“Translations of the ‘two greatest achievements’ of Akhmatova’s maturity.… A decided addition to any library.”
With this new edition of Requiem and Poem without a Hero, Swallow Press presents two of Anna Akhmatova’s best-known works, ones that represent the poet at full maturity and that most trenchantly process the trauma she and others experienced living under Stalin’s regime.
Written over three decades, the fifteen-poem cycle Requiem is an elegy for someone lost not by death but by arrest. Akhmatova began writing the cycle in 1935 after the arrests of her son, Lev Gumilev, and her third husband. The cycle primarily chronicles the mother’s wait—lining up outside Leningrad Prison every day for seventeen months—for news of her son’s fate. But from this torturous limbo, Akhmatova weaves a cry of grief for all the thousands vanished under the regime, and for those left behind to speculate about their loved ones’ fates. Poem without a Hero was similarly written over a long period. It takes as its focus the transformation of Akhmatova’s beloved city of St. Petersburg—historically a seat of art and culture—into Leningrad.
Taken together, these works represent a poet writing at her peak and masterfully plumbing the themes for which she is best known. When Swallow Press published D. M. Thomas’s acclaimed translations in 1976, it was the first time these poem cycles had appeared in English. Under Thomas’s stewardship, Akhmatova’s words ring clear as a bell, and the revival of this long-out-of-print volume is a literary occasion.
Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966) is an iconic figure of twentieth-century Russian literature and one of her era’s great poets. Her work has been translated into many languages.
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