A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

By John Pilling | Go to book overview
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Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

Born Anna Gorenko near Odessa, the daughter of a naval engineer, but resident throughout her childhood at Pavlovsk and Tsarskoye Selo near St Petersburg. Began to write poetry after a serious illness in 1899 and read widely in European poetry, being familiar with the French nineteenth-century poets. Met her future husband Nikolai Gumilyov at Christmas 1903. Shared the general concern at the Russian fleet's defeat at Tsushima in 1905, the year in which her parents separated and Gumilyov attempted suicide. Chose the name of her Tartar great-grandmother as nom de plume in 1906. Lived in Kiev 1906-7, and studied Law and Latin at the University there. Agreed to marry Gumilyov in 1909 and twice visited Paris with him, where she met the painter Modigliani. Lived in Tsarskoye Selo, her husband frequently abroad, until 1912, when together they visited Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Poland. Highly respected in Petersburg circles before the outbreak of the First World War; ill with tuberculosis in a Helsinki sanatorium during the war. Broke with Gumilyov on the eve of the February Revolution of 1917, and thereafter considered herself as essentially a homeless person. A close friend of Mandelstam's in 1917-8 and after his marriage. Remarried in 1918; separated from her second husband in 1921, the year in which Gumilyov was shot for alleged complicity in an anti-Bolshevik plot. Prevented from publishing her poetry from 1925 to 1940. During the Kirov case of 1934 her son by Gumilyov was arrested. Spent seventeen months attempting to secure his release from a Leningrad prison in 1939-40. Met Tsvetaeva for the first time in Moscow in 1940. Evacuated to Chistopol and

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