent advances she rebuffed), as well as a sense of self-mockery about her exalted status, give further depth to Reeder's absorbing study. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
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