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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin

by Gyorgy Dalos, Antony Wood, Andrea Dunai

Buy the book: Gyorgy Dalos. The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin

Release Date: September, 1999

Edition: Hardcover


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Buy the book: Gyorgy Dalos. The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin

Fear and the Muse

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 poets of the 20th century, was still alive and living in Leningrad. He went to see her, 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 house and, not knowing where to find Berlin, 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 refused to leave Russia. For her contact with someone from outside the four prison walls of Soviet society was like oxygen to someone suffocating; 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.


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