14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
In 1946 the Russian born British philosoper Isaiah Berlin, then a diplomat at the British Embassy in Moscow, learned that Anna Akhmatova, one of the great Russian poets of the 20th century, was still alive. He went to see her in Leningrad, spending a night talking about art, poetry, philosophy, and history. The night ended when the newspaper correspondent (and Winston's son) Randolph Churchill came to Akhmatova's apartment house looking for Berlin and, not knowing where to find him, began bellowing Berlin's name at the top of his lungs in the building's courtyard. This may not seem like a terribly important incident; in the course of a normal life such days are usually forgotten within a few weeks of their happening...but in Stalin's Soviet Union there were no normal lives. The consequences of that night are the subject of this book, a harsh unblinking look into the workings of a paranoid society and one artist's reaction to it. For Akhmatova that night was one of the greatest of her life; unlike many other pre-Revolution writers and artists she had refused to leave Russia. For her, contact with someone from outside the four prison walls of Soviet society was akin to the joy of a drowning man finally reaching the surface and fresh air; Berlin became "the guest from the future," the unnamed character in her great work 'Poem without a hero,' the reader she would have had if she lived in a normal society. But she did not. Dalos shows how all the forces of Stalinist repression swung into action against her; how she was publicly humiliated by the Central Committee, how her son was arrested and sent to the gulag, how Mikhail Zoshchenko, the satirist and popular writer who was condemned with her, was slowly driven mad by the government's denunciation of him and his work. If anyone is interested on the effect of totalitarianism on the lives of people this is the book to read. A great tribute to a great poet.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Although at times the book can become a bit boring as Dalos followed Akhmatova's life, mainly because Akhmatova seems to have accepted her fate in a somewhat over-bearing, dramatic fashion, the author manages to showcase the censure of the Communist U.S.S.R.; particularly the paranoia born under Stalin. Without annoying flourish, although slightly stilted language at times due to the translation more than the author's flow, Dalos relates an important time in the life of many people in a fascinatingly factual way. In any event, the book is definitely not a staid history novel.