Our Notes & References
First edition of one of Akhmatova’s most famous works. One of 500 copies only.
Written between 1935 and 1940, ‘Requiem’ was not published in Russia until 1987. Two personal dramas in particular – the arrest and imprisonment of her son for 18 years and of her husband, who would finally die in a camp – inspired the specific content of the work, a sequence of poetry and prose portraying some of the full-fledged horrors endured by Soviet citizens who were wrongly imprisoned, as well as the anguish of their relatives, especially the mothers and wives, those women with whom Akhmatova stood in line outside the prison walls.
While Isaiah Berlin had predicted in 1946 that ‘Requiem’ would never be published in the Soviet Union, it was memorised by the author and a few close friends for fear that writing them down would jeopardise their lives. As stipulated by the publisher, the present edition was received “from Russia and published without the consent of the author”, three years before her death. Emblematic denunciation of Stalinist repression and consecutive sufferings, ‘Requiem’ is considered by many to be Akhmatova’s finest work.