Anna Akhmatova quotes

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Anna Akhmatova

Birthdate: 11. June 1889
Date of death: 5. March 1966

Anna Andreyevna Gorenko , better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova , was one of the most significant Soviet Russian poets of the 20th century. She was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in 1965 and received second-most nominations for the award the following year.

Akhmatova's work ranges from short lyric poems to intricately structured cycles, such as Requiem , her tragic masterpiece about the Stalinist terror. Her style, characterised by its economy and emotional restraint, was strikingly original and distinctive to her contemporaries. The strong and clear leading female voice struck a new chord in Russian poetry. Her writing can be said to fall into two periods – the early work and her later work , divided by a decade of reduced literary output. Her work was condemned and censored by Stalinist authorities, and she is notable for choosing not to emigrate and remaining in the Soviet Union, acting as witness to the events around her. Her perennial themes include meditations on time and memory, and the difficulties of living and writing in the shadow of Stalinism.

Primary sources of information about Akhmatova's life are relatively scant, as war, revolution and the Soviet regime caused much of the written record to be destroyed. For long periods she was in official disfavour and many of those who were close to her died in the aftermath of the revolution. Akhmatova's first husband, Nikolay Gumilyov, was executed by the Soviet secret police, and her son Lev Gumilyov and her common-law husband Nikolay Punin spent many years in the Gulag, where Punin died. Wikipedia

„How many spectacles I've missed:
the curtain rising without me,
and falling too. How many friends
I never had the chance to meet.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

"This Cruel Age has deflected me..." (1944)
Context: This cruel age has deflected me,
like a river from this course.
Strayed from its familiar shores,
my changeling life has flowed
into a sister channel.
How many spectacles I've missed:
the curtain rising without me,
and falling too. How many friends
I never had the chance to meet.

„No foreign sky protected me,
no stranger's wing shielded my face.
I stand as witness to the common lot,
survivor of that time, that place.
— 1961“

—  Anna Akhmatova

Translated in Poems of Akhmatova (1973) by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward
No, not under a foreign heavenly-cope, and
Not canopied by foreign wings
I was with my people in those hours,
There where, unhappily, my people were.
Translated by D. M. Thomas
No, not under the vault of another sky,
not under the shelter of other wings.
I was with my people then,
there where my people were doomed to be.
Translator unknown.
Requiem; 1935-1940 (1963; 1987)

„Surely the reckoning will be made
after the passing of this cloud.
We are the people without tears,
straighter than you … more proud…“

—  Anna Akhmatova

I am not one of those who left the land..." (1922), translated in Poems of Akhmatova (1973) by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward
Context: But here, in the murk of conflagration,
where scarcely a friend is left to know
we, the survivors, do not flinch
from anything, not from a single blow.
Surely the reckoning will be made
after the passing of this cloud.
We are the people without tears,
straighter than you … more proud...

„A new epoch has begun. You and I will wait for it together.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

Remarks to her friend Lydia Chukovskaya (March 1956), as quoted in Joseph Stalin : A Biographical Companion (1999) by Helen Rappaport, p. 2
Context: Each of our lives is a Shakespearean drama raised to the thousandth degree. Mute separations, mute black, bloody events in every family. Invisible mourning worn by mothers and wives. Now the arrested are returning, and two Russias stare each other in the eyes: the ones that put them in prison and the ones who were put in prison. A new epoch has begun. You and I will wait for it together.

„Damn you! I will not grant your cursed soul
Vicarious tears or a single glance.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

"You Thought I Was That Type"
Context: Damn you! I will not grant your cursed soul
Vicarious tears or a single glance.
And I swear to you by the garden of the angels,
I swear by the miracle-working icon,
And by the fire and smoke of our nights:
I will never come back to you.

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„Now no one will listen to songs.
The prophesied days have begun.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

"Now no one will listen to songs..." from Plantain (1921), translated by Richard McKane
Context: Now no one will listen to songs.
The prophesied days have begun.
Latest poem of mine, the world has lost its
wonder,
Don't break my heart, don't ring out.

„You've been turned in to my reminiscences
To make eternal the unearthly sadness.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

As a White Stone... (1916)
Context: I knew: the gods turned once, in their madness,
Men into things, not killing humane senses.
You've been turned in to my reminiscences
To make eternal the unearthly sadness.

„I have lit my treasured candles,
one by one, to hallow this night.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

Poem without a Hero (1963)
Context: I have lit my treasured candles,
one by one, to hallow this night.
With you, who do not come,
I wait the birth of the year.
Dear God!
the flame has drowned in crystal,
and the wine, like poison, burns
Old malice bites the air,
old ravings rave again,
though the hour has not yet struck.

„Now you're gone, and nobody says a word
about your troubled and exalted life.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

In Memory of M. B.
Context: Now you're gone, and nobody says a word
about your troubled and exalted life.
Only my voice, like a flute, will mourn
at your dumb funeral feast.

„We aged a hundred years, and this
happened in a single hour“

—  Anna Akhmatova

"In Memoriam, July 19, 1914"
White Flock (1917)
Context: We aged a hundred years, and this
happened in a single hour:
the short summer had already died,
the body of the ploughed plains smoked.

„O let the organ, many-voiced, sing boldly,
O let it roar like spring's first thunderstorm!“

—  Anna Akhmatova

Translated by Irina Zheleznova
Context: O let the organ, many-voiced, sing boldly,
O let it roar like spring's first thunderstorm!
My half-closed eyes over your young bride's shoulder
Will meet your eyes just once and then no more.

„From such absurdity
I shall soon turn gray
or change into another person.
Why do you beckon me with your hand?“

—  Anna Akhmatova

Poem without a Hero (1963)
Context: This means that gravestones are fragile
and granite is softer than wax.
Absurd, absurd, absurd! From such absurdity
I shall soon turn gray
or change into another person.
Why do you beckon me with your hand?
For one moment of peace
I would give the peace of the tomb.

„The word dropped like a stone
on my still living breast.
Confess: I was prepared,
am somehow ready for the test.“

—  Anna Akhmatova

As translated by Stanley Kunitz
Then fell the word of stone on
My still existing, still heaving breast.
Never mind, I was not unprepared, and
Shall manage to adjust to it somehow.
Translated by D. M. Thomas
And the stone word fell
On my still-living breast.
Never mind, I was ready.
I will manage somehow.
Translated by Judith Hemschemeyer http://www.favoritepoem.org/poems/akhmatova/ from Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1989)
Requiem; 1935-1940 (1963; 1987), The Sentence

„Nothing I counted mine, out of my life,
is mine to take…“

—  Anna Akhmatova

Requiem; 1935-1940 (1963; 1987)
Context: No use to fall down on my knees
and beg for mercy's sake.
Nothing I counted mine, out of my life,
is mine to take...

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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