Anna Akhmatova (1889 -1966)

The photograph dates from 1965 and was taken in Oxford, UK, where Akhmatova had travelled to receive an honororary doctoral degree from the university. She died the following year.

Akhmatova entered into a love affair with the artist Amadeo Modigliani during a visit to Paris in 1911. Several drawings of his are known to be portraits of her and his Kneeling Blue Caryatid  (left) is thought to have been inspired by a visit the couple made to the Louvre's Egyptian gallery, as well as being a representation of Akhmatova herself, who was exceptionally tall and elegant.

Her cycle of lyrical poems Requiem  dates from 1931 onwards and documents the Stalinist Terror of the time. The introduction is famous.

From Requiem  (Introduction)

"Могу - mogu* - I can"

*For an unstressed o, as here, the pronunciation is closer to magu

V strashnye gody' ezhovshhiny' ya provela semnadczat mesyacev v tyuremny'kh ocheredyakh v Leningrade. Kak-to raz kto-to "opoznal" menya. Togda stoyashhaya za mnoj zhenshhina s goluby'mi gubami, kotopaya, konechno, nikogda ne sly'khala moego imeni, okhnulas ot svoystvennogo nam vsem oceleneniya i sprosila menya na ukho (tam vse govorili shyolotom):
— A e'to vyi' mozhete opisat'?
I ya skazala:
— Mogu.
Togda chto-to vrode ulibki skol'znulo po tomu, chto nekogda by'lo eyo liczom.

1 aprelya 1957, Leningrad

Translation
0:21 - 1:08

Akhmatova reading
0:30 - 1:22