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The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova


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These two fat volumes, a 100th-anniversary tribute to the great Russian poet Akhmatova (1889-1966), are clearly a labor of love. Editor Reeder's book-length introduction is a meticulous, well-documented account of the poet's life and poetry through the ebullience of modernist Petersburg, the grim deprivation of two world wars and the 1917 revolutions, the poverty and repression (including the repeated imprisonment of her son) of the interwar years and the vicious official attacks after World War II, and the last years of international honors. This life has made Akhmatova emblematic both of the unbowed intelligentsia and of the unsung heroism of millions of Russian women. The second volume begins with two impressionistic essays by Akhmatova's disciple, the Soviet poet Anatoly Naiman, and distinguished expatriate writer Sir Isaiah Berlin's account of his two meetings with her (Leningrad, 1945, and Oxford, 1965). The edition is lavishly illustrated with the known iconography of Akhmatova herself, her contemporaries, and the Petersburg-Leningrad settings that were her spiritual home. These rich secondary materials make a worthy frame for Akhmatova's glorious poetry, pre sented side by side in Russian and English and arranged, in exemplary fashion, with respect for choices the poet made in lifetime editions. American poet Hemschemeyer devoted well over ten years to the translations, learning Russian for that purpose; her equally exem plary translator's preface explains her working methods and the inevitable compromises involved in the valiant ef fort to create English equivalents for Akhmatova's spare and musical verse. This book will be a treasure for poetry lovers everywhere.-- Mary F. Zirin, Altadena, Cal.

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