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In this definitive biography of the legendary Russian poet, Elaine Feinstein draws on a wealth of newly available material–including memoirs, letters, journals, and interviews with surviving friends and family–to produce a revelatory portrait of both the artist and the woman.
Anna Akhmatova rose to fame in the years before World War I, but she would pay a heavy price for the political and personal passions that informed her brilliant poetry. In Anna of All the Russias we see Akhmatova's work banned from 1925 until 1940 and again after World War II. We see her steadfast opposition to Stalin, even while her son was held in the Gulag. We see her abiding loyalty to such friends as Mandelstam, Shostakovich, and Pasternak as they faced Stalinist oppression. And we see how, through everything, Akhmatova continued to write, her poetry giving voice to the Russian people by whom she was, and still is, deeply loved.
“Enthralling, anecdote-rich . . . Feinstein has written a highly engaging biography of this great poet and determined woman, a fine companion volume to her previous life of Marina Tsvetaeva. It makes a superb introduction to Akhmatova and her world.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
“Rich, affectionate, unsparing”
—John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine
“Illuminating . . . Tantalizing glimpses of an extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times.”
—Olga Grushin, The New York Times
“Feinstein never loses sight of her subject’s greatness . . . Akhmatova deserves the title Anna of All the Russias because she never forsook her country . . . Although ordinary Russians recognized an aristocrat in her rather aloof, imposing figure, her life and her poetry put her at one with her nation.”
—Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun
“In the first biography in decades, Feinstein skillfully chronicles Akhmatova’s shockingly destitute life and untangles her snarled and painful relationships . . . Akhmatova’s soulful work spoke for the entire tyrannized country, and what distinguishes this judicious and riveting biography most are Feinstein’s translations of Akhmatova’s incandescent poems of ‘steely defiance.’”
“With her vivid, immensely readable biography, Elaine Feinstein gives us Akhmatova in all her profound, complicated and deeply moving glory.”
—Douglas Smith, The Seattle Times
“As this eminently readable account makes apparent, no one was more aware of her symbolic value than Akhmatova herself. . . Feinstein deserves credit for refusing to idealize a woman whose words were powerful enough to potentially get her killed."
—Megan O’Grady, Vogue
“A worthy and enjoyable biography. . . Feinstein weaves her poems through the text while providing great detail on the significant relationships of her life.”
“Eminently readable… Akhmatova is a figure that Russians return to again and again, the better to understand their own history. Feinstein has done English-speaking readers a great favour by making Akhmatova’s life story, and therefore her poetry, more accessible to us than ever before.”
—Anne Applebaum, The Spectator
“A brilliant new biography… [and a] compulsively readable account… Elaine Feinstein has managed to write a biography that is both scholarly and emotive... As a poet herself, Feinstein is adept at showing just why and how Akhmatova’s unique voice has intoxicated readers ever since.”
—Olivia Cole, The Independent
“Elaine Feinstein’s achievement is to show us the life of an extraordinary woman in gleaming fragments, and to demonstrate, through so many witnesses, how she was worshipped.”
—Neal Ascherson, The Observer
“Feinstein is splendidly qualified to add to the story . . . A fresh, informative glimpse of how Akhmatova is seen now, how she has fared in the thicket of memoirs and revisions which have emerged in the last few decades. And how a new post-Soviet Russia has come to terms with her stature . . . There is fresh information here. There is a strong vivid context provided for the poems. The poems themselves are offered with a clear and clean eloquence. Akhmatova’s luck has held.”
—Eavan Boland, The Independent on Sunday
“Her biographer needs… adroitness to make space in one book for all the components of her complicated life and to find the right focus for such a diffuse and frequently interrupted career… at its centre is the compelling figure of Akhmatova herself… Not an easy person then, but a grand one, and a great poet.”
—Lucy Hughes-Hallett, The Sunday Times