The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin

The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin

by Gyorgy Dalos
     
 

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In 1945 Isaiah Berlin, working in Russia for the British Foreign Office, met Anna Akhmatova almost by chance in what was then Leningrad. The brief time they spent together one long November evening was a transformng experience for both, and has become a cardinal moment in modern literary history.

For Akhmatova, Berlin was a "guest from the future," her ideal

Overview

In 1945 Isaiah Berlin, working in Russia for the British Foreign Office, met Anna Akhmatova almost by chance in what was then Leningrad. The brief time they spent together one long November evening was a transformng experience for both, and has become a cardinal moment in modern literary history.

For Akhmatova, Berlin was a "guest from the future," her ideal reader outside the nightmare of Soviet life and a link with a lost Russian world; he became a figure in her cryptic masterpiece "Poem without a Hero." For Berlin, this "most memorable" meeting with the beautiful poet of genius was a spur to his ideas on liberty and on history. But there were tragic consequences: the Soviet authorities thought Berlin was a British spy, Akhmatova became a suspected enemy, and until her death in 1966 the KGB persecuted her family. Though Akhmatova was convinced that she and Berlin had inadvertently started the Cold War, she remembered him gratefully and he inspired some of her finest poems.

György Dalos--who inteviewed Berlin and many others who knew Akhmatova well, and who examined hitherto-secret KGB and Poliburo files--tells the inside story of how Stalin and other Soviet leaders dealt with Akhmatova. He ends with the touching story of her posthumous rehabilitation, when Russians astronomers discovered a new star and name it after her.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This sharply written and elegantly translated little book establishes beyond doubt that there was nothing paranoid about Akhmatova's belief that this meeting led to a succession of new misfortunes. In 1996, a street in Odessa and a new planet were posthumously named for her. Russia needs to honor its poets --once they are safely dead.” —Elaine Feinstein, The Independent

“Two writers, each born in tsarist Russia, speaking across the divide, aware that their two worlds had been brought together by the slightest stroke of chance and that the morning would spin them apart again. Dalos's intriguing little book proves that this fleeting, fifteen-hour encounter has more to say of the Soviet period than any summit meeting, or any of those tedious party congresses that tried for 70 years to control the lives of an entire empire.” —Philip Mardsen, The Sunday Times

“A fascinating book.” —Hilary Spurling, The Daily Telegraph

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374527204
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
09/28/2000
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
444,044
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

Meet the Author


György Dalos, born in Budapest in 1943, was banned for "anti-state activities" and then joined Hungary's democratic opposition. A novelist and literary critic, he now lives and works in Berlin, where he has served as director of the Institute for Hungarian Culture.

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